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Eclipse gives village its days in the sun

IANS
Jul 20, 2009 at 11:42am IST

Taregana: Temporary toilets, repaired roads, uninterrupted electricity--Taregana village in Bihar is having its day in the sun thanks to a total solar eclipse on Wednesday that will be best glimpsed from its humble environs.

It has overnight turned into a much sought after tourist destination.

Taregana already has an ancient connection with astronomy, having been one of the two places used by 6th century Indian astronomer-mathematician Aryabhatta for his celestial studies. It is believed he was the first to announce that the earth revolves around the sun after his marathon research in an observatory at Taregana.

EYE ON THE SKY: Total solar eclipse on Wednesday throws spotlight Taregana village in Bihar.

And now hundreds of scientists, researchers and astro-tourists from across the world are expected to start arriving in the village, about 35 km from the state capital, ahead of the total solar eclipse Wednesday. These include scientists from US space agency NASA, Britain, Italy, Germany, France, as well as from the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

"It is going to be a big event for locals as well as for the state as Bihar gets an opportunity to show the world that we can facilitate a smooth and comfortable stay, including transportation and accommodation, for guests," said Rashmi Verma, principal secretary, tourism.

The total eclipse, starting a little after sunrise, is expected to last three minutes and 48 seconds at Taregana. According to the NASA forecast based on satellite imagery, clouds are likely to be less over the region, offering one of the best views of the celestial phenomenon.

"That is the main reason why scientists are making a beeline for Taregana," said Ravikant, principal secretary, science and technology.

The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has decided to set up a special counter at Taregana to provide all possible facilities. Besides, the Travel Corporation of India, a private tour operator, also plans customised tours to the village for watching the event.

An official of Hotel Maurya-Patna, the only five-star hotel in the state capital, said the hotel has received lots of calls from different countries and from across India for information relating to transportation and accommodation at Taregana.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is keen to make the best use of the celestial event to showcase the change in the state over the past few years and has asked the officials concerned to make arrangements for scientists and others to watch it.

"In the last few days, several high-level meetings attended by senior state administration officials have been held to review arrangements at Taregana," an official in the chief minister's office told IANS.

The district administration is busy making last-minute preparations, while the departments concerned have been assigned the tasks of setting up temporary public toilets, repairing the road, providing round-the-clock power supply as well as bringing out a pamphlet on the village.

Patna's Divisional Commissioner Sunil Barthwal said the main arrangement for scientists, astro-tourists and others, including the chief minister, to watch the eclipse is being made atop a newly constructed referral hospital at Masaurih town, hardly a kilometre from Taregana.

The state government is providing a pair of special goggles at minimal price to view the eclipse and has extensively advertised the do's and don'ts in the local media to create awareness about the event.

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