An Eclipse also referred to as ‘Grahan,’ holds religious significance for many Hindus who follow rituals per the Hindu calendar. Eclipse is two types, Solar Eclipse and Lunar Eclipse. It occurs when an astronomical object obscures the path of rays partially or fully due to the placement of a second object.
An eclipse is a spectacular sight and a rare astronomical event only visible from a limited area. While many find eclipses amazing and eagerly wait for it’s happening, ancient Hindu texts suggest that it is not something we should all be eagerly waiting for.
Rahu and Ketu denote the two points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move around the celestial sphere. Therefore, Rahu and Ketu are respectively called the North and the South Lunar nodes. Sometimes when the moon passes these nodes, it is aligned perfectly between the Earth and the sun to create eclipses.
The fact that eclipses occur when the Sun and Moon are at one of these points gives rise to the myth of swallowing the Sun. In Hindu astrology (Jyotish Shastra), these cycles of Rahu and Ketu are well known. Still, their association with eclipses made the characters Rahu and Ketu eerily unknown, hidden, and dark. (Also Read – The story behind Rahu and Ketu and their significance)
Why are Hindu temples closed during eclipses?
Temples are not just a place meant for God; instead, it is to experience the deeper subjective serenity of pure awareness and a place where that deeper divine aspect of life can be cherished through deeper contemplation. They are places of spiritual healing, where the geometry of the place is used as a Yantra, which creates a certain subtle energy flow.
That energy conducts deep subjective experience, which enables the devotees to experience the divinity within the self inside the temple. Hence, shrines evoke subtler energies, which also interact with the cosmic energies from the solar system, planets, etc. An idol, which has been ceremoniously and ritually installed, constantly emanated positive energy. Nevertheless, most people visit temples to present their wish list rather than experience deeper tranquillity.
What happens inside the temple during this time?
During an eclipse, the aura around the idol is somewhat disturbed. According to Hindu texts, heavenly bodies, particularly the sun and the moon, emit abnormal negative energies during an eclipse. Therefore, the doors of the temple housing the main deity are closed to prevent and minimize these negative energies that could disturb the effects of the divine energy on the devotees. Ensuring the closing of the temple doors, Tulsi leaves are also placed on the idols to cover them against negative energy. Tulsi leaves are specifically chosen for this purpose as they can absorb harmful radiation.
Why are some temples not closed during eclipses?
Kalahasteeswara temple in Sri Kalahasthi is not closed during an eclipse. The reason is that this temple is the only temple in India that offers puja and prayers to Rahu and Ketu. Thus, this temple is not affected by an eclipse.
On Vishnupad Temple of Gaya, the door is always open no matter if it’s a solar or lunar eclipse. The period is rather auspicious as the moment is of great significance for the Pind Daan ritual (offering for dead people).
The door of the Mahakal temple is also open during the eclipse but the timing of Aarti changes on a period of eclipse. Devotees can without interruption visit and worship Mahakal during any eclipse period.
During the Sutak period, the ancient Laxminath temple keeps its doors open, unlike before when a priest used to close them. This change in practice is connected to an intriguing tale. Once, when the Sutak began, the priest decided to shut the doors of the Laxminath temple, resulting in no worship or offerings being made to the deity that day. Curiously, that very night, a young boy approached the confectionery shop across from the temple, expressing his hunger.
Using a Pajeb as payment, he requested prasad from the confectioner, who kindly obliged. The following day, news spread that the Pajeb had disappeared from the temple. When the confectioner informed the priest about the boy, it was believed that the famished child was none other than Laxminath Maharaj himself. In light of this incident, the Laxminath temple no longer closes its doors during the Sutak period, except during eclipses. Instead, an aarti is conducted, and the Lord is offered Bhog to honor his presence.
The wise men from the past were aware of the effects of eclipses on temples, thus its effects on us. As a result, the temple doors are closed to minimize the negative effects of eclipses on the aura of the idols, the temples, and, thus, the devotees who visit the temples.
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