header image

raincircle or a circle rainbow

Posted by littleindian on February 26, 2007. |

Have you ever seen a full rainbow? Not the usual arc,
or a semi circle but a full circle
the full 360°s.

I have.
It was in September,
way back in the when; at the Khecheopelri Lake in Western Sikkim.

A large blob of peaceful water, clearer than crystal,
6000 and some feet high
in the middle of the Himalayan nowhere;
yet to be discovered by the ramblers and trekkers.

We had stopped to set up camp,
on the eastern side of the mountain
looking towards the east over a deep valley
onto Yoksum, on the next range of mountains.

It had rained off and on the whole day.
as we stopped, the clouds parted
and the rays of the setting sun hit the mist and the drizzle
lighting up this huge circle of bands of glistening colours,
the upper half of which stretched way up into the sky,
the bottom sat in the natural cradle of the valley.

It had no ends,
no pots of gold waiting to be found,
what we saw was priceless in itself.

Cameras popped open,
but no lens was wide enough
to capture the rainbow in its entirety.
Like a switch flicked on it had appeared,
but it gracefully faded, as the clouds closed in.

Since then I have tried to share with friends and family what we had seen,
to convey that feeling of awe and wonder of seeing a full rainbow circle.
I don’t think they even believed me, I had no evidence.

Till today, when I came upon this photograph.
(It is nothing like the real thing, its just to give an idea.)

A rainbow circle

[Photograph courtesy: www.whiteplanes.com]

Since then I have long lost touch with my many friends
so let me share this photograph with you, here.
if you have never seen a rainbow circle…


Way back in 1837,
Rene Descartes had written an explanation of rainbows based on refraction and optics.
accompanied by an illustration in descours de la methode:

We can see a rainbow formed by the sun’s rays being refracted back to us by water droplets in the atmosphere.

Imagine a person standing on flat ground and viewing a rainbow.
The rainbow will be half a circle; the two ends disappearing where it meets the horizon.

But if we then move him to an hypothetical cliff edge,
where his field of vision is no longer restricted by the ground surface,
the sun’s rays now reaches the depth of the valley and can refract back from the water droplets below the persons’ ground level.

The ends of his rainbow becomes free, to dip into the valley below – joining up to form a full circle – a rain circle.

Posted by littleindian on . |

11 Responses to “raincircle or a circle rainbow”

  1. I saw a full circle rainbow when I was only 6. My grandmother was making butter in the kitchen when someone knocked on the door. She asked me to go answer the door and when I did, there in front of me was a circular rainbow. Now I was only 6 and I did not have to look up in the sky at this rainbow. It was directly in front of me. I watched it slowly fade away and went back in the kitchen. Grandmother asked me who it was and I told her it was a rainbow. What was this? Something madea knock on the door. For years I have contemplated this. I still do and I am 53 years old.

  2. I don’t even want to speculate what it was.
    It wasn’t an ordinary rainbow.
    It must have been something beyond our normal sensory perceptions.
    Maybe you will never have an answer.

  3. Lucky You – I hope to live to tell this story on my own. Sikkim and North east regions are still not in my reach….when I was in college I always wanted to earn money to do what – Travel – these days I earn money and travel only on snatched moments…( well I should not crib much – I fairly get away still it just leaves me craving for more…)

    ps – I think you got the Pot of Gold – poor me who is still waiting 🙁

  4. Sikkim is beautiful, but is becoming touristy.
    My high altitude escapades were from 79 – 86.

    I have seen only a tiny fraction of the Himalayas there are so many places I had plans to visit, but never could.
    Career, job took a priority, finally ill health.

    I am an avid reader of all travelogues in India, especially Himalayas.

  5. Well entire India is becoming Touristy – I have few buddies from Mountains ( pakka pahadi) so still manage to see unexplored – pitch your tent, cook for yourself take tea in a mug and see the sun go down and paint the Himalayan range go red…
    I have heard so much about daredevils of 70’s on MotorBikes…one of my friend he told me that how he went from Ludhiana – Manali- leh and stayed in villages…!
    I hear and admire as resources were so limited in those days.
    Hope you will accept my salute’ to your adventure spirit.

  6. […] where we should have been. We were rewarded for our ‘misguided’ efforts with an amazing circular rainbow. Near day’s end, we ended up beside a lake, a lake like we had never seen […]

  7. Goodness! Lucky you again!

    It doesn’t matter that you didn’t manage to get a picture, or that no-one believed you. You saw it and it’s in your memory.

  8. Thanks earthie,
    I wanted to share what I had seen
    having it locked up in my memory seemed selfish.

    When I look back, I am so glad that
    I traveled before tourists went crashing in like a tsunami.

    What terrorism does to humans,
    tourism is doing the same to Mother Earth
    Perhaps the environmental warming is her ‘global’ war against it.

  9. I have seen a full circle rainbow also. I was it from an airplane. It was very large and there was no shadow of a plane in the middle of it as some other people report seeing. I was starting to doubt what I had seen because I have never met anyone else who have witnessed one. Recently at church I read a the book of Revelation that that there is a rainbow that is around the throne of God. This started me looking into it, which is how I found this site.

  10. Thanks G Elkins,
    for stopping by and your comment.

    From the ground we can see only the half of the real circle and have likend it to a bow. We should be calling it a ‘raincircle’ or a ‘rainring’ and not a rain’bow’.

    I am glad you have seen it too, – at long last, somebody I can share my experience and feelings with.

    It was such an awesome sight. I remember having a lump in my throat I was overjoyed by what I was witnessing, but also sad that I was seeing something I could not share it with my friends and family.

  11. […] and encountered one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced in my life: a circular rainbow! I talked to my friend Sol about it and he said that they are not called rainbows because they are […]

Your thoughts


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>