On August 21, 2017, there was a memorable event in the U.S. — a total eclipse of the sun was visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses the United States from west to east through parts of the many states.
From time immemorial, cultures have all sorts of responses to an eclipse, mainly fright or fear. Therefore, in general, eclipses have been considered inauspicious events for thousands of years. They have been viewed as very negative omens.
Rituals related to eclipses
Although the recent event of total eclipse wasn’t seen in India, however, in India eclipses or Grahan (“ਗ੍ਰਹਨ”) generally are considered to be inauspicious according to the mythology propagated by Brahmins/Pandits. As a result, there are many rituals, traditions, superstitions, misconceptions, etc. that are observed before and after eclipses. They were in practice at the time of Baabaa Nanak, and they still are.
For example, people are directed to take a bath after the eclipse is over, and changing into fresh and clean clothes. Sprinkling of Ganga water or taking a dip in the Ganga is also supposed to wash away the evil done by the eclipse. The belief is that — after an eclipse — taking holy dip in holy rivers like Ganga, and Teeraths like Brahma Sarover in Kurukshetra will help in:
- Washing away sins of this birth and previous births
- Attaining liberation (Moksha) – escape from cycle of birth and rebirth.
- Washing away negative energy which spreads fast during the eclipse
- Removing the stains of wicked activities (Adharmic) performed in this birth and previous births.
- Another belief is that this solar eclipse – the alignment of sun, moon and earth – generates curative properties in holy waters of the rivers and ponds (Srovars of Teerath or places of pilgrimage).
There are also many other rituals and superstitions observed during an eclipse. To mention a few, not worshiping gods or touching idols during eclipse, abstaining from cooking, observing fast, barring a pregnant woman from going out and forcing her take shower every couple of hours whole night, and so on.
The Gurbani rejects rituals (Karamkaand)
The Gurbani makes reference to people bathing after an eclipse and, understandably, bluntly repudiates (ਖੰਡਨ) it. Because, there is no place for Karamkaand (rituals) in the Divine Wisdom of the Gurbani. They further bind people in egotism.
- ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਮਜਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਸੂਚੇ ॥ ਕੋਟਿ ਗ੍ਰਹਣ ਪੁੰਨ ਫਲ ਮੂਚੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਚਰਣ ਰਿਦੇ ਮਹਿ ਬਸੇ ॥ ਜਨਮ ਜਨਮ ਕੇ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਨਸੇ ॥੧॥: Taking cleansing bath in the (Teerath of) Hari Naam, (the life is rendered) pure. Reward (of bathing in the Naam-Teerath) surpasses the giving of charity at millions of solar eclipses. ||1||Pause|| With the “Hari Kae Charan” (Spiritual Knowledge, Brahm-Giann…) abiding in the Heart, the sins of many births are removed (sggs 197).
- ਜੇ ਓਹੁ ਗ੍ਰਹਨ ਕਰੈ ਕੁਲਖੇਤਿ ॥ ਅਰਪੈ ਨਾਰਿ ਸੀਗਾਰ ਸਮੇਤਿ ॥ ਸਗਲੀ ਸਿੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸ੍ਰਵਨੀ ਸੁਨੈ ॥ ਕਰੈ ਨਿੰਦ ਕਵਨੈ ਨਹੀ ਗੁਨੈ ॥੨॥: Someone may bathe at Kurukshetra during aa eclipse, and give his wife along with ornaments in offering, and listen to all the Simritees (Hindu scriptures), but if he indulges in slander, these are of no account. ||2|| (sggs 875).
During his journey that he undertook for the sake of Enlightening all the people, Guru Amar Das Sahib first visited Kurukshetra on the occasion of the Abhijit festival and preached to the thousands of pilgrims gathered there that the eclipse was a natural phenomenon and there was no merit gained by fasting and bathing on this occasion. Because we cannot cleanse our inner selves (minds, souls, thoughts, etc.) by pilgrimages and bathing in so called holy “waters”.
- ਨਾਵਣੁ ਪੁਰਬੁ ਅਭੀਚੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਦਰਸੁ ਭਇਆ॥ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਹਰੀ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਅੰਧੇਰੁ ਗਇਆ ॥: The fruits of ritual bathing and “Abheechu” (i.e., Abhijit festival) were naturally obtained when the blessed vision of the Satigur (i.e., the spiritual Wisdom from the Guru was received and lived). The filth of wickedness is washed off, and the darkness of ignorance is dispelled (by the Light of the spiritual Wisdom of the Satigur). (sggs 1116).
- ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਣ ਜਾਉ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ॥ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ॥: Go bathe at the Teerath, (and that Teerath is) the Naam-Teerath. To Reflect on the Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar…) is the Teerath, (because of this) Spiritual Wisdom arises within (sggs 687).
- ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਸਾਚਾ ਥਾਨੁ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਦਸ ਪੁਰਬ ਸਦਾ ਦਸਾਹਰਾ ॥: The Gur-Wisdom is Eternal sacred shrine of pilgrimage (for me, which is equal to) the congregation of ten (Holy days or festivals for me). (sggs 687).
Thus, according to the Gurbani, a Sikh (student or learner of the SGGS) is always supposed to wash off the filth of his mind through the Shabad-Vichaar (Naam, Divine Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad…). Therefore, the Gurbani tells us that visiting so called Teerath is nothing but “worldly affairs”, “egotistical displays”, oblivion in “doubt”, mundane business, acts of pleasing and appeasing other people, etc.!
- ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਧੋਵਹਿ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥: (Pure and unique Bhagti is) to wash the mind, and the body (i.e., senses: eyes, ears, etc.) with Shabad-Vichaar (sggs 1059).
- ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਭਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗਹੈ ॥: Deluded by doubt (he) visits all Teerath (external shrines of pilgrimage). (sggs 1142).
The Gurbani rejects belief in astrology (Jotish)
As the ancient Indian legend goes (according to mythology as given in Puraan), an eclipse occurs when the shadowy demon Rahu Ketu gets his revenge on the Sun and the Moon by consuming them and stealing their luminous rays.
In nutshell, according to astrology, eclipses can be a bad time to start or end jobs, projects, relationships, or any other important stuff.
The Gurbani repudiates both Jotish (also spelt Jyotish – astrology) and such belief.
The Jotish holds that it can help alleviate the unfavorable results of past actions through special measures, rituals, etc. However, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) holds that the permanent and foolproof solutions to our fear and suffering is through Realizing our Mool within (ਮੂਲ, Origin, Source, Jot…), through the Shabad-Vichaar.
The SGGS teaches that all calculations (imaginations-ਫੁਰਨੇ…) are in egotism (Mayaic mind). Sri Guru Granth Sahib also teaches that the Dynamic Divine Power is beyond any calculations, while the entire world is within the realm of calculations.
- ਪੰਡਿਤ ਪੜਦੇ ਜੋਤਕੀ ਨਾ ਬੂਝਹਿ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥: Pandits and the astrologers study their books, but they do not understand the “Veechaar” (of the Creator’s Play). (sggs 948).
- ਝੂਠੁ ਨ ਬੋਲਿ ਪਾਡੇ ਸਚੁ ਕਹੀਐ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ਸਬਦਿ ਘਰੁ ਲਹੀਐ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਗਣਿ ਗਣਿ ਜੋਤਕੁ ਕਾਂਡੀ ਕੀਨੀ ॥ ਪੜੈ ਸੁਣਾਵੈ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਚੀਨੀ ॥ ਸਭਸੈ ਊਪਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹੋਰ ਕਥਨੀ ਬਦਉ ਨ ਸਗਲੀ ਛਾਰੁ ॥੨॥: O Pandit! Do not tell lies, speak the Truth. When egotism is eradicated through the Gur-Shabad, then (one) finds that Home (of Spiritual Joy). ||1||Pause|| Calculating and counting, the astrologer draws the hroscope. (He) reads it and announces it (to his client), but (he) does not Understand the Reality (ਅਸਲੀਅਤ). (sggs 904).
- ਹਉਮੈ ਸਭਾ ਗਣਤ ਹੈ ਗਣਤੈ ਨਉ ਸੁਖੁ ਨਾਹਿ ॥: All accounting is in egotism, in these, there is no Peace (sggs 36).
- ਤੂ ਕਰਤਾ ਆਪਿ ਅਗਣਤੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਗਣਤੈ ॥: O Creator! You are incalculable, while the entire world is within the realm of calculation (sggs 314).
- ਸਉਣ ਸਗੁਨ ਬੀਚਾਰਣੇ ਨਉਂ ਗ੍ਰਹ ਬਾਰਹ ਰਾਸਿ ਵੀਚਾਰਾ ॥ ਕਾਮਣ ਟੂਣੇ ਅਉਸੀਆਂ ਕਣ ਸੋਹੀ ਪਾਸਾਰ ਪਾਸਾਰਾ ॥: The life led in the light of omens, the nine planets, the twelve signs of the zodiac; incantations, magic divination by lines and by the voice is all futile (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar: 5 Pauree: 9).
There is no counting (imaginations-ਫੁਰਨੇ…) for the one who has become the Gurmukh (one who understands and lives the Shabad-Giaan, Divine Wisdom, Hukam, Naam…); because he knows he is not separate from the Divine Essence.
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਗਣਤ ਮਿਟਾਵੈ ॥: The Gurmukh erases all calculations (sggs 942).