Intermittent fasting is observed in various religious practices, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism and Judaism. Such fasting has been supportive of blood sugar management, it helps disease prevention, improves brain function, delays ageing and supports growth and metabolism and helps body weight management. It is an evolved art of living and reflects a person’s rationale rather than emotional attitude to food. It makes a person more resolute; low on anger, it controls mood and helps in viewing food as a necessary input for health rather than an object for indulgence.
In our society, fasting is also associated with certain special occasions of religious significance like Ekadasi and Sankranti. Sun and Moon have been intimately connected with human lives since the arrival of human beings on earth. Man has been worshipping the Sun since time immemorial. Sun has been viewed as the prime reason for life in this world. Planets revolve in their predetermined path around the Sun; Sun is responsible for rain. Man has been invoking Sun’s grace to enlighten him, sharpen his intelligence, and acquire the power of discrimination. Moon has been viewed as the controller of man’s mood, his emotions. These two celestial bodies have been worshipped as the manifestation of the Divine. When they suffer an eclipse, there is widespread concern for good and valid reasons. The devotee practices austerities and awaits the eclipse to be over to resume normal activities.
It would be sheer ignorance to view fasting during eclipse as a superstitious ritual without carefully studying the impact of eclipse on the earth. Photovoltaic energy generated on the eclipse day is found to be reduced substantially in comparison to that on a clear-sky day. A solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon that results in an abrupt and short-time perturbation of the solar radiation reaching the area of its visibility on the Earth’s surface. Such an event results in noticeable and important terrestrial consequences in the atmosphere.
A solar eclipse poses a challenge for power system of any country that has high percentage of solar power integration to grid. Researchers at Banaras Hindu University found that a solar eclipse on 21 June 2020 caused a substantial decrease in solar irradiance reaching the earth. At its peak, an eclipse cuts earth’s surface ozone levels substantially. The eclipse also cools earth’s atmosphere, changing temperature, relative humidity and wind speed. These changes have been most marked during the peak of the eclipse. Eclipse has been found to cause significant decrease in wind speed. Winds also blew more southerly in the shadowed regions. That the eclipse influences temperature and also causes the wind to drop speed and change direction has been documented.
In such a state of disturbance in the earth affecting wind speed, its direction, earth’s temperature and reduction of heat, reduced availability of energy and dip in ozone level, it is foolhardy to imagine that human body would remain unaffected during such a phenomenon. Human body has to have a rational response to counter the adverse effects of such disturbances. Fasting, therefore, has been resorted to as a defensive response to protect human health.
The self-styled rationalists seem to behave most irrational when they resort to public display of gluttony when the need of the hour is to abstain from food. The other relevant issue is their love for non-vegetarian food. Meat consumption has been found to be responsible for releasing greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. These gases contribute to climate change, such as global warming.
Livestock farming contributes to these greenhouse gases in several ways. It destroys forest ecosystems because livestock farming has necessitated destroying large forest tracts by burning and thus releasing enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Raising of cows and sheep create large amounts of methane as they digest food. The manure that ruminant animals produce also releases methane. Many types of fertilizers used in soybean production are nitrogen-based, and these lead to nitrous oxide emissions. Meat industry has been found to be unsustainable as animal livestock uses large amount of land resources. It has been found that despite using 77 per cent of agricultural land, only 17pc of global caloric consumption comes from animals. Yet in 2019 alone, an estimated 325 million metric tons of meat was produced. It takes a lot of water to produce meat. There is plenty of science and research to back up the conclusion that meat consumption has an adverse impact on environment.
Indians resorting to fasting immediately prior to and during eclipse is, therefore, a social practice based on science and rationality and the so called rationalists publicly displaying gluttony during eclipse are exhibiting nothing other than crude irrationality.
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