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At Kumbh Mela, Eclipse Shut Temple Doors

On the banks of the Ganges, a priest sat in front of the sacred fire, a family crouched all around it. Eyes closed, they poured ghee into the fire as they waited for 3:30 p.m. when the solar eclipse would end, praying to redeem the sun from the clutches of darkness. The last annular solar eclipse at a Kumbh Mela was in 1914.

Though the temple doors were shut to keep away the negative energy from the eclipsed sun on Mauni Amavasaya, the ghats were swarming with people who came to Har-ki-Pauri, the focal point of the mela, to take a holy dip. No food, no water for the faithful during the period of the eclipse that commenced in the temple town at 11:58 am and continued till 3:12 pm.

As the eclipse set in, people sat along the ghats, beads in their hands and chanted softly. Hindus believe repenting wrongdoings on the day of the eclipse in one of the holiest places where Lord Vishnu himself walked once (hence the name Har-ki-Pauri), will cleanse them of sins.

While authorities, in a bid to promote the town as a tourist centre, have put most beggars in beggar homes, on Friday a large number of them lined up along the ghats. It is considered auspicious to give alms on the day of the eclipse.

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