New Delhi, July 27: In a major initiative, The Astronomical Society of India (ASI), a professional association for astronomers, has been launching a campaign to counter one of the most enduring superstitions surrounding eclipses - that one shouldn't eat or drink during the celestial event.
ASI has invited those defying the belief during the 6 hours, 17 minutes, 18-second long eclipse starting at 10:44 pm on July 27 - the longest lunar eclipse this century - to post photographs (Selfies) on social media with the hashtag: #EclipseEating.
"We are trying to dispel notions that eating during eclipses is harmful," Aniket Sule, who heads the public outreach and education committee of ASI, said. "During the eclipse, babas and gurus are quoted in the news saying "don’t eat"; we have to counter the narrative."
They face an uphill task; centuries-old beliefs continue to persist and are sometimes propagated by astrologers, spiritual leaders, and self-styled gurus?The belief is centered on how food turns to poison during eclipses.
Sule said the roots of the superstition lay in the pre-electricity era when events like the solar or lunar eclipse meant darkness would descend on households. During these periods, insects or other contaminants could spoil the food, so it was safer to discard whatever was left in the open.
A lunar eclipse takes place when the earth comes between the sun and the moon. An umbral shadow is an area where the earth has blocked off all direct sunlight from reaching the moon. When it enters the totality phase, the moon is completely inside the earth's shadow and acquires a reddish hue, prompting many to call it a 'blood moon'. The total eclipse of the moon, when it is completely under the earth's shadow, will last 1 hour and 43 minutes.
Pregnant women are warned against going out and eating and drinking for fear of adverse effects on the foetus. "It does not have a basis in medical science," Anuradha Kapur, director and head of the gynecology unit at the Max Hospital in Saket, New Delhi, said, "but all our patients are saying that they won't step out during the eclipse."