Reports of sightings of the image of Mother Mary and infant Jesus on the moon on Thursday and Friday in Mumbai, Goa and Bihar has fuelled fears about an impending apocalypse.
While priests asked people not to take the issue seriously, the news set off stories about the end of the world. Many saw the images as a message to prepare for doomsday.
Those who saw the image said it was surprisingly clear for a smog-saturated winter evening. Joseph Dias, from Santa Cruz, who saw the image, said, “There was a semblance of a crown on the mother’s head. The image was very dark and it was not difficult to identify it.” In Goa, the relatively pollution-free skies meant that the sightings were more vivid. Apollo D’Souza, a resident of Candolim village, said that he was alerted about the image by a Hindu friend on Thursday night.
“I saw the image at 9.30pm. Even my mother and 8-year-old son could see it clearly. I told neighbours and they thanked me for it,” said D’Souza who works with a firm that delivers cash at bank ATMs. While D’Souza did not think much about the sighting, many of his neighbours saw prophecies in it. “Some said the kingdom of god is near,” he added.
Dias said, “In the cities, people do not take such things seriously. But there is a lot of fear in the villages. People think that the world will end in a few years and that the image is a message to prepare for the event.”
“What we require is not Jesus on the moon, but Jesus in our hearts. We Christians believe that everything was created by god and he can put an image of his face wherever he wants,” said a priest.
Father Tony Charanghat, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, “We do not react to such reports and in cases like this. Our advice (to church members) is not to see anything. There has to be some significance in the whole thing and anything religious has to be considered in all its aspects.”
Scientists explained the images as the result of the sun’s light falling on the undulating surface of the moon. Dr JJ Rawal, former director of Nehru Planetarium and founder president of Indian Planetary Society, said, “The moon’s atmosphere is almost airless and meteors crash into its surface creating craters. Sunlight falling on the depressions creates shades. Even Galileo mistook these shaded areas and named them the Sea of Tranquility, and so on. Similarly, other shaded areas could look like images of humans or animals.”