An Eclipse, which is also referred to as ‘Grahan’, holds religious significance for many Hindus who follow rituals as per the Hindu calendar. Eclipse is of two types, Solar Eclipse and Lunar Eclipse and it occurs when an astronomical object obscure the path of rays partially or fully, due to the placement of a second object. It is a spectacular sight and a rare astronomical event which is only visible from a limited area. While many find eclipses amazing and eagerly waits for its happening, ancient Hindu texts suggest that it is not something that 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 Sun and Moon are at one of these points gives rise to the myth of the swallowing of the Sun. In Hindu astrology (Jyotish-Shastra), these cycles of Rahu and Ketu are well known, but their association with eclipses served to make the characters Rahu and Ketu eerily unknown, hidden and dark.
Why are Hindu temples closed during eclipses and what happens inside the temple during this time?
Basically, 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 certain subtle energy flow. That energy conducts deep subjective experience, which enables the devotees to experience divinity within the self inside the temple. Hence, different shrines evoke different kinds of subtler energies, which also interact with the cosmic energies coming from the solar system, planets etc. An idol, which has been ceremoniously and ritually installed, constantly emanated positive energy. Nevertheless, most people just go to temples to present their wish-list, rather than to experience deeper tranquillity within.
During an eclipse, the aura around the idol is somewhat disturbed. According to Hindu texts, during an eclipse, heavenly bodies, particularly the sun and the moon, emit abnormal negative energies. 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. Ensuing, closing of the temple doors, Tulsi leaves are also placed on the idols to cover them against the negative energy. Tulsi leaves are specifically chosen for this purpose as they have the capacity to absorb harmful radiations. However, Kalahasteeswara temple in Sri Kalahasthi is not closed during an eclipse. The reason is said that this temple is the only temple in India which offers puja and prayers to Rahu and Ketu, thus, this temple is not affected by an eclipse.
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 minimise the negative effects of eclipses on the aura of the idols, the temples and thus the devotees who visit the temples.