A total eclipse of the Sun has held millions of people across a strip of Asia in its thrall.
The phenomenon was visible along a corrider roughly 250 kilometres wide as it passed over the world’s two most populous nations, India and China. Thousands gathered in the ancient Hindu holy city of Varanasi and prepared to bathe in the Ganges. They prayed to the Sun as it emerged in a heavily overcast sky. Those who considered it an auspicious occasion chanted hymns for good fortune. But others predicted the eclipse spelled bad luck. The eclipse – the century’s longest at six minutes and 39 seconds – then swept over Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and China before heading out over the Pacific. In China, many escaped to the countryside to see the eclipse, fearing that the smog generated by the country’s big industrial cities would prevent it from being seen.