By Sri Swami
excerpt from the book "Hindu
fasts and festivals"
When the gods and the demons churned the milky ocean in days
of yore, nectar came out of it. Lord Vishnu assumed the form
of Mohini, a charming lady, deluded the demons and distributed
the nectar only among the gods. But Rahu had disguised himself
as a god. The sun and the moon pointed this out to Mohini
who immediately slashed off the demon’s head. Since
the nectar had by then already reached up to the neck, he
did not die. Thus the head came to be known as Rahu and the
body as Ketu. To avenge this betrayal, Rahu and Ketu periodically
eclipse the sun and the moon.
Astronomically speaking, when the Sun, the Moon and the Earth
are all in line, with the Moon or the Earth at the centre,
a solar or lunar eclipse takes place respectively.
At the time of the eclipse, people bathe
in the sacred rivers. They do charitable acts. They give cows,
money and gold. The day after the eclipse they feed the poor,
the Brahmins and the Sadhus. After the eclipse they clean
their houses, vessels, etc., and take a bath before they start
One should not take food during the eclipse. When the eclipse
begins the food should by then have been digested. One should
take food only after seeing the sun or the moon free from
the eclipse. When the clear sun or the moon is not seen before
sunset or sunrise, in the case of the solar and lunar eclipse
respectively, food can be taken only after the sun or the
moon is seen the next day.
Pregnant women should not see the sun or
the moon during the time of the eclipse. If they do the child
born may have some kind of defect. He may be born deaf, dumb
or blind. Householders are forbidden from sexual intercourse
on the day of the eclipse, for the same reason.
At this time one should take great care in avoiding bleeding,
scorpion stings, etc. These have disastrous results. Even
an earthworm has a poisonous effect when it bites one during
Those who do Japa at the time of the eclipse
derive great benefits. The effect of Japa and Sankirtan during
the eclipse contributes towards relieving the suffering of
humanity and also of the planets. These people receive the
blessings of the gods. They attain perfection quickly. Those
who wish to tap the subtle force locked in the Mantra that
will cure scorpion stings should stand in water and repeat
the appropriate Mantra.
The little intellect cannot understand
many things in this universe. Hence, have faith in the words
Ignorance has eclipsed Self-knowledge. However, this eclipse
will disappear. You will shine in your own glory. This is
the spiritual significance of the eclipse.
You can read the complete
book "Hindu fasts and festivals" by Sri Swami Sivananda
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