New Delhi: As the millennium`s longest annular solar eclipse ended Friday afternoon, hundreds and thousands of Hindu temples across the country re-opened after being shut during the four hours of the celestial spectacle.
In Delhi, the Radha-Krishna temple, better known as the Birla Mandir, which was closed at 11 a.m. around the same time as the eclipse started in the city, opened its doors at around 3.30 p.m.
"The temple was closed in the morning and no puja was performed because of the eclipse. But a special havan was performed. When the eclipse got over, the temple re-opened but not before a cleansing process," a priest at the temple said.
Narayan Kothari, a priest at another temple in east Delhi, said the temple was closed to "ward off bad energy of the eclipsed sun".
The story was the same for most temples across the country, from Haridwar on the banks of the Ganges in Uttarakhand to the southern most tip of India.
Vedic scholar A.S. Arvamudan told said, "The main reason why temples are closed during the solar eclipse is that when the sun is covered by the moon and is not seen, it is said that asuras or demons are worshipped. Therefore, deities should not be worshipped during this time.
"Similarly, after the eclipse gets over, there is a cleansing process. Priests take a bath and mantras are chanted before the temple doors are opened," he added.
A number of people in the capital, like elsewhere, offered special prayers in their homes during the eclipse and refrained from cooking or eating food until after the event.
Said homemaker Usha Kaushal, "No food was cooked or eaten during the period. I have grown up seeing my parents perform these rituals. It is a deeply ingrained belief."
Added Rakesh Sharma, an advertising professional, "I am not superstitious but my mother gave me strict instructions not to eat during the eclipse, so I had brunch at 10.30 a.m. before the eclipse began."
While the eclipse started at 11.06 a.m. in India, the partial phase of it in the capital began at 11.53 a.m. and ended at 3.11 p.m. The maximum eclipse of 53 percent was at 1.39 p.m.
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the sun and the moon are exactly in line as seen from the earth, but the apparent size of the moon`s shadow is smaller than that of the visible disc of the sun. The covered sun, therefore, appears as a `Ring of Fire`, with its rays appearing spread out from the outline of the dark moon.
The last time India saw this `Ring of Fire` was Nov 22, 1965.