1. We get going with a quiz - Who is the subject of this powerful sculpture? Location: Nellaiyappar Siva temple, Tirunelveli. Thanks to Ram Kashyap, an up-and-coming artist, for sending me this pic.
Ans: If you don't know, Reader, then I too am with you!
And while I have no definitive answer, the guess is: Indrajith, Ravana's son, about to shoot the Naga (Serpent) Astra at Rama and his forces ( this warrior, an equal to anyone else in the Ramayana, is seldom depicted in our visual arts - I recall only the fateful duel between him and Laxmana at the Mattancheri Palace and a quite dull Ravi Varma of him making a present to Daddy Dearest of Indra's consort Shachi).
And as most of us know, Rama and the monkeys had no answer to the Serpent missile and were saved only by a guest-appearance of Garuda, Vishnu's Eagle.
Aside: One gets a feeling that if the sculptural figure above were to stride forward (as he looks poised to), he would do so in the manner of the Tramp.
Another thought: The archer might be about to use the serpent not as a warhead but a bowstring. Siva, as Tripurantaka, had used the serpent king Vasuki to string a bow he had sculpted out of mount Mandara. But while our hero is certainly awesome, he doesn't look much Siva - so my vote stays with Indrajith.
2. Here is a face sprouting from a palm.
As to whose face it is, once again, my guesses (Stan Laurel; or may be Suppandi) are no better than yours are likely to be!
3. Another quiz:
Wasn't that a thoroughly unremarkable looking scene - three random blokes in random conversation at some random place? But, whoever took this picture (he shall remain unnamed) really knows his photography and this is but one of 3 or 4 pics he took of this very scene. As to what prompted him (subconsciously, one feels) to shoot them, here is a guess:
That was Piero della Francesca's 'Flagellation', famous among the cognoscenti for its calm and cool feel and perfectly balanced perspective not to speak of the mysterious air about the three figures in the foreground.
4. And winding off the picture section of this post, here is an arrangement of clay figures. They were all crafted by some young artists I happen to know:
This pic of mine is also a sad requiem for the central Buddha figure - it fell apart while being moved around.
5. And yes, I am getting to Ed Witten, World Number One Mathematical Physicist.
Long ago, when I was a struggling student(I even had a post here on that), a certain desi academic bigwig by (false)name Camillo had paid me an unbearably massive compliment by asking: "Shall I compare you with Witten?" (even the mysterious Earl might not have felt the emotions that surged thru me at that moment when he was compared to "a Summer's Day"). Well, now let me just say Camillo was quite a prophet for I am actually about to get to some kind of comparability with Ed - an Erdos Number of 4 appears to be on my way and his is but 3. And whew, isn't that CLOSE?
As to those of you who don't know what an Erdos number is, please visit Wiki!
6. And an update on the 'Kalavara'/'Óottupura' building in Tripunithura as it is about to face its first monsoon after the partial collapse documented here in an earlier post: The Poornathrayeesa temple 'Devaswam' have taken over the building (the long court case - mentioned in my post too - ended in their favour) and are about to wrap it up in tarpaulin and stuff to protect it from the rains; seems one of the decisions arrived at by the court is that the building has to be preserved somehow. But, as to whether it is at all preservable, I have serious reservations. Watch this space!
7. And a glossy BBC volume lists "100(?) things to do before you die". Among them is "exploring Kerala backwaters by (horror!) houseboat".
8. And since this post has referred to the Bard, let us conclude it with a very modern recreation of himself with one of his characters. Guess who!