We had ‘Suryagraham’ (partial solar eclipse) on August 01 between 4.40 pm to 6.08 pm. Hindu temples remained closed during the period of solar eclipse, and reopened after special shanti ‘pujas’ and rituals after 6:15 pm.
During this period as per the custom , nobody was supposed to eat anything during the eclipse time. One should stop taking food at least 2 hours prior to the start of eclipse During the eclipse, nobody was supposed even to drink water. The kitchens were closed till the end of eclipse. No food ( not even dosa or idli batter) would be kept aside for use after grahanam. The only item brought forward through grahanam was curd in which a piece of dhurva pullu was been placed to ward off evil effects. Good thing about is that, this meant that the womenfolk had no kitchen work and could spend time with other family members in relaxation.
No one was not allowed to look at the sun directly. Before sun glass came into use, glass pieces were darkened with the soot from the oil lamp and view the sun through this darkened glass. Another means was to look at the reflection of the eclipsed sun in a decanted solution of cow dung in water.
Also, everyone is supposed to have a dip in river/pond at the start as well as end of the eclipse along with some Vedic chants /prayers (like Mahamrithyunjaya mantram or Ashtaksara Mantra) to ward off the evil effects of the eclipse. Earlier days a dip in river or pond was a must, but today one is supposed to take shower at least.
It is believed that the people on whose birth star the grahanam was falling will have to suffer the ill effects of grahanam. They were also supposed to wear a ‘pattam’, a palm leaf on which some mantras were written to ward off evil effects. They were also hided in closed rooms. Today, wearing pattam is not strictly followed, though the hiding still exists.
During the grahanam all pregnant women were asked to stay inside a dark room, closing the doors and making sure that even a small hole or crack in a window or door was plugged. They sat inside the room all alone during the period of grahanam. It was believed that pregnant women who did not hide during grahanam would deliver children with deformities.
The reason for Hindu temples remain closed during this period and no rituals and pujas are performed might be because ‘Surya’ is an important deity in all rituals and therefore it would be wise to perform the ‘puja’ when Surya is in its full glory.
Explanation for not taking food or refraining from exposure to sun, at the time of grahanam might be because it is said that at this time the most harmful rays from the sun can be seen and absorbed. This can effect the digestive system. (I don’t have any scientific proofs for this, though).