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Solar eclipse pits superstition against science

July 20th 2009

MUMBAI (AFP) – Indian astrologers are predicting violence and turmoil across the world as a result of this week's total solar eclipse, which the superstitious and religious view as a sign of potential doom.But astronomers, scientists and secularists are trying to play down claims of evil portent in connection with Wednesday's natural spectacle, when the moon will come between the Earth and the sun, completely obscuring the sun.In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to "swallow" the sun during eclipses, snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable.Pregnant women are advised to stay indoors to prevent their babies developing birth defects, while prayers, fasting and ritual bathing, particularly in holy rivers, are encouraged.Shivani Sachdev Gour, a gynaecologist at the Fortis Hospital in New Delhi , said a number of expectant mothers scheduled for caesarian deliveries on July 22 had asked to change the date. "This is a belief deeply rooted in Indian society. Couples are willing to do anything to ensure that the baby is not born on that day," Gour said.Astrologers have predicted a rise in communal and regional violence in the days following the eclipse, particularly in , and other Southeast Asian nations where it can be seen on Wednesday morning.Mumbai astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma predicted "some sort of attack by (Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al-Qaeda on Indian soil" and a devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia .An Indian political leader could be killed, he said, and tension between the West and is likely to increase, escalating into possible military action after September 9, when fiery Saturn moves from Leo into Virgo."The last 200 years, whenever Saturn has gone into Virgo there has been either a world war or a mini world war," he told AFP.It is not just in that some are uneasy about what will transpire because of the eclipse.In ancient they were often associated with disasters, the death of an emperor or other dark events, and similar superstitions persist."The probability for unrest or war to take place in years when a solar eclipse happens is 95 percent Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Bookmark and Share

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