Eclipse: An Ancient Indian Perspective

Recordings of eclipses are available in texts, temple inscriptions, copper plates
and legends of the land.

Through the times, we see continuity in the understanding and recording of
eclipses.

Why were our ancients interested in eclipses? Why did they learn to predict
eclipses?

Dos and Donts surrounding eclipse

We see there are many elaborate dos and donts surrounding eclipses which have
been a tradition of this civilization. Some interesting ones that have continued to
this day are
• eating food atleast 4 to 6 hours before an eclipse and not carrying forward
food cooked prior to an eclipse
• the use of Dharba grass to protect food items and other perishables
• protection of pregnant women from the rays of sun during solar eclipses
• not seeing solar eclipse with the naked eye

Advice for Pregnant Women

Scientists have shown today how during a Solar Eclipse, the amount of Ultra
Violet rays and other cosmic rays reaching the earth are higher. These rays are
harmful to the foetus. Hence pregnant women were advised to cover themselves
and stay indoors during an eclipse to protect the foetus from these rays. Even
today pregnant women are advised to stay away from radiation exposure of all
kinds for example X Rays.

Contamination of Food

The increased exposure to such rays also contaminates food. Carrying forward of
food cooked before an eclipse is therefore not advisable. Further more, there is
the need to ensure that all food in one’s stomach is digested before the start of
an eclipse.

Using Dharba grass

The antidote for preventing the food from contamination by radiation has been
the practice of covering food with Dharba grass. This points to our ancients having
used the Dharba grass as a shield to absorb the unwanted radiations in the
atmosphere, especially those arising during eclipses.

Dharba grass absorbs X Rays

Nascent, independent research on Dharba grass has revealed its ability to absorb
X Rays. These early finds make Dharba grass a very promising field of study.
We see a good grasp of astronomy, physics, biology and mathematics all rolled
into the practice of predicting eclipses and the traditions followed during an
eclipse. This holds good for a host of other astronomical observations and
traditions followed too.

Donations During Eclipses

De Dhaan Chute Grahan – is a slogan one got to hear on the streets about 4 to 5
decades, during the time of eclipses.

It means Give Alms To Release The Eclipsed.

It was a common practice in India to give donations during eclipses and other
cosmological events such as:
1. Ayana, Solstices – Dakshinayana, Summer Solstice and Uttarayana,
Winter Solstice

2. Vishnuvrata Equinoxes – Mesha Vishu, Vernal Equinox and Tula Vishu,
Autumnal Equinox

3. Grahana, Eclipses – Surya Grahana, Solar eclipse and Chandra Grahana,
Lunar eclipse

4. Amavasya, New Moon

5. Yugadi, New Year

Many explain that such Dhana were given in the superstitious belief that the
donor will gain relief from the evil forces that were capable of even devouring the
Sun and the Moon.

On the contrary, we find from traditional literature that the people were well
aware of the scientific nature of these cosmological events. They could predict
their occurrences due to their understanding of the motions of the earth, moon
and various planets as well as their proficiency in Mathematics, which is needed
to model these motions and calculate dates for their occurrences in advance.

Dhana for noble causes was given on these significant days as these days were
considered as markers of time and hence would be easily remembered over time.
Every king, landlord, zamindar, royalty made it a point to give Dhana every year
from their accumulated wealth. Various kings like Krishnadevaraya,
Harshavardhana and others, repeatedly gave Dhana every year and during such
events as eclipses.

Many temple inscriptions speak about such Dhana, endowments made to the
temple and thereby to the people at large, on the occasion of eclipses.

Eclipses continue to happen and many just ignore them. Inscriptions continue to
remain as evidences of the ones gone by but are hardly known to many.

The request for alms on eclipses are no longer heard on the streets. Neither are
there donors, nor are there receivers on this day.

But misconceptions about the Indian perception of eclipses continue to loom
large in everyone’s minds.

More on Eclipses in our book, Triple Eclipse.

Image result for triple eclipse bharath gyan

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