"Why Poojas, Japaas are performed in time of गृहण ? And why we will not take any food in the time of गृहण "? Is our Shastras are saying something about this?"

In the on going discussion about grahanam in response to the above root question good number of citations in support of the benefits are well elucidated by the scholars. I too would like to supplement the discussion with a few of my thoughts.

Before answering the above two questions I would like to suggest the members to read the article with title "COMPUTATION OF ECLIPSES IN INDIAN ASTRONOMY" authored by Prof. K. Rama Subrahmanyam, IIT, Mumbai in the Samskrita Vijnana Vaibhavam, the proceedings of a seminar on Sanskrit-vis-avis Science held in Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati from 08-09-2001 to 10-09-2001 of which the coordinators were Dr. Virupaksha Jaddipal and Dr. Rani Sadasiva Murty. This articles gives us a wonderful information about the scientific aspects of the Eclipse as found in our ancient Indian Astronomical Texts. Our Ancient Indian Astronomers never considered RAHU or KETU as demons and they always spoke of them as the Ascending and Descending Nodes. They say that those two GRAHAS - RAHU and KETU are mere CHAAYA RUPA GRAHAS (SHADOW GRAHAS) anb can be seen only during the GRAHANAS. चक्षुषा दर्शनं राहोर्यत्तद् ग्रहणमुच्यते| The other details can be had from the said article or from the source texts of that article.

Now I proceed to answer the two questions. Of course my answers as they are found in various treatises on Mantra Sastra and Dharma Sastra. They may not agree with the modern science. But they have their validity in the traditional practice through several centuries of years in Indian soil.
question I -
Why Poojas, Japaas are performed in time of गृहण ?
The prime reason as found in the Puranas and Dharsastras is as follows:

आशौचं जायते नॄणां ग्रहणे चन्द्रसूर्ययो:।
राहुस्पर्शे तयो: स्नात्वा दानादौ कल्पते नर:॥ - ब्रह्मपुराणम्
"सर्वेषामपि वर्णानां सूतकं राहुदर्शने।
स्नात्वा कर्माणि कुर्वीत सूतमन्नं विवर्जयेत्॥"- षट् त्रिंशन्मते
"सूर्येन्दुग्रहणं यावत् तावत् कुर्य्याज्जपादिकम्।
न स्वपेन्न च भुञ्जीत स्नात्त्वा भुञ्जीत मुक्तयो:॥" - शिवरहस्यम्
सर्वेषामेव वर्णानां सूतकं राहुदर्शने।
सचेलं तु भवेत् स्नानं सूतकान्नं च वर्ज्जयेत्॥ - वृद्धवसिष्ठस्मृति:
ग्रहणकाले तत: पूर्व्वं वा यावत् पक्क्वम् तत् सूतकान्नम्।
तत्तु पश्चादपि न भुञ्जीत॥
ग्रहणकाले आदि - मध्य - अवसानकालेषु जपफलम् -
"उपमर्दे लक्षगुणं ग्रहणे चन्द्रसूर्ययो:।

पुण्यं कॊटिगुणं मध्ये मुक्तिकाले त्वनन्तकम्॥" इति ब्रह्मपुराणम् ।
The gist of these sloka is this: The duration of eclipse of either the SUN or the MOON is Aasauca or Sutaka for all human beings. It is like the period of death of one's closest relatives as the Sun and the Moon are the SAKALA LOKA BANDHAVAS. Hence as a sign of our lamentation for either of them according to the event of eclipse we have to take holy dip in Oceans or rivers like GANGA, GODAVARI, NARMADA etc or even at home. The food cooked during the GRAHANA or prior to GRAHANA is equal to SUTAKA ANNAM. Hence it should be avoided.
The performance of JAPA in the beginning of GRAHANA is one lakh times more virtuous than ordinary number. If it is in the middle of the eclipse its ONE CRORE TIMES more virtuous than ordinary number. If it is at the end of the elipse it is equal to JAPA for INFINITE TIMES.
During the Eclipse one should do JAPA of any MANTRA imparted to him by a NOBLE GURU in the follwing manner:
चन्द्रसूर्योपरागे च स्नात्वा प्रयतमानस:।
स्पर्शादिमॊक्षपर्यन्तं जपेन्मन्त्रं समाहित:॥
जपाद्दशांशतो होम: स्तथा होमात्तु तर्पणम्।
तर्पणस्य दशांशेन मार्ज्जनं कथितं बुधै:।
मार्ज्जनस्य दशांशेन ब्राह्मणानपि भोजयेत्॥
जपार्चापूर्वकॊ होमस्तर्पणं चाभिषेचनम्।
भूदेवपूजनं पञ्चप्रकारोक्ता पुरस्क्रिया॥
UPARAGA is a synonym of GRAHANAM. During the UPARAGA of the SUN or the MOON one has to take a holy bath with controlled mind and should do JAPA from the beginning to the end of the ECLIPSE. HOMA SANKHYA should One-tenth of TOTAL NUMBER OF MANTRA JAPA RECITATIONS. One tenth of HOMA should be for TARPANA. One Tenth of TARPANA should be meant for Abhisheka or Marjjana. Brahmins equal to the number of one-tenth to that of Abhisheka should be offered holy meals. This is called MANTRA PURASCHARANA during GRAHANA.

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And why we will not take any food in the time of गृहण "?

The answer for this question also can be found in the above slokas. The food we prepare during eclipse is equal to SUTAKA ANNAM which is unholy. So it should not be taken.

In some of the ancient Ayurveda Texts some precautions to be taken by pregnant ladies also is mentioned in detailed. I shall try to post those references also very soon.
Warm regards,

Dr. Rani Sadasiva Murty