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A Historical Celestial Start to the New Year

Yesterday, April 8, 2024, something amazing happened across North America - a Solar Eclipse. It was such a big deal that I wanted to write about it in my blogs. Even elementary schools in Canada and America closed for the day, which surprised me because, in all my 42 years, I'd never seen schools shut down for an eclipse before. The fact that school boards moved Professional Activity (PA) days from April 22 to April 8 showed just how important this eclipse was considered. Additionally, several states along the eclipse's path declared a state of emergency, making people curious and suspicious. All this commotion surrounding the Solar Eclipse left many of us wondering what it all meant.

The Doomsday squads on social media began discussing Biblical prophecies, suggesting they were being fulfilled. Their messages were so convincing that it felt impossible to turn away once you started reading them. You couldn't help but start believing that something significant was about to occur. For instance, the news circulated that NASA was launching three rockets toward the Sun during the eclipse, code-named the "Serpent Deity." Meanwhile, there were claims that CERN was activating the Large Hadron Collider to study so-called "God particles."

My husband had plans to travel at the end of March. I found myself worrying about all the troubling events occurring worldwide, fearing what would happen if he wasn't with us. However, unexpectedly, his plans shifted, and he changed his tickets after the eclipse. It made me wonder if there was a purpose behind it all. Regardless, I knew one thing for certain - if anything were to happen, I wanted my husband by my side.

In recent weeks, I've noticed many people attributing the eclipse to astrology, discussing psychic abilities, and delving into other esoteric topics, all while predicting ominous events. Some even mentioned a comet hurtling towards earth. In my childhood, I used to be thrilled about cosmic phenomena, eagerly staying up to watch meteor showers at midnight. However, this time, fear gripped me. While the entire province of Ontario buzzed with excitement over purchasing eclipse glasses and planning to witness the highly anticipated cosmic event, I remained apprehensive. Was it simply fearmongering? Deep down, I knew nothing catastrophic would occur, but the pervasive negativity compelled me to scour social media, trying to piece together the puzzle.

One of my friends messaged me, asking if we had already bought eclipse glasses, but we hadn't. She had purchased extra pairs and kindly offered to give some to my family. I went to collect the glasses on Thursday night, preparing to observe the eclipse on Monday. Normally, the enthusiastic me would have ordered them a month in advance, but this time I hadn't. My friend also invited us to watch the eclipse from her backyard and suggested we have a little party together. Despite her excitement, I didn't show much enthusiasm because I wasn't particularly excited about it.

Over the weekend, my neighbor caught up with me and inquired about our plans for the solar eclipse, offering to provide eclipse glasses if needed. She also mentioned the idea of having a backyard party during the eclipse, suggesting that all of us neighbors could gather together to watch it.

During a family dinner, we discussed different options for watching the eclipse. Some suggested driving outside the city to watch it from a beachfront or the peak of a conservation park. However, I felt hesitant about venturing far and suggested that we simply watch it from our backyard instead.

In Hindu culture, it's customary to stay indoors during an eclipse, with windows shut. It's a time for fasting, keeping the temple closed to maintain its positive energies, and engaging in prayer and meditation. Additionally, we often place doob grass in liquids to prevent spoilage. My mother advised me to adhere to these practices, emphasizing the importance of staying indoors and abstaining from food and drink during the eclipse.

While I respect and follow these cultural traditions, I also ponder the reasons behind them. It's likely that in the past, when houses were made of straw and other vulnerable materials, staying indoors during an eclipse protected people from the harmful effects of the Sun's rays. Similarly, the practice of placing doob grass in liquids may have originated from a desire to preserve them during this sensitive time.

I also believe that cosmic events like eclipses can indeed have a profound impact on both our physical and mental well-being. The movements of the Sun and Moon influence all life on earth, reminding us of our interconnectedness with the universe.

Indeed, there are numerous myths and beliefs surrounding eclipses across cultures worldwide. In the indigenous community of Nevada, for instance, there's a beautiful myth that views the Sun and Moon as a married couple who reunite during an eclipse. According to this belief, there's no taboo against looking at the eclipse; instead, it's seen as a sacred moment when the Sun and Moon come together in a loving embrace.

For the indigenous people of Nevada, an eclipse is a special day for reflection on the meaning of love. It's a time to let go of any anger or negativity and to perform acts of kindness and love. It's seen as a day of giving and celebrating life, as without the Sun and Moon, our existence would be bleak, just as their legend tells us. This perspective beautifully illustrates how different cultures interpret and honor cosmic events in their own unique ways.

According to the Hindu mytholgy there is an unseen planet with the serpent head called Rahu-Ketu. During the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan), when the elixir (amrit) emerged, Rahu, disguised as a deity, managed to sit among the gods. However, Surya (the Sun) and Chandra (the Moon) recognized him and informed Lord Vishnu. Enraged, Lord Vishnu severed Rahu's head from his body with his Sudarshan Chakra. The upper part became Rahu, and the lower part became Ketu. Since then, Rahu vowed to periodically swallow Surya and Chandra. When Rahu engulfs Surya, it's known as a solar eclipse. Solar and lunar eclipses are considered inauspicious among adversaries.

While the entire world buzzed with excitement about the eclipse, Southern Ontario woke up to heavy cloud cover on the day of the event, just as the weather channel had predicted. It made it clear that we would have to stay indoors to observe it.

Despite the disappointing weather, my kids were eager to experience the eclipse. My eldest made plans to take an additional train to Burlington Go station before school. The younger one insisted on going to Niagara Falls. However, the idea of traveling to Niagara Falls or Hamilton to witness totality seemed impractical due to the heavy traffic. We weren't even sure if the clouds would allow us to see anything.

I drove my son to Bronte Go station around 1 pm. The traffic was unusually heavy, as everyone had the same idea of heading towards Niagara, given the cloudy skies in our hometown. Even the internal roads were jammed with traffic, and the highway barely moved. The kids were undoubtedly disappointed despite having eclipse glasses.

My husband and younger child stayed behind, and I was instructed to drop off my son and return home. We would then come up with a plan once I returned.

As I made my way home, I noticed that the roads, particularly those leading to the highway, were increasingly congested. Upon my return, I found my husband immersed in work in his office. At the same time, my son was visibly upset about missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the solar eclipse. Knowing that the next one wouldn't occur until 2144 when none of us would be around to experience it, only added to his disappointment.

Despite initially planning to stay indoors due to the cloudy skies, my son's persistence eventually convinced my husband to reconsider. He agreed to drive outside town to find a clearer spot to observe the eclipse.

Our town wasn't in the path of totality, and reaching certain places outside town seemed impossible. As we drove along the same road I had taken earlier to drop off my son at the train station; I realized that if they had come with us earlier, we might have been able to make it to the beach. But now, that option seemed out of reach. We decided to turn back and head home. However, my son was far from pleased with this outcome.

We departed after 2:05 pm, when the eclipse had already commenced, making driving during the event less than ideal. Along the way, we opted to take a detour to chase the light emanating from the horizon. As we neared the mountains, we noticed that the cloud cover seemed to dissipate in that area. We considered stopping at a conservation park along the route, thinking it might offer a good point. But we changed our minds after seeing the cloud cover.

We took another detour and observed numerous cars approaching an intersection. They knew where they were headed, while we were clueless. Eventually, we decided to follow the cars, hoping they would lead us to a better viewing location.

The route led us to the foothills of Mount Nemo, where we noticed several cars parked on the side of the road. By this time, it was already 3 pm, and the peak of the eclipse was anticipated at 3:19 pm. We quickly parked the car, opened the rooftop, and donned our sunglasses to steal glances at the Sun.

What a breathtaking experience it was! Seeing the eclipse happen right in front of us was incredible. Sure, we could have watched it on TV, but being there in person was something else. The Sun, gradually covered by the Moon, created a mesmerizing scene. At one point, the Sun vanished completely, leaving us in awe of the cosmic spectacle. We stood on the road, surrounded by farms and mountains, and people were taking pictures behind us. It was so cool to see the day turn dark during the eclipse. Seeing my son's excitement and joy was truly heartwarming. We were all thrilled to witness such a special celestial event. Meanwhile, my older son, who couldn't be there with us, shared his experiences and the pictures he took over the phone.

After the totality ended and the sky brightened again, we decided to head home. Luckily, the clouds in our neighborhood had cleared, and everyone around us could also see the eclipse. We sat in our backyard and continued to watch until the eclipse finally ended, and the Sun emerged from behind the shadow of the Moon.

As I returned to bed, my heart overflowed with gratitude, knowing that everyone around us was happy and healthy. The morning spring sun seemed even brighter today, welcoming us to a beautiful new day. It wasn't just any day—it was the first day of Navratri and the first day of the Hindu calendar. Today marks the beginning of our New Year celebrations.
As I returned to bed, my heart overflowed with gratitude, knowing that everyone around us was happy and healthy. The morning spring sun seemed even brighter today, welcoming us to a beautiful new day. It was not just any day—the first day of Navratri and the first day of the Hindu calendar, marking the beginning of our New Year.

I felt grateful that the world did not end yesterday and we were blessed with another chance to pursue our dreams and live a little more. It was a reminder to cherish each moment and make the most of every opportunity that comes our way.

Happy Navratri and Navsamvatsar to everyone celebrating today! Wishing you all joy, prosperity, and blessings as we begin this auspicious occasion.