Sunday, August 03, 2008

Who ate the Sun...??

The Solar Eclipse ( Eclipse - Greek for "abandonment" ),is one of the most feared phenomenon in almost every part of the world. Probably because the all seemingly powerful sun is rendered helpless by the moon. Since people attach great importance to such power and might,the entire event turns into a time of fear. But seriously all the superstitious beliefs were conjured up at a time when people didn't know what caused this "unholy " event to happen. But now we do know why it happens. However even today, at a time when people are digging up water on Mars, all this stigma attached seems very ridiculous. One thing for sure - the fear of the eclipse is a world wide phenomenon and cuts across various cultures and traditions, irrespective of their education background. Certainly though, a certain precautions need to be taken during the eclipse... for scientific reasons of course.

So i fired up my favourite web browser (Mozilla - FireFox 3 ) and went to and did some research on the superstition associated with a solar eclipse. And here are a few that i came up with. Of course since these are all myths,they varied from source to source. Religious beliefs and references:

  • Hinduism : The eclipse represents the demons - Rahu and Ketu - locked in celestial combat causing the sun to be eaten up.

  • Christianity : According to the Synoptic Gospels a period of darkness was associated with Jesus's crucification.

  • Islam : The Prophet was known to have prayed during an eclipse. Many Muslims offer special prayers during the eclipse.

Other than this there were some other bizarre superstitions as well. Indian Myths:

  • People should avoid going out during the eclipse so that they are not struck by any ill omen.

  • A pregnant woman should not view the eclipse, nor should she step out in the sun during an eclipse,or else the baby will be born with marks.

  • Handling scissors,pen or any other sharp objects by the woman, during an eclipse, will cause the baby to be born with cleft lips. Apparently even the husband should not do so during the eclipse, for the same reason.

  • One must pray for the duration of the eclipse, and take a bath afterwards, to cleanse of the evil which causes the eclipse.

  • Charity and offerings to the deity during the eclipse is also a popular belief. ( the charity part sounds good )

  • For the whole day people observe fast and do not eat any food,as the food gets polluted in the absence of the sun's rays.

  • People dispose the food and water once the eclipse is over because they become uneatable after the event.

Not just in India, but such beliefs were/are prevalent in so many regions of the world. Some of them are :

  • Chinese : An eclipse is caused by swallowing up of the sun by a dragon/serpent/toad/dog. They would shoot fireworks at it,and make loud noises hoping that the evil creature would go away.

  • Vikings : Two wolves would run after the sun,and an eclipse would occur when they caught it.

  • Romania :Evil demons would consume the sun, and in the darkness create havoc on earth. Fires were lit and church bells rung to ward off the demons.

  • Japan :Wells were covered to prevent poison from dropping from the sky,during the eclipse.

  • Native American : During the eclipse,the sun and the moon come down to visit earth.

  • Amazonian : Some tribes believed that the sun and the moon fell in love,but could not get together.They lived apart and came together during an eclipse.

  • Ancient Egyptian : the snake Apep attacks the boat of the Sun god, causing it to capsize. Many refer to the serpent eating the sun god, and others to a great hawk stealing Ra's glory.

  • Ancient Babylonian : The priest would bathe the king in cedar oil and myrrh to prevent the catastrophe.

Now we all know how and when an eclipse ( solar or lunar ) occurs. I meant the scientific reason of course. If not refer to your 4th grade science book ( or Wikipedia ).Yet we succumb to these the old folklore. With a few precautionary measures, an eclipse is nothing to fear about, and is just another natural phenomenon. Here are some real scientific fact about why a Solar Eclipse may prove dangerous :

"....... Danger to the eye is from heat ( infrared radiation ), UV ( ultraviolet radiation ), and from excessive blue light.......UV radiation can cause 'sunburn' to the cornea or outer surface of the eye, just like sunburn to the skin - same mechanism, similar damage, but for the eye it results in pain and vision loss....."
But other than this, everything else is just in your heads.....


Visu said...

"Some tribes believed that the sun and the moon fell in love,but could not get together.They lived apart and came together during an eclipse."

ROFL big time.

Ok.. jokes apart, yeah, they do follow certain stupid superstitions.
Ancestors made it as a fear of god and it still persists, duh. Although, not all are sham. I believe some are scientifically proven.( Oh, not the Sun eaten by wimpy).

Bhargavi said...

If someone tells me,'don go out during eclipse.. even if u go out, don look at the sun.. its harmful to ur eyes.' Do u thnk ppl like me will listen to it.. hehe.. no way!
but if its put ths way,'People should avoid going out during the eclipse so that they are not struck by any ill omen.'
hmmm... who'll wanna risk being struck by the omen!

Bhargavi said...

oh its really funny.. had fun going thru the post! :))

Aslam said...

true, but u cant let superstition get in the way of your work can u??
If u have some Important work, then u cant always allow such excuses...

Philip Kingsley said...

A good Post