Solar eclipse celebrated by millions across Asia

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The Independent Online

Millions of eyes turned to the skies as the light of dawn turned quickly to darkness across a swath of Asia during the longest total solar eclipse this century will see.

In India, tens of thousands seized the auspicious moment to throw themselves into the sacred Ganges, symbolically washing away their sins. Such was the press of people on the banks that one woman was crushed to death.

In China, meanwhile, people launched fireworks and danced in the streets. On a remote Japanese island, bewildered cattle went to their feeding troughs thinking night had fallen as a result of the eclipse, which lasted more than six-and-a-half minutes.

In Burma, Buddhists went to Rangoon's Shwedagon pagoda to offer flowers, fruit and water to ward off misfortune.

Some warned their friends and family not to sleep through the eclipse for fear of bad luck. "We all got up early this morning and prayed at home because our abbot told us that the solar eclipse is a bad omen," said Aye Aye Thein, a 43-year old school teacher.