Astronomy, faith meet in Har-ki-Pauri on solar eclipseJanuary 15th, 2010 - 6:17 pm ICT by IANS
By Madhusree Chatterjee
Haridwar, Jan 15 (IANS) Tradition and astronomy fused on the banks of the Ganges during the annular solar eclipse Friday as temples shut their doors and covered the idols in muslin shrouds and bathers completed their morning pre-eclipse rituals by the time the sun went into the shadow of the new moon.
The temples reopened at 4 p.m. after the eclipse ended, and hundreds of thousands of bathers flocked to the river considered holy by Hindus.
The approach roads to Har-ki-Pauri - where 32 bathing enclaves have been erected for the pilgrims - were blocked to prevent gate-crashers.
“The shrines dotting the river had closed at noon when the period of ’sootak’- the release of dark energy - began. This is an inauspicious period when the atmospheric pollution increases. Devotees usually abstain from rituals,” seer Radheshyam Maharajji, who had been camping at Har-ki-Pauri with seven holy men from his order since morning, told IANS.
The ’sadhus’ (holy men), who spent the morning praying by a wood fire, scores of which lined the banks covered with a heavy curtain of mist from the river, bathed at 4 p.m. after the eclipse.
“Today, we prayed to the holy trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - for world peace, amity, a better money market and succour for the common man whose lives have been torn apart by inflation,” he said.
Devotees, who had bathed in the morning, spilled at the bank at 4 p.m. for a post-eclipse dip during the auspicious hour known as the Brahma Muhurta.
A little later, the temples opened their door after purifying the sanctums with water from the Ganges. The shrouds covering the idols were removed.
For the traders’ family of 25 members from Bikaner in Rajasthan, the celestial happening was an occasion to pray for wishes and redemption.
“We often visit Haridwar but this is the first time we are attending the Mahakumbh Mela. We prayed for the well-being of friends and family during the eclipse,” Rajendra Kumar Maru told IANS.
Maru, the head of his clan, came to the temple town Thursday for the first Makara Sankranti bath. “We are a family of traders and it is important for us to pray on solar eclipses,” he said.
Seer Narayan Giri, who huddled in his saffron robes and a blanket at Har-ki-Pauri, spent the morning singing hymns and chanting mantra.
“It is a ritual to pray for the redemption of the sun from the forces of darkness. This year is special because the eclipse coincided with the Mahakumbh Mela,” he said.
Sumitra Mishra, a resident of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, felt that “the post-eclipse dip would wash away lifetimes of sins accumulated by her”.
“It is something one has to do for religion,” the housewife said, as she prepared to bathe in the morning. The woman has attended four Kumbh Melas.
Policing was tight. More than 500 policemen patrolled the bathing enclaves and detained suspicious-looking people.
“Six pilgrims were interrogated day before yesterday. We have been told to monitor movements of suspects,” officer Narayan Giri said.
The longest annular solar eclipse of the millennium touched the southern tip of India at 11.06 a.m. The path of the eclipse began in central Africa, crossed the Indian Ocean and then moved to southeast Asia, ending in southeastern China.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the sun is covered by the shadow of the new moon.
Scriptures say that as the sun dims, the natural energy field of the world changes generating negative waves. The dormant germs in the atmosphere become active and a bath in the holy Ganges is said to clean up toxins and bad vibes from the body.
According to seers, the last annular solar eclipse that coincided with a Mahakumbh Mela was in 1914.
Tags: annular solar eclipse, approach roads, atmospheric pollution, bathers, bikaner, brahma vishnu, chatterjee, dark energy, enclaves, ganges, gate crashers, haridwar, holy men, holy trinity, new moon, pauri, shrouds, succour, wood fire, world peace