July 20, 2009

Varied Predications Made About Wednesday’s Solar Eclipse

Many Indian astrologers say this week's total solar eclipse is a bad omen that will bring violence and turmoil across the world, AFP reported.

On Wednesday, the moon will come between the Earth and the sun, completely blocking out the sun, and astronomers, scientists and secularists are trying to play down claims of evil in connection with this natural phenomenon.

According to 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 and water to be unfit to drink.

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

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

Gour said it 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."

In India, China and other Southeast Asian nations where the eclipse can be seen on Wednesday morning, astrologers have predicted a rise in communal and regional violence in the days leading up to the event.

Raj Kumar Sharma, a Mumbai astrologer, 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.

He believes an Indian political leader could be killed and tension between the West and Iran is likely to increase, escalating into possible U.S. military action after September 9.

Sharma told AFP that in the last 200 years whenever Saturn has gone into Virgo there has been either a world war or a mini world war.

The eclipse also has an unsettling history in China.

In ancient times they were often associated with disasters, the death of an emperor or other dark events. And experts say similar superstitions persist even today.

A recent article that attracted a lot of hits on the popular Chinese web portal Baidu.com said the probability for unrest or war to take place in years when a solar eclipse happens is 95 percent.

However, Sanal Edamaruku, a president of the Indian Rationalist Association, dismissed these doomsday predictions.

He told AFP that these soothsayers and astrologers are primarily looking for opportunities to enhance their business with predictions of danger and calamity.

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

But there have now been new efforts put forth to educate the public about the eclipse and even promote it as a spectator event.

A Boeing 737-700 aircraft chartered by travel firm Cox and Kings will give people the chance to see the eclipse from 41,000 feet for a $1,600 price tag.

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

He said since the eclipse is happening in the monsoon season, there's only a 40 percent chance of seeing it in India from the ground.

But on the aircraft you have almost a 90 percent chance of seeing the eclipse, he added.

"There's no need to get too alarmed about the eclipse, they are a natural phenomenon," said astrologer Siva Prasad Tata, who runs the Astro Jyoti website.

He said that during the eclipse, the opposite attracting forces are very powerful and from a spiritual point of view, present a wonderful time to do any type of worship.