Page last updated at 06:08 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 07:08 UK

Damp squib for India eclipse watchers

Mother and son watching the eclipse in Taregna
Nearly 100,000 people turned up at Taregna to watch the eclipse (Photo: Prashant Ravi)

Tens of thousands of people walked away disappointed from the best place in India to watch the solar eclipse after an overcast sky came in the way. Amarnath Tewary reports from Taregna in Bihar.

The sky watchers were let down by the weather gods.

Thick clouds and an overcast sky played spoilsport for tens of thousands who had gathered at Taregna to watch the total solar eclipse.

After all, astro-physicists and scientists had marked the village as the "epicentre" of the eclipse.

In the end, it turned out to be a huge disappointment for over 100,000 people - including the chief minister of the state - who assembled at this village to see the celestial spectacle.

A Nasa bulletin had said that from Taregna, the solar eclipse should be visible for at least three minutes and 38 seconds.

But when the time arrived - at 0529 local time (2359GMT) - rain clouds gathered in the sky and refused to budge.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar kept appealing to the crowds to be "patient and optimistic".

'Divine intervention'

For a few seconds though, the sky turned completely dark, and the crowds had a peek of an extremely partial eclipse. Then one scientist declared the time was over.

The crowds cheered and clapped, but there was a general air of disappointment.

The partial eclipse at Taregna
For a few seconds the sky turned dark

"What to do? All my efforts have gone in vain. But you cannot challenge the power of God. We can only see what he wants us to see," said local lawyer Ram Lakha Prasad.

A local farmer Chunnu Babu said eclipses were "not entirely scientific phenomena".

"It is not all scientific but divine. The scientists have made a mockery of this divine thing. It is because of this that no one here could watch the eclipse," he said.

A local trader Mohanji Gupta said that the sun "did not come out fearing a strike call in the state by the Maoists".

Maoist rebels have given a 24-hour strike call in five states, including Bihar, on Wednesday.

Straddling a national highway, Taregna has a considerable Maoist presence and witnessed a number of caste killings in the 1990s. So security was tight on all roads leading up to the village.

In the run-up to the event, Taregna was brimming with excitement - and packed with visitors. Local people accommodated relatives in their homes.

Others spent the night outside, or took shelter in temples, schools and on railway platforms.

The sleepy village, barely 35km (22 miles) from the state capital, Patna, gained international recognition after "astro-watchers" from all over the world began to gather here for the eclipse.

Every train crossing the local railway station was crammed with eclipse watchers from all over Bihar.

But in the end the weather gods made sure that the celestial spectacle eluded them.

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