Friday, July 24, 2009

India investigates reports that disabled children were buried during solar eclipse to "cure" them

From CNN International:

NEW DELHI, India -- Authorities are investigating reports that disabled children in India were buried up to their necks during this week's solar eclipse as a supposed remedy for their handicaps.

Officials said July 23 they were looking into reports that some 34 children aged 2 to 7 were buried in sand up to their chins -- with the consent of the parents -- in the belief that doing so during an eclipse would cure the children of their disabilities.

V. Anbu Kumar, caretaker deputy commissioner of Gulbarga district in the state of Karnataka, told CNN that everybody at the site had left when he and police officers arrived.

The act was apparently carried out in the early morning hours Wednesday, when the longest solar eclipse of the century turned day into night in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Vietnam, China and parts of the Pacific.

Kumar denied that the ritual takes place during every eclipse, but said authorities are "launching an awareness campaign" against the practice.

A complaint has been registered for "knowingly endangering human lives," Gulbarg police chief B.A. Padmanayna told CNN. Stronger charges could also be pressed against the offenders, he said. Watch the 'exceptional' eclipse »

So far, police have made no arrests in the case.

Wednesday's eclipse reignited some superstitions in India. Most pregnant women hope to avoid giving birth during an eclipse, and Indian astrologers even advise expectant mothers to stay indoors when the event occurs. View the eclipse in pictures »

"It may not cause any physical harm to the baby, but it may affect the child's overall personality," said R.K. Sharma, who describes himself as a "remedial astrologer."

A solar eclipse, he says, weakens the sun god temporarily because of an encounter with dragon Rahu and leaves some cascading results everywhere.

"Bathing in holy rivers and ponds during this time thus helps protect health and develop positivism and greater will power," he explained.