'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Impressions - Bijapur

Bijapur is largely monochrome - the black earth of the surrounding flat plains, the black basalt medieval walls which still enclose most of the town, the grey to black (and occasional white-wash) of the stone-built Adil Shahi monuments and palaces which lie jumbled up among the bleached white of the modern concrete boxes, the white heat of the midday sky, the grey dust in the air, the grey mud pathways strewn with stones which pass for roads, the filthy black of the pigs which throng the gallis (hey, my guide book says this is a "conservative Muslim town" and how come there are so many of these 'impure' beasts?) ...

There are a few daubs of green - the well maintained lawns around the Ibrahim Rauza (the elegant tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah), a much larger expanse of grass and trees around the hulking bulk of the Gol Gumbaz, some more vegetation in the central citadel, which also contains ruins of the Gagan Mahal, Saat Manzil etc.. And of course, one sees flocks of bright green parakeets flitting among the domes and niches of all those buildings.

There is also some strikingly brilliant golden calligraphy and designs on the west-facing 'Mihrab' of the Jama Masjid; the still-shining bronze of the awkwardly proportioned cannon 'Malik-e-Maidan' which squats atop the western walls; a saffron flag that flutters above the western gate of the fortifications and a 'balancing' green flag above the southern gate; the cheap glitter of the equestrian statues of Shivaji and Basaveshwara in two of the major road junctions,....

There is much that is remarkable about the place. There is no river, major or otherwise, or lake in the area (I am told even some of the less plebian of dwellings in the town get tap water once a week), no natural fortifications; still people took the trouble to set up this town long ago and unlike say, Fatehpur Sikri, it was never abandoned. The Adil Shahi sultans built not only the massive fortifications but also elaborate waterworks and (allegedly) a network of underground secret passages which interconnect practically every major site within the city - our tourist guide at Ibrahim Rauza tells us "When the British went to examine these complicated pathways, they did not know it is a labyrinth, so they lost their way in those tunnels and starved to death. Later, people walled them up so nobody really knows where the paths are; but they are there!"

The sheer size and structural features of the Gol Gumbaz (eight interlocking arches balance the entire load of the massive dome) pale before its marvellous acoustics. We could carry on a normal conversation sitting 100 feet apart at diametrically opposite points of its 'whispering gallery'. A clap of the hands is echoed at least seven times there, clear and discrete. At Ibrahim Rauza there is another acoustic feat. The word 'Allah' uttered near the western end of the interior of the adjoining mosque can be clearly heard within the Rauza building itself (across a distance of over a hundred feet). Our guide says "Building to building *contraction* happens and the sound reaches inside the Rauza". After 'Allah', he says 'Om' and it too carries all the way - "you know, Adil Shahis were very secular; no Hindu-Muslim distinctions; Ibrahim used to do Puja to Ganapati and Saraswati. Just like 'Allah', he used to respect 'Om'"

Similar sentiments are echoed by the guide at Gol Gumbaz. He is a tall and thin bloke of about 40: "Adil Shahis were very enlightened. One of the Sultans' Guru was one Rukmangad Pandit. Hindus were equally treated. No discrimination. There was brotherhood." At the end of his description he asks me what I do. On hearing the word 'software' he says, wistfully. "What to do sir! I paid one chap fifteen thousand bucks and did a certificate in 'hardware'. I had great difficulty in understanding the books but worked very hard; but now it seems 'software' is better for a job and I feel lost. These are hard times. But what to do, I come here every morning and do some exercise on the lawns and share some information with interested tourists like you!"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Trojan Horse And Indian Elephant

The story of the Trojan Horse is well-known. It was only a couple of days back that I learned about an Indian equivalent (possibly an upgrade!) to it.

The story I am reffering to is part of the Buddhist legends surrounding the legendary king Udayana. This set of legends provided source material for two classic plays by Bhasa - 'Pratijnayaugandharayana' and 'Swapnavasavadatta'. Anyways, I am not getting into those classics here (I can't!) but only looking at one of the key episodes in the story, as retold in the 'Amar Chitra Katha' volume titled 'Vasavadatta'.

Udayana was blessed with many talents - one among them was the ability to charm and command elephants by playing some special notes on the 'Veena'. But this special gift also led to his being captured by his rival king Pradyota. The latter employed a trick: he sent an 'artificial' but 'working' elephant - manufactured by his craftsmen in accordance with the highest standards of elephantine beauty; not to speak of biomechanics! - into the jungles of Udayana's kingdom. Udayana, hearing about the magnificent beast, went into the jungle with his 'Veena' in a bid to tame and capture it - and when he got close, he was easily caught by Pradyota's soldiers who were hiding in the hollow belly of the decoy elephant!

As far as I know, the Trojan Horse myth is not due to Homer (8th-9th century BC). Perhaps it is a later Greek story; it could also be that Virgil's Latin classic Aeneid (1st century BC) was the first work to feature it. Greek myths were known in Northern India after Alexander's time and the story of the horse (if it were Greek) might have been part of the package - and Bhasa might have known it. Of course, if Aeneid was the original source of the story and was also known in India, that would be a big surprise to me!

It is also possible that the elephant story was 'purely' Indian invention or maybe even a Bhasan one. The basic concept of the decoy is something universal to mankind and so such stories, which connect with such a primal thing could well exist all over.

Either way, there is one way the Indians score over the Greeks. 'Their' horse was only a massive effigy; 'Our' Elephant was an automaton good enough to fool one of our own smart kings!

Note 1: The rest of the story relates how Udayana, while in captivity, 'patao's Pradyota's daughter Vasavadatta and escapes with her. The proceedings also throw light among other things, on how leprosy was viewed in those times.

Note 2: One ccould mention another episode where elephants show a strong response to musical notes ( and even use these notes to communicate among themselves!) - read 'Cigars of the Pharaoh', the Tintin adventure!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year!

Hello World,

Let me wish all readers of Anamika, all bloggers and all non-bloggers a great new year!

This is also, coincidentally the 50th post here. So, I am tempted to look back and reflect a bit. Here is a quick personal balance-sheet for the year that was:

1. Started this blog. Personally, it has been the biggest Development of the year - it enabled me to reestablish contacts with some old friends and to publish some of my notes and thoughts.
2. Continued searching for illuminations in Algorithms,Computational Geometry and sometimes Physics.
3. Started re-reading Feynman Lectures and began discovering an even greater work, perhaps the finest scientific work I have seen - Hilbert's 'Geometry and Imagination'.
4. Restarted 'Vipassana' meditation.
5. Moved house twice, both times within the same apartment block.
6. Finished exactly one work of fiction - 'Da Vinci Code'; no comments!
7. Now, the Surprise of the year: in early Decemeber, I found myself writing a *play*! It was partially serialized here and is now, in the finishing stages.

In 2006 I hope to continue on items 1, 2, 3 and 4 above (and hopefully complete a century of posts over the year), knock off about half a dozen kilos (which have been put on over the last couple of years) and to travel a bit more than in 2005. And hope to have better wine to mark the beginning of 2007 than I could get this time!

That is it. Take care and be well!