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Total Eclipse Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Asian fear and wonder at eclipse
Woman in India watching eclipse
Wonder mixed with traditional fears for many in India

Thousands of people in India carried out sacred rituals as the eclipse passed over South Asia, while others ignored traditional fears to witness a unique wonder of nature.

Special report
Special report
11 August
Wallpaper
Media

Hours before the eclipse touched the sub-continent, devout Hindus were flocking to the holy city of Kurukshetra to take a ritual bath in two sacred lakes.

People were also reported to be gathering at holy sites along the River Ganges.

Bathing
Hindus bathed at holy sites
According to Hindu mythology, the eclipse represents the demons Rahu and Keta locked in celestial combat and eating the Sun.

Some texts say the eclipse presages widespread destruction.

The authorities made a concerted effort to dispel some of the myths, organising special lectures in schools and colleges across India.

But even in the commercial capital, Bombay, offices and shops closed early as working during the eclipse is considered bad luck.

Pregnant women and children are discouraged from seeing the eclipse, and conservative families across India refrained even from cooking food on the day of the eclipse.

Indian farmer
A farmer sets up a scarecrow to repel evil
"We have closed up our kitchens. No cooked food has been left around and whatever there is will be given to the poor and to beggars," said Bombay diamond exporter Praveenshankar Pandya.

In western India, along the path of totality, there was near total darkness for just over a minute at 1800 local time (1230 GMT).

Despite cloudy weather and traditional fears, large numbers of scientists, amateur stargazers and tourists took up position in towns and villages to watch the eclipse.

The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava, reporting from the path of the eclipse, says there was an eerie silence as the shadow of the moon completely covered the sun.

The temperature dropped, and birds flew to their nests.

But he says that for many scientists camping out to watch the phenomenon, the cloudy weather meant they did not get a clear view of the sun.

Elsewhere, there was also disappointment because of the weather.

Monkey in Delhi
Animals were temporarily disorientated
In the Pakistani city of Karachi, thick cloud covered the sky, forcing many people who had gathered on rooftops for a glimpse of the eclipse to watch it on TV.

Mosques throughout the city were reported to be packed with worshippers offering special prayers. In some parts of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, monsoon clouds and the haze also spoiled the view at dusk.

The eclipse finally ended over the Bay of Bengal at 12.36GMT.

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 ON THIS STORY
Audio
The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava: An eerie silence
Video
Watch the first contact as the Moon appears in front of the Sun
Links to more Total Eclipse stories are at the foot of the page.


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