Wednesday, July 22, 2009



[IndianVoice] Solar eclipse pits battle sbetween astronomy and astrology in India

sri venkat Mon, Jul 20, 2009 at 6:36 AM

Solar eclipse pits superstition against science

By Phil Hazlewood (AFP) – 11 hours ago

MUMBAI — Indian astrologers are predicting violence and turmoil across the
world as a result of this week's total solar eclipse, which the
superstitious and religious view as a sign of potential doom.

But astronomers, scientists and secularists are trying to play down claims
of evil portent in connection with Wednesday's natural spectacle, when the
moon will come between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun.

In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to "swallow" the
sun during eclipses, snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to
become inedible and water undrinkable.

Pregnant women are advised to stay indoors to prevent their babies
developing birth defects, while prayers, fasting and ritual bathing,
particularly in holy rivers, are encouraged.

Shivani Sachdev Gour, a gynaecologist at the Fortis Hospital in New Delhi,
said a number of expectant mothers scheduled for caesarian deliveries on
July 22 had asked to change the date.

"This is a belief deeply rooted in Indian society. Couples are willing to do
anything to ensure that the baby is not born on that day," Gour said.

Astrologers have predicted a rise in communal and regional violence in the
days following the eclipse, particularly in India, China and other Southeast
Asian nations where it can be seen on Wednesday morning.

Mumbai astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma predicted "some sort of attack by
(Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al-Qaeda on Indian soil" and a
devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia.

An Indian political leader could be killed, he said, and tension between the
West and Iran is likely to increase, escalating into possible US military
action after September 9, when fiery Saturn moves from Leo into Virgo.

"The last 200 years, whenever Saturn has gone into Virgo there has been
either a world war or a mini world war," he told AFP.

It is not just in India that some are uneasy about what will transpire
because of the eclipse.

In ancient China they were often associated with disasters, the death of an
emperor or other dark events, and similar superstitions persist.

"The probability for unrest or war to take place in years when a solar
eclipse happens is 95 percent," announced an article that attracted a lot of
hits on the popular Chinese web .

Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, dismissed
such doomsday predictions.

"Primarily, what we see with all these soothsayers and astrologers is that
they're looking for opportunities to enhance their business with predictions
of danger and calamity," he told AFP.

"They have been very powerful in India but over the last decade they have
been in systematic decline."

Astronomers and scientists are also working to educate the public about the

Travel firm Cox and Kings has chartered a Boeing 737-700 aircraft to give
people the chance to see the eclipse from 41,000 feet (12,500 metres).

Experts will be on board to explain it to passengers, some of whom have paid
79,000 rupees (1,600 dollars) for a "sun-side" seat on the three-hour flight
from New Delhi.

The eclipse's shadow is expected to pass over the aircraft at 15 times the
speed of sound (Mach 15), said Ajay Talwar, president of the SPACE Group of
companies that promotes science and astronomy.

"It's coming in the middle of the monsoon season. On the ground, there's a
40 percent chance of seeing it in India. On the aircraft you have almost a
90 percent chance of seeing the eclipse," he added.

Siva Prasad Tata, who runs the Astro Jyoti website, straddles the two

"There's no need to get too alarmed about the eclipse, they are a natural
phenomenon," the astrologer told AFP.

But he added: "During the period of the eclipse, the opposite attracting
forces are very, very powerful. From a spiritual point of view, this is a
wonderful time to do any type of worship.

"It will bring about good results, much more than on an ordinary day."
*Bangalore's battle between astronomy and astrology over eclipse*

Mon, Jul 20 03:45 PM

Bangalore, July 20 (IANS) Even as the world looks forward to the rare
celestial phenomenon of a total solar eclipse Wednesday, astrologers here
say the event could be a bad omen. But brushing aside the fears as
superstition, astronomers are urging people to look at it as a scientific

Astrologer Daivajna K.N. Somayaji says the war of Mahabharata, World War II
and Indira Gandhi's assassination all followed solar eclipses.

He also believes that during the eclipse, individuals tend to become
hypersensitive. 'It brings phenomenal negativity with it. So the best
solution for people is to do poojas and yagnas or go to any temple to get
rid of it.'

Dismissing the astrological forecast of bad luck, Siraj Hasan, director of
the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), told IANS: 'A solar eclipse
occurs when the moon passes between the sun and earth, thus blocking out the
sun for the viewers from the earth. It's a scientific phenomenon and should
be viewed only in that light.'

A.H. Rama Rao, president of the Bangalore Science Forum, said that the
science fraternity would be using the solar eclipse to dispel superstitious
beliefs associated with the celestial phenomenon.

'Superstitious beliefs have nothing to do with an eclipse. We will be trying
hard to sensitize people on the scientific causes behind an eclipse and
would ask them not to believe in any hearsay. Earlier we used to distribute
sweets during eclipse time. This time it will be hard for us to do so as the
eclipse will be sighted at dawn in Bangalore,' said Rao.

Wednesday's eclipse will be the longest solar eclipse of the century.
Lasting six minutes and 39 seconds, it would be visible across Southeast
Asia and the Western Pacific. The eclipse marks the celebration of the
International Year of Astronomy globally.

Unlike Taregana village in Bihar, where the eclipse could be viewed much
clearer, Bangaloreans will get only a partial view.

In Bangalore, the eclipse will begin at 5.38 a.m. (before sunrise). Hence,
the rising sun itself will be eclipsed. The maximum eclipse will be at 6.21
a.m. with 66 percent coverage, says an official release of IIA.

A bevy of scientists and research students from IIA is planning to study the
eclipse, which wil last till 7.17 a.m., at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden.

A large number of enthusiasts is also likely to join the science fraternity
at the garden, where experts will tell laymen the science behind the

Another group of enthusiasts will also gather at Bannerghatta National Park
to view the phenomenon. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) will have
arrangements to watch the eclipse live from 6 a.m.

'During the total solar eclipse, the corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, is
visible, presenting a beautiful sight. By wearing protective glasses, people
can view the eclipse without any reservations as it is a rare sight,' said
Prajval Shastri, professor and scientist at the IIA.

Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium has arranged shows of previous solar eclipses
for the public from 2.45 p.m. to 3.15 p.m. Monday.

At the same time, various religious rituals are being lined up in temples
across the city to mark the solar eclipse.

Mrityunjaya Japa and Havana, Udaka Shanti and Nakshatra Havana are being
organised at various temples in the city Wednesday.

'We're organising special havan and prayers to avert any untoward incident
followed by eclipse,' said a member of the Iskcon temple.

Many educated youth, including software professionals, are still victims of
superstitions, Shastri said. She cited the example of roads remaining empty
during the solar and lunar eclipses as people believed that coming out in
the open would harm them.

However for those interested in science, the eclipse is a rare opportunity
to study the sun's corona.

'It's sad that in spite of so much of scientific progress, we still hold
superstitious beliefs in phenomena like solar eclipse. The scientific
community and educated people should come together to dispel all myths,'
said Pooja Mohan, an IT professional.

'I and my friends will witness the event and we're waiting to be part of the
rare celestial phenomenon. We will wear protective glasses,' said Deepak
Nanda, a college student.

Indo Asian News Service

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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