Posted by : Shoumik Das Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Good Afternoon,

Astronomers are in for a rare treat with a triple eclipse occuring in the span of a month starting from tomorrow. The schedule has a Solar Eclipse on July 22nd sandwiched between two Lunar eclipses on July 7th and August 6th.

The first recorded triple eclipse took place in 3067 BC, hovering around the Kurukshetra war period. Another one in 3031 BC oversaw the collapse of the Golden city of Dwarka. This was a turbulent time and signalled the end of the Dwapar Yuga and the beginning of the KalYuga, which is currently going on.

Interestingly, the Mayan Long calender ends on December 29th, 2012. Lord Krishna had predicted that approximately 5000 years after the onset of KalYuga, there will be a lot of problems on the earth...

Triple eclipses have also been seen to coincide with both the World Wars. So is this a premonition of something dangerous about to happen? We will just have to wait and watch...

Eclipses have mystified the human race from millenia. In ancient China, a dragon was thought to be swallowing the sun whenever an eclipse occured. Records from ancient Greece attribute the eclipses to Zeus, the king of Gods. The eclipses also form an important observation subject of the Mayans and the Incas.

However, the concept of the eclipse has been woven into a story in ancient Hindu texts, and a very famous one at that. It is connected with the churning of the milky ocean (Samudramanthan). I have already mentioned this episode in my series on Lord Vishnu's Dasavathars. The post is on the 2nd Avatar, the Tortoise form of Kurma:

The last item to come out of the great milky ocean was the pot of nectar (Amrit). A fight ensued between the Sevas and Asuras on who should have a go at it first. Then Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini, an enchantress, and volunteered to distribute the potion. Blinded by lust, the Asuras gullibly agreed. Mohini began doling out the potion to the Devas first, and an intelligent Asura named Rahu saw through her plan. Taking the form of a Deva, he sat between Chandra (Moon God) and Surya (Sun God).

Chandra recognized Rahu as one different from them, and tried to inform the same to Lord Vishnu. But the damage had already been done. By the time Lord Vishnu's Sudarshan Chakra took care of Rahu, the Asura had drunk the Amrit. Though the divine Chakra sliced him into two, both his head and his body remained alive. Since he too had become immortal, Lord Vishnu ordered Rahu (the head) and Ketu (the body) to remain in the company of the sun and moon, and thus they complete the Navagraha along with the other planets. The significance of the 7 planets + Rahu and Ketu will be discussed in another post...

It is said that the eclipse occurs whenever Rahu tries to engulf the moon or come between the moon and the sun. It is important to note the reference of Rahu sitting between the Sun and Moon, thus creating a barrier or shadow, which is the principle of the eclipse. This is how the concept of eclipses was passed down from generation to generation in ancient India.

Meanwhile, I came across a Shloka in which Aryabhatta, India's great mathematician and astronomer of the ancient age, has lucidly explained the concept of both the Solar and Lunar eclipses. This Shloka, from his famous work Aryabhatiyam, was stated in 499 AD, and is given below:

Translated into English, it says "The moon covers the sun and the great shadow of the earth covers the moon."

Thus, in a single line, Aryabhatta has described both the eclipses. Truly a blessed and great soul!

I recently read reports that 2 places in Bihar, known to be the birthplace of Aryabhatta, are called "Taregna" and "Khagoul". Clearly, both are in honour of their most famous son, Aryabhatta's astronomical expertise, as both of them are corruptions of Astronomical terms. Taregna relates to "Tare" (Stars), while "Khagol" is Astronomy in Hindi. Isn't it wonderful that Bihar will be under the spotlight and witness to this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle?

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