Rashmi Rekha Das

As mentioned in Hindu folktales, lunar eclipse is the result of the demon Rahu drinking the elixir of immortality. The sun and moon promptly decapitate Rahu, but having consumed the elixir, Rahu’s head remains immortal. It is believed that Rahu’s head chases the sun and moon to devour them in order to take revenge. When he catches sun, solar eclipse takes place and when he catches moon, lunar eclipse occurs.

However, Science does not believe in the folktales. Science has always played a pivotal role in unveiling the truth behind common beliefs in our society. 

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a lunar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon align so that the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow. In a total lunar eclipse, the entire Moon falls within the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra.

With the total lunar eclipse taking place today, OTV discusses with astrologers Saroj Maharana, Niranjan Mohapatra and scientist Subhendu Patnaik to keep their views on myths surrounding lunar eclipse.

For many people in India, a lunar eclipse bears ill fortune. Food and water are covered and cleansing rituals performed. Pregnant women especially should not eat or carry out household work, in order to protect their unborn child.

Of late, some rationalists have invited controversy for eating chicken biryani on the recent solar eclipse day in the state with religious gurus terming them as anti-Hindus.  The rationalists are expected to repeat history today to show their beliefs in science and disbeliefs on faiths and customs surrounding lunar eclipse. They somehow managed to convince common people and made them eat during eclipse.

Making a point in this regard, Deputy Director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium Subhendu Patnaik said, “Solar and lunar eclipses are hide and seek game. They have no connection with eating. Some people are arguing that it is scientifically proven that eating during eclipses is wrong. They claim that eating during eclipse will have adverse impact on body as food do not get digest easily. These are simply baseless statements.” 

In this context, astrologer Saroj Maharana said, “The so-called rationalists believe eating during solar and lunar eclipses has no impact on human body. As we know we do not face any side effect soon after eating. The rationalists should realise the fact that digesting food takes time. Similarly, eating on these days will show its impact later. At a time when science has failed to unravel the mystery behind death and life, scientists should not persuade people to consume food during eclipses. Saints have set some rules regarding it and we need to follow it because they carry some logical reasons.”

He further emphasised that, “In Ayurveda scripture it is written that eating yoghurt along with non-veg dishes create cancer germs in body. That does not mean those who eat non-veg biriyani with kachumber salad will diagnose with cancer soon after eating it. Frequently eating of non-veg biriyani with kachumber over years will result in cancer. In order to prove age-old rituals wrong, rationalists eat something on the day of eclipses and want the result immediately which is impractical.”

Maharana termed it a conspiracy of rationalists who are hurting the religious sentiments of common people. 

Clearing his stand, Pathani Samanta Planetarium Deputy Director Patnaik further said, “I would like to repeat that solar and lunar eclipses are natural occurrences. Sun and moon do not make any negative impact on human beings in our daily life. So, it is unwise to conclude that they will have negative impact on the day of solar and lunar eclipses. It’s a misconception that eating during solar and lunar eclipses will make us ill.”

Niranjan Mohapatra, another astrologer said, “In Sanatan Dharma it is advised that we should not do which is denied by our saints. And our saints have prohibited eating on these days. There is difference between faith and superstition. Eating heavy food during lunar eclipse is not superstition but it is age-old belief which is set for the wellbeing of human existence.”

Informing more about today’s lunar eclipse, Patnaik said, “As this is the last lunar eclipse of the year, everyone should enjoy this view. Children always study these things in science book. They can enjoy this panoramic view of partial lunar eclipse which will be visible in Bhubaneswar sky between 5.11pm and 5.26pm.