Hindu Reflections on Eclipses and Blood Moon
(Compilation for a discourse by N. R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, April 2014)
Eclipses are dramatic natural events of the Cosmos. Animals as well as human beings behave rather strange during eclipse. But the Lunar eclipse that occurred on April 15th is something special. On April 15, 2014, there was a total Lunar Eclipse. It was the first of four consecutive total eclipses in a series known as a Tetrad; the remaining three eclipses will take place on October 8, 2014, April 8, 2015, and September 28, 2015. It is one of eight tetrads during the 21st century AD. Since 1 AD this tetrad has occurred on the Jewish Holy days 7 times. In 2014-2015 it will be the eighth time. It won’t occur again for another 500 years. April 14th in 2014 is also Hindu Solar New Year’s Day. Unlike Yugadi, Hindu Lunar New Year’s Day, Hindu Solar New Year’s Day falls in April coinciding with Gregorian calendar. But it has not created any special excitement among Hindus though some astrologers exaggerate the special occurrence. Probably this may not happen for Hindus too for another 500 years?
Sankranti means transmigration of the Sun from one constellation of the zodiac in Indian astronomy to the next called Rasi. Hence, there are 12 Sankrantis in a year. Each Sankranti is marked as the beginning of a month in the sidereal solar calendars followed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab. On the other hand, in the sidereal solar Bengali calendar and Assamese calendar, a Sankranti is marked as the end of each month and the day following as the beginning of a new month.
Maha Vishuva Sankranti ( Maha Vishuva Sankramana), also known as Mesha Sankranti, is celebrated as Putthandu by Tamils wherever they are settled. On this day sun enters Mesha Rasi or Zodiac sign Aries. It always falls on April 14 or 15. This year it fell on April 14 coinciding with Chandra Grahana or Lunar Eclipse which some of the Western cultures called as Blood Moon owing to 4 full lunar eclipses coming in a series.
There are specific reasons as to why the Vishuva Sankranti is considered as the first day of the solar year. On only two occasions around year, Mesha Sankramana and Tula Sankramana, the Sun fully rests on the equator. On these two dates, the length of days and nights are equal. But in case of a sidereal zodiac, as used in Indian solar calendars, it has no connection with the equinoxes. Hence, the length of the Indian sidereal calendars is longer than the actual tropical solar year. Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as New Year’s day in many parts of India--Assamese New Year Rongali; Malayali New Year, Vishu; Nepali New Year, of Bikram Samwat; Sri Lnaka New Year Aluth Avurudda; Tamil New Year Puthandu; Tuluva New Year or Bisu in Karnatka; Maithili New Year, or Jude Shital in Mithila and in Bengal Pohela Boishakh Orissa New Year as Pana Sankranti are celebrated in April. It is also celebrated as New Year in countries like Laos, Combodia, Burma and others influenced by Hindu culture in the past in April.
Uttaraayana Punyakaala start with Makara Sankranti and ends in Dakshinaayana Punyakaala. Dakshinaayana Punyakaala begins this year on July 17, 2014 when Sun enters Karkataka Rasi. Many Hindus perform ceremonies (shraddha) for their ancestors on this day. In Hinduism One day of Brahma is one human year. Uttaraayana Punyakaala marks one day and Daksinayana Punyakaala marks one night of Brahma.
Many Christians believe that signs in the heavens will signal the return of Jesus:
“The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” -Joel 2:31
“The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood.” Revelations 6:12
Christians refer to these as the ‘blood moons’ which occur as a consequence of an eclipse. Unfortunately Christianity lacks a tradition of astrology and so they do not understand the maleficent effects. The Sun attacked by Rahu becomes black and the Moon attacked by Ketu appears as a golden/red cup full of blood.
There are four blood moons and one solar eclipse which fall on Jewish holy days starting from 4/15/2014 through 9/28/2015. This signals increased strife and war in the world.
NASA says there will be 12,064 Lunar Eclipses between 1999 and 3000 A.D. Of these 12,064 lunar eclipses, 3,479 will be total lunar eclipses. During that time there will be 142 Lunar Tetrads. By 2100 AD 62 Tetrads would have occurred reckoned from 1 AD. Tetrads of four sequential lunar eclipses with no intervening partial lunar eclipses occur 6 other times in this century. The last time that four blood red moons occurred together was in 1967-1968. Another tetrad occurred in 1949-1950. Before that time the occurrence was in 1493-1494.
Our sages saw a close relationship between the position and movements of the planets and the behavior as well as destiny of man, his fortunes and miseries. They somehow felt the eclipse had a negative influence on man’s life. Therefore they prescribed offering water oblation to ancestors, fasting during the period, offering prayers, indulge in charitable acts and holy baths after the eclipse and before starting prayers. Probably they felt that human intellect cannot understand many things on the universe so pleading to the mercy of the divine is the best solution. Out of fear or awe they directed their prayers to the Lord and the planets. Even today special prayers are offered in temples pleading for calmness and peace to ward off ill effects of the eclipse. Whenever planets align themselves in some difficult configuration moving away from their rhythmic order it creates cosmic energies that can cause devastation, destruction or create difficult situations around the world. These abnormal aspects can also cause threat to the well-being and lives of some beings according to their birth stars. So, prayers are offered to the Lord pleading so that no such disturbances take place. Prayers create positive energies that counteract negative energies created by these disturbances or at least dilute their destructive effect.
Puranas cleverly wielded the incidences of eclipse to an interesting mythological story. You have all heard the story of churning of the ocean and the emergence of Amrita that is elixir for immortal life. Lord Vishnu assumed the form enchantress Mohini and distributed the divine nectar only among the divines or Devas. But Rahu, a demon disguised himself as a divine appeared before Mohini. Ever vigilant Sun and Moon brought this to the notice of Mohini who wielded Sudarsana chakra and cut off the head of Rahu. Since the nectar had reached up to the neck of Rahu, he did not die. Thus the head came to be known as Rahu and body came to be known as Ketu. They assumed the planetary status along with seven others and are known for their ill effects. To avenge this betrayal Rahu and Ketu periodically eclipse the Sun and the Moon say the Puraanas.
During the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, the forces of darkness (demons) and the forces of light (demigods) cooperated to create Amrta – the Nectar of Immortality. The Chief Minister of the demons, Rahu, through subterfuge, begins to drink some of the Nectar. However, the Sun and the Moon see through his trickery and advise Mohini, the female Avatar of Lord Vishnu of this deception. She subsequently cuts off his head.
Because the Nectar of Immortality passed through his throat his head remains immortal. Rahu (the head without a body) seeks to consume the Sun while Ketu (the body without a head) attacks the Moon. In art they are depicted as a snake. On a gross/physical level the Solar and Lunar eclipses represent the demon’s severed bodies continually attacking the Sun and Moon as revenge. The Sun attacked by Rahu becomes black and the Moon attacked by Ketu appears as a golden/red cup full of blood.
On a subtle level these eclipses are inauspicious omens that portend trouble from the dark powers of the world.
One may wonder what is so special about Blood Moon! A Blood Moon is just another name for a total lunar eclipse. Any astronomer would tell you lunar eclipses happen year after year. Some are total and some are partial and it is not a rare phenomenon and can be predicted in advance. What makes the next three lunar eclipses a bit more special is that they are all total lunar eclipses in series visible all over North America. When four blood moons occur in a series it is considered special.
Astrologically speaking, solar and lunar eclipses are signs of change. In the six months to a year following an eclipse, one can expect accelerated changes in the areas of life related to the eclipse. For a lunar eclipse, this means changes in the realm of family, home, as well as our emotional need and habits. Where that change occurs in our life depends on how the eclipses interact in our own birth chart which expert astrologers can predict. The eclipses of 2014 and 2015 signify the path we blaze through that is uniquely ours.
As per many ancient scriptures the dark-age is about to end and the new-age will begin. So people come with sensational news that Jesus, Mehdi, Kalki will reappear or reincarnate. Followers of Saibaba think of the next Saibaba and others expect arrival of some holy person who will lead them if not Kalki like Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and others. One of the reputed astrologers Dr. Rakesh Sharma predicts: “The region of South America, down south coast all the way to the West coast of California will be vulnerable to the calamities of nature. Earthquakes will shatter some coastlines and places will have to be evacuated. July 26th and 27th of 2014 are the days to watch. Then from August 7th and next 10 days to follow will be a dangerous time for the earth. The earth itself will shake and its axis will change unless God helps to stop this calamity”. He also then gives hope: “Then after many things will change on the surface of the Earth. Earth will pass under a cluster of very bright stars of high intelligence and consciousness that will open the doorway to earth. Some mysterious planet will emit powerful blue colored positive rays on Earth”. Thus he has kept a provision to go either way.
Hindu sages developed astronomy for the first time in the world based on their astrological needs to perform rituals at the proper time. We are all aware of the story that Sita performed the ceremony for Dasaratha as Rama could not arrive at the right time. It is strange that while Hindus are accused for their blind beliefs the so called modern religions based on faith are not lagging behind Hindus in such blind faiths. Tele Evangelist John Hagee has brought out a book titled Four Blood Moons; something is about to Change. “Just as in Biblical times, God is controlling our generation a signal that something is about to happen” he says. The confluence of Blood Moon and the Jewish Passover has been predicted in Jewish calendars just as in our Panchangams much earlier. April 15th event is the first in a Tetrad. The next one is on October 8th that coincides with Jewish Feast Tabernacles. For all these predictions and fears they draw the support from Act 2:20 of the Holy Bible: “….the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before that great and notable day of the Lord…” Some speculate it to be his reappearance on Earth creating sensation.
Hindus do not observe an eclipse as a special religious event if they do not see the eclipse. Nashville where I live was stormy on April 15, 2014 to see any moon here and so it passed off like any other winter night. Last week’s rare blood moon eclipse was amazing, but it also took place in the middle of the night so most people in the U.S. probably missed it. But there is no need to fret, of course. We see the amazing pictures of the moon eclipse of that night on the Internet. Hindus give the same weight-age and religious significance whether it is full or partial eclipse or any special Blood moon occurrence. Temples are closed during the eclipse period.
It is a fact that planetary movements do have some sort of effect to earth and its gravitational pull and on all living beings. Sea tides are controlled by the effect of the moon and they get affected. Hindus believe that during the solar eclipse, there's a strong negative charge loading on the earth. Since the temples are built to attract astral energy and positively charged the devotees are in its charged atmosphere. These positive effects will be reversed during the eclipse. Deities in temples, which have been consecrated by mantras and rituals, have an external magnetic field around the image which combines the pull of the sun and moon during the installation. Our Panchangas are calculated on the basis of the movement of the earth in relation to Sun and Moon. When eclipse occurs in moon or sun, who provides energy and light to this earth it is considered earth gets affected due to the absence of this energy. Therefore, the cultural centers, religious centers and temples remain closed. On opening after eclipse mantras are chanted to restore any loss in energy praying to the Supreme similar to Kumbabhishekam. This is what prompts Special worship after the eclipse.
Hindus believe pregnant women are very much affected and so pregnant women do not see the sun or the moon during the eclipse. If they do the child born may have some kind of birth defect. Householders are also forbidden from sexual intercourse on the day of the eclipse for the same reason. Care is also taken to avoid any sort of bleeding, like stings from insects as they may cause poisonous effect when bitten during eclipse.
Hindus avoid any important work or deal on the day of eclipse. They usually commence fast at least 9 or 10 hours before the start of the eclipse. At the conclusion of the eclipse they take a holy bath, prepare fresh food, offer prayers and consume food after offering same to the God. All left over food before eclipse is destroyed and not even given to beggars or the needy. If some preserved food items like pickle or sauce is to be reused they are protected by sprinkling some Kusa grass or dharba or Tulasi leaves or sesame seeds. Holy dip in sea, river or tank is considered auspicious. People offer water oblations to their ancestors; indulge in charity and prayers for getting back to normal life with a prayers to Supreme to remove all ill effects of the eclipse.
Considering the Jewish belief Hindu mythological story of Rahu and Ketu does not look far-fetched even though Rahu and Ketu are not planets. We have seen massive blazes linked to climate change in recent studies. Warming has worsened wildfires. Since 2000, 3 separate years have seen 9 million acres burned in separate years and 8 million acres burned in three other separate years. We have seen tsunami devastation, land-sliding, earthquakes and other national calamities including sinking of ships and plane disasters. Could they have any bearing on these planetary disturbances of the rhythm due to Blood Moon and eclipses of the 21st century? Only scientists or astrologers can tell! My little intellect cannot understand many things in this expanding universe which baffles all scientists with new findings every now and then. It is then better to have faith in what our sages believed. Our ignorance has eclipsed knowledge of the Self. This is what I learn from eclipse. Eclipses come and go. We can shine in our Spiritual glory if we focus our thoughts on the Supreme. Let us intensify our peace prayers on such disturbed days, which are not under our control:
Dyauh saantih antariksha(ga)m saantih prithivee saantih aapah saantih oeshadhayah saantih | vanaspatayah saantih viswedevaah saantih brahma saantih sarva(ga)m saantih saantireva saantih saa maa saantiraedhi ||
May there be peace in the heavenly region; May there be peace in the atmosphere; May peace reign on the earth! May there be coolness in the water! May the medicinal herbs heal without failing! May the plants be peace-giving! May there be harmony in the celestial objects and perfection in eternal knowledge; May everything in the universe be peaceful! May peace pervade everywhere!. May that peace come to me!
1. Swami Sivananda, Hindu Fasts and Festivals, The Divine Life Society, Shivanada nagar, India.
2. Swami Chandrasekaranada Saraswati, Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
3. Heidi Hall, Blood Moons just unusual, The Tennessean, April 18, 2014, Nashville.
4. Doyle Rice, The Tennessean, Warming worsens Western Wildfires, The Tennessean, April 18, 2014, Nashville, TN, USA.
[This is a prepared lecture compiled from above references and others for a discourse at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville and to benefit those who are not able to attend the same in person. You are free to download and use it for your reading and reference as well as circulate to others to spread the wisdom of Vedas and Hindu values which good act will be appreciated.]