Saturday, February 14, 2009

சந்திர கிரஹணம்

போன பௌர்ணமி அன்று ஆஸ்திகர் மத்தியில் சிறு குழப்பம் ஏற்பட்டது. சந்திர கிரஹணம் என்று ஊடகங்கள் சொல்ல பஞ்சாங்கத்தை பார்த்தால் இல்லை. பின்னே கிரஹண அனுஷ்டானம் உண்டா இல்லையா? சாதாரணமாக பஞ்சாங்கத்தை பார்த்து அனுஷ்டிபவர்கள் குழம்பினார்கள். சமீபத்தில் பிரபலமாகி வரும் ஒரு வைதிக மாதப்பத்திரிகை கிரஹணம் உண்டு என்று போட்டது. அப்புறம் அனுஷ்டானம் இல்லை என்று சதுர்தசி அன்று பத்திரிகையில் விளம்பரம் கொடுத்ததாக கேள்வி.

அன்று உண்மையில் விஞ்ஞான ¨கிரஹணம்¨ இருந்தது. ஆனால் அனுஷ்டானம் இல்லை.
ஏன் என்றால் சந்திரன் சூரியனின் ஒளியில் இருந்து முழுமையாக மறைக்கப்படவில்லை. ஆங்கிலத்தில் இதை பெனம்ப்ரல் எக்லிப்ஸ் என்கிறார்கள். அப்படிப்பட்டது கிரஹணம் ஆகாது.
இதை குறித்து ஆங்கிலத்தில் என் பையர் எழுதிய கட்டுரையை கீழே கொடுத்து இருக்கிறேன். மேலும் தெரிந்து கொள்ள ஆர்வம் உள்ளவர் படிக்கலாம்.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipses and Grahaṇa Anuṣṭhāna

There has recently been much debate on whether the penumbral lunar eclipse ‘visible’ on 2009-Feb-09 should be taken for grahaṇa anuṣṭhāna or not. There was a similar debate for the similar eclipse on 2006-Mar-14. In this article, I clarify that penumbral lunar eclipses are NOT instances for doing grahaṇa anuṣṭhāna.

The word grahaṇa is only applicable when there is a visible darkening of the face of the sun or moon. Penumbral lunar eclipses do not cause such visible darkening of the moon. Therefore though they may be called eclipses by scientists, they are NOT called grahaṇa-s in the light of the śāstra-s and thus NO anuṣṭhāna will apply in their case.

The two shadows - umbra and penumbra

Whenever an object is placed in the field of a light source, it casts a shadow. There are usually two parts to that shadow. Where the object totally blocks the light coming from the light source, the shadow is darker, and it is called the umbra. Where the object blocks only part of the light, the shadow is lighter, and it is called the penumbra.

This is the case with ordinary light sources. However, the sun is a very powerful light source. Where even a little light from the sun directly falls, there can be no darkness or shadow to speak of. Therefore, when an object is in the field of the sun, only things in the object’s umbra are darkened. The penumbra is there, but in name only. Objects in the penumbra will be for all purposes as bright as the objects outside the penumbra.

Now let us consider what a lunar eclipse is. The earth is always in the field of the sun’s light. Therefore the earth always casts a shadow, consisting of a dark umbra and a namesake penumbra. The moon, while revolving around the earth, sometimes comes into the earth’s shadow. Here four things are possible. The moon may:
1.come partially into the penumbra
2.come fully into the penumbra, but not touch the umbra at all
3.come fully into the penumbra and then partially into the umbra
4.come fully into the penumbra and then fully into the umbra

In cases 1 and 2, which are called penumbral lunar eclipses, the moon while going out of the earth’s shadow will be merely leaving the penumbra. In case 3, called a partial lunar eclipse, and 4, called a total lunar eclipse, it must leave the umbra, and then later leave the penumbra.

This (not-to-scale) diagram shows a penumbral lunar eclipse in which the moon has fully come into the penumbra of the earth.

Why a penumbral lunar eclipse is not a grahaṇa

It is clear that when the moon does not touch the umbra at all, even when it comes fully into the penumbra, there will be no visible darkening of the face of the moon. Though scientists call it an eclipse, and even may detect a decrease in the brightness of the moon by means of instruments, as far as the śāstra-s and hence grahaṇa anuṣṭhāna is concerned, there is no grahaṇa and thus there is no grahaṇa anuṣṭhāna.

This is because the śāstra is written with humans in mind and only what humans can see or know by their God-given senses can be a cause for them to do any anuṣṭhāna prescribed by the śāstra-s. Thus if a few invisible molecules of liquor enter someone’s body through the air the śāstra does not consider him to have committed the sin of surāpāṇa and does not require him to do prāyaścitta.
Further, the meaning of the word grahaṇa is ‘grabbing’ or ‘catching’. When the shadow of the moon or the earth, called Rāhu at some times and Ketu at others, ‘catches’ the light of the sun or the moon, then it is called a grahaṇa. One can only say “shadow catches light” when the shadow clearly darkens any object illuminated by that light. Thus without a visible darkening one cannot say that there is a grahaṇa.

Even in the case of umbral lunar eclipses, when only such a small fraction of the moon enters the umbra so that the darkening is not visible, the śāstra-s do not consider it to be a grahaṇa. So obviously a mere penumbral eclipse cannot be considered a grahaṇa.

The Sūrya Siddhānta, perhaps the oldest and certainly the most revered work of the Jyautiṣa Śāstra, does not at all consider the penumbra in the case of lunar eclipses. Anyone who has the technical knowledge to verify this in the calculations of the Sūrya Siddhānta is welcome to do so. Yet another reason for a penumbral eclipse to not be a grahaṇa.

In an eclipse where the moon enters the umbra fully or partially, grahaṇa starts only with the entry into the umbra and ends with the exit from the umbra. The moon would have entered the penumbra over an hour before it enters the umbra, and it will exit the penumbra only over an hour after it exits from the umbra. But those periods are not considered part of the grahaṇa. If they were considered for grahaṇa:
1.ārambha-snāna should be done immediately after entry into the penumbra,
2.mokṣa-snāna should be done only after exit from the penumbra
3.if the moon sets before exit from the penumbra (which will happen only over an hour after exit from the umbra), then it will be considered as grastāstamaya, and one must do upavāsa till seeing the moon 12 hours later.

Nowhere among āstika-s do such practices exist. Even the pañcāṅga books list only the times of entry and exit of the umbra as the start and end times of those eclipses where the umbra is touched. (This may be verified by cross-checking the lunar eclipse timings given in pañcāṅga books with the visible start and end of the darkening.) This further confirms that the penumbra is not considered for grahaṇa-s.

Therefore we request our readers not to totally equate the word ‘grahaṇa’ in the context of Dharma Śāstra to the word ‘eclipse’ in English.

Grahaṇa anuṣhāna in penumbral lunar eclipses will cause demerit

Now though we have shown that penumbral lunar eclipses are not considered as grahaṇa-s, one may think “let us do the anuṣṭhāna nevertheless”, just for one’s little nagging doubt. We reply to this in three parts:

1) In the case of grahaṇa-s we must do ārambha-snāna and mokṣa-snāna. Some of us must also do pitṛ-tarpaṇa. However, snāna and pitṛ-tarpaṇa are specifically forbidden in the night except in some special cases, of which grahaṇa is one. Thus performing them in the night during penumbral lunar eclipses which are not grahaṇa‑s is certainly cause for demerit. (If needed snāna may be done in the evening after sunset to purify oneself for one’s daily evening anuṣṭhāna-s – that is one of the exceptions.)

2) Japa and dāna done during grahaṇa-s are said to be many times more fruitful, but exception cases like grahaṇa-s, night is not the time advised in the śāstra-s for these. Thus performing them in the night during penumbral lunar eclipses may be a cause for demerit.

3) That which should not be done during grahaṇa-s includes eating in the few hours preceding a grahaṇa, eating and sleeping during the grahaṇa, and pregnant women allowing the light of the eclipsed body to fall on them or even seeing that light. However following these don’t-s in the case of a penumbral lunar eclipse will only be meaningless effort and will not give you any merit. It is also meaningless to perform upavāsa in case of the moon’s setting before the end of the penumbral (phase of a) lunar eclipse.

Thus in sum, grahaṇa anuṣṭhāna in penumbral lunar eclipses is clearly a cause for demerit or meaningless effort and hence is not to be done.
However, there is no need to despair for what has already been done. Bhagavān Śaṅkara-Nārāyaṇa is dayālu. Those who feel very repentant may do some prāyaścitta like nāma-saṅkīrtana or japa or pārāyaṇa.

Responsibility of the publishers of pañcāṅga books

The responsibility for giving the general āstika public a proper answer lies chiefly with those who publish pañcāṅga books, since even the purohita-s in whom ordinary people believe often do not know the nuances of jyautiṣa which we have presented in this article. It is the publishers of the pañcāṅga books who are supposed to know all this. Without knowing all this they would not at all be qualified to publish pañcāṅga books.

Those publishers who carelessly publish penumbral lunar eclipses in their list of grahaṇa-s are clearly merely copying the list of eclipses presented in the modern scientific journals, without bothering to examine whether eclipse always means grahaṇa or not. Some of these publishers later issue public ‘clarifications’ but none of these ‘clarifications’ seem to be a frank admission of their mistake. They are almost always of the form of “This eclipse which was published will occur but it is not visible in (this part of) India”, which is true, though, since it is not going to be visible anywhere to the human eye!

But what assurance is there that everyone who read the original entry in the grahaṇa list will read the ‘clarification’ too? Do not the publishers bear the responsibility of the improper anuṣṭhāna done by a trusting reader who did not read the ‘clarification’? The saying “Caveat emptor” (“Buyer beware!”) seems now to apply to pañcāṅga books too!

Further verification

To those who would wish for further verifications, I present the following list of 26 penumbral lunar eclipses from the last 100 years, which were supposedly ‘visible’ in India, and in which the moon entered into the penumbra either fully or to a great extent. With these dates, one can open up old pañcāṅga books from times when publishers were more careful with their professional responsibility and verify that there were no entries in the list of grahaṇa‑s for anuṣṭhāna. If at all there should be some freak entry in some pañcāṅga book it must be a mistake. I am confident that the majority, if not all, of these eclipses will not be listed as grahaṇa‑s.

The dates in the modern calendar are given, with the traditional saṃvatsara name and the name of the lunar month in which the full moon of the penumbral eclipse occurs:

14-06-1908 Kīlaka-Jyaiṣṭha
07-12-1908 Kīlaka-Mārgaśīrṣa
06-11-1911 Virodhikṛt-Kārtika
17-12-1918 Kālayukti-Mārgaśīrṣa
15-05-1919 Siddhārthin-Vaiśākha
11-04-1922 Durmati-Caitra
23-05-1929 Śukla-Vaiśākha
29-12-1944 Tāraṇa-Pauṣa
18-10-1948 Sarvadhārin-Āśvayuja
15-09-1951 Khara-Bhādrapada
08-01-1955 Jaya-Pauṣa
17-09-1959 Vikārin-Bhādrapada
09-01-1963 Śubhakṛt-Pauṣa
08-12-1965 Viśvāvasu-Mārgaśīrṣa
04-05-1966 Parābhava-Vaiśākha
29-10-1966 Parābhava-Āśvayuja
25-09-1969 Saumya-Bhādrapada
18-01-1973 Paritāpin-Pauṣa
20-12-1983 Rudhirodgārin-Mārgaśīrṣa
08-11-1984 Raktākṣa-Kārtika
08-10-1995 Yuvan-Āśvayuja
06-09-1998 Bahudhānya-Bhādrapada
31-01-1999 Bahudhānya-Māgha
30-12-2001 Vṛṣa(/Viṣu)-Mārgaśīrṣa
26-05-2002 Citrabhānu-Vaiśākha
20-11-2002 Citrabhānu-Kārtika

Contact address for any and all constructive comments:

Shriramana Sharma,
Kanchi Shankara Matham, Nerur Agraharam,
Karur District, Tamil Nadu - 639004.
e-mail: jamadagni utt gmail daut com

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