Bangalore's battle over eclipse - astronomy or astrology?


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), said: "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 eclipse.
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.

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