When the Sun, Moon and the Earth are in alignment, a natural phenomenon called "eclipse" occurs. Radiation from the Sun that falls on the Earth at this time is considered to be very dangerous and ancient Indians considered it to be highly "polluting" / impure. Scriptures prescribe staying out of the sun during the eclipse. They recommended meditation, satsang and taking a dip in a holy rivers. The actual time of the eclipse is considered to be highly impure, but so is a "prahar" (about 90 min) on either side of it. Hence pollution related to an eclipse lasts for 3 hours !!! To promote satsang and meditation during these three hours, the ancient sages recommend that we should visit temples and sacred sites during an eclipse.
This idea was taken up by Shri Mahaprbhuji and hence during an eclipse, the haveli is kept open for the entire duration of the eclipse period - ie 3 hours. The Lord wears minimal clothing and only token jewels during this darshan. Kirtans are sung non-stop and viashnavs are encouraged to sit down and recite the name of the Lord in His presence. It is rare for any darshan in a haveli to last for so long. Take full advantage of this and admire the wonderful Lord without the distraction of all the jewels.
Just after the eclipse, the Lord's face is "reflected" in a shallow dish of oil. This is seen as a way to cleanse the impurities incurred during the eclipse. A number of other rituals take place, but unfortunately I did not witness them during the 1999 summer eclipse.
Please read Bharat goswami's article on the subject for more info -
In my humble opinion, eclipses are the best time to have a darshan as this the only time when you can enjoy the Lord's uninterrupted darshan for 3 hours !!! After the initial rush (lasting about 30 - 45 min) the only vaishnavs who remain in the doltibari are the vaishnavs who really want to have a darshan of the Lord. During my visit, everyone sat down and allowed everyone-else to have darshan in peace. It was an ideal place to meditate and recite hymns in presence of the Lord Himself ! Even those of us who cannot concentrate for more than 10 minutes (like me) the haveli music was enchanting enough for me to sit and listen for hours at a stretch.
Occasionally, I stretched my legs by visiting the other havelies (Navnit Priyaji, Vitthalnathji, Madan Mohanji and Vanmaliji ) and doing the darshans there. Very few people were out and about. All the shops were closed and it was a wonderful way to do darshan in Nathadwara, un-hurried, hassle-free way. Rare indeed !
Darshan during an eclipse.
Bhagwat Shah ©
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