Look What’s Here!

Stone reliefs with some unusual element in them, observed during recent trip to the South:

Look at his feet!

Three faced Yaali (the mythical creature)

A female goddess with Shanku and Chakra!

The signature motif of Vijayanagara architecture – here the bearded shepherd (?) is not hooded as customary. Look at his pajama-like garment (a dhoti?). What is he holding besides the usual stick? A piece of cloth tucked under his arm?

A more common depiction of the shepherd. His stick has a hook at the top!

It’s not often a full panel is assigned to a dog! He carries a collar (more likely, an ornamental chain) around his neck? The turning down of the tail tip is so un-dog-like (at least the usual breeds). May be it’s not even a dog.

A loving Krishna has his arm around a gopi’s shoulder. Not a very common pose to find.

One more of the kind.

A man resting and so is the woman in green sari in a near-identical posture!!

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Source: Temples at Srirangam, Triplicane, Srimushnam, Kumbakonam and Thiruvaheendpuram

Architectural Marvel: Thanjavur Brihadeeswar Temple

A must-place to visit in any tour of South India.

Sanmargam

Brihadeeswarar Temple is 1000 years old, in Thanjavur. The amazing architecture of this temple makes it unique and stupendous. This video tells us about the facts of how this magnificent temple was built” – from Madras Trends

Duration 3.27 mins with subtitles in English:

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PS: There many other videos on the net, small and big, on this temple and its features. This one from Madras Trends is vide Vidya Dwarakanath.

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Mosaics in Jordan

Mosaics

My familiarity with mosaics till date is limited to them – made from ceramic tiles broken up into chips – used to pave terraces of old residential buildings in Mumbai to reflect away the heat from the sun boring down onto the roof. Haven’t been to the top of any new building to know if the practice continues today.  Of course, I have also seen some large panels in some likely and unlikely public places, often sore on the eyes, while travelling abroad.

Now I know better😊

Mosaics are pictures made from arrangements of small fragments of stone or glass. Among many ancient peoples they were the primary form of architectural decoration. They date back to the dawn of civilization at Mesopotamia where architects used small colored objects to decorate the temples in Uruk in the fourth millennium B.C.

Roman Mosaics

The Greeks and Romans used pebbles and shells to make pictorial composition around the fourth century B.C. Early Greco-Roman artisans began making mosaics with pieces of colored glass broken off in different shapes from thin sheets baked in a kiln. The Romans developed the mosaic as an art form, a tradition that was carried on by the Byzantines.

Generally, only the wealthy could afford them. Some have also been found on public sidewalks, walls, ceilings and table tops and at public bathes. In some rich towns, it seemed as if every upper-class house contained mosaic pavements. They decorated entrances, halls, dining rooms, corridors and sometimes the bottom of pools. Mosaics in dining rooms were sometimes found with contained bits of discarded food! Usually frescoes were used to adorn the walls.

Only the floors of the servants’ quarters were left bare.

Aside from the prestige value, mosaic floors helped cool interior temperatures in an area of the globe that could be relentlessly hot – an efficient floor covering, waterproofed, durable and easy to walk on

Early Roman mosaics, made mostly of finger-nail size stones, many of which were naturally colored, contained monochromatic designs. As the art form developed they used increasingly smaller pieces to create increasingly more elaborate designs in an increasingly wide variety of colors. The human figures have flesh tones, shading and musculature made with a wide variety of pebbles gathered from the sea and local quarries.

Typical Roman mosaics contained simple geometric designs to breathtaking complex pictures – battles scenes with charging cavalries, mythical scenes with romping gods and goddesses, accompanied by nymphs and satyr, still-life’s of seashells, nuts, fruit vegetables and advancing mice and gladiators. A mosaic from Pompeii showing Alexander the Great battling the Persians was made from 1.5 million different pieces, almost all of them cut individually for a specific place on the picture. Mosaics uncovered at a 1600-year-old Roman villa near the Sicilian town of Piazza Armerina showed women in bikinis exercising with dumbbells. In Pompeii “beware of dog” signs were turned into elaborate mosaics.

Many scholars believe the best mosaics were made in the provinces of North Africa. Portrait of Neptune, made by an anonymous artist in the 2nd century A.D., found on coast of Tunisia is believed to be one of the best.

Did we see any Roman mosaics in our tour? Frankly, don’t know. This piece exhibited in the dimly-lit hall by the side of the Roman Theater in Amman  might be one by reason of its location . But the text on the placard indicates it’s Byzantine. The text uncannily reads like the oft-quoted parable of Two Birds On A Tree from the Rig Veda/Mundakopanishad!

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Byzantine Mosaics

Wall mosaics began to catch on in the late Roman period but it was the Byzantines, dominating eastern Europe and Asia Minor from the A.D. 4th century to the 15th century, who raised mosaics to expression of high art. Romans built mosaic floors while Byzantine Empire as the symbol of Christianity assembled its mosaics in a way to suit religious purposes – it was the translation of Christian theology and political authority into artistic terms. They made mosaic ceilings and upper walls to glorify God and heaven, using teensy-weensy tiles in contrast to the Roman, and often contained a lot of gold and precious and semi-precious stones. No surprise then they were placed on walls, where people couldn’t walk on them. They were made to both dazzle and instruct the people who came to the church, the majority of whom were illiterate. The exterior of the churches that housed the mosaics were usually drab and monolithic.

The Byzantine art of mosaic making reached its zenith in A.D. 5th century. In Ravenna (Italy), artisans used 300 different shaded of colored glass – broken into square, oblong, tesserae and irregular shapes – to compose pictures of landscapes, battle scenes, abstract geometrical patterns and religion and mythical scenes. The glass made it possible for these pieces of art to be glittery in effect and translucent at the same time. However as methods evolved, glass tesserae, known as smalti, was used. They were made by mixing minerals with melted glass in furnaces. Smalti were cut from thick sheets of colored glass which had small bubbles throughout and a rough surface. They were supported with a gold leaf or a reflective silver. This brought patterns to life with the enhanced glimmer they yielded.

We know virtually nothing about the artisans who created the great Byzantine mosaic masterpieces. they didn’t sign their names and scholars are not even sure whether they were Romans or Greeks. That lets me out😊

Sadly, majority of Byzantine mosaics were destroyed or badly damaged due to armed conflicts. Luckily, some still remain and are being preserved.

Luckier than lucky, we managed to see some of them at Mount Nebo and in the church of Saint George at Madaba,

Byzantine Mosaics of Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo is a site that is home to some Byzantine churches.  On the highest point of the mountain, Syagha the remains of a Byzantine church and monastery were discovered in 1933. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death, believed to be buried on the mountain. The church design follows a typical basilica pattern. It was enlarged in the late fifth century A.D. and rebuilt in A.D. 597. The church is first mentioned in an account of a pilgrimage made by a lady Aetheria in A.D. 394. Six tombs have been found hollowed from the natural rock beneath the mosaic-covered floor of the church. In the modern chapel presbytery built to protect the site and provide worship space, remnants of mosaic floors from different periods can be seen. The earliest of these is a panel with a braided cross presently placed on the east end of the south wall.

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This one included here shows men and animals divided into four scenes. The first two depict hunting scenarios, unusual for a place of worship. The other two represent a more harmonic relationship between animals and humans. Reminds us of the zen story of  the tree, the elephant, the monkey, the rabbit and the bird? As for the boundaries of the mosaic, they have a chain-like pattern. How did they achieve the perfect repetition? Did they use some templates?

Try here for a little larger and clearer image.

Curiously, in the first scene, the man on the left faces the lion with a mere spear and the man on the right handles a tiger with a spear and a shield, both men are on their feet, all by themselves. The lion is seen realistically deflecting the thrust of the spear with its paw. In the second scene, both men are mounted on their horses against an elephant (calf?) and a wild boar. Are those hunting dogs accompanying them?  Closer look shows them to have antlers. The spears are long enough to put safe distance between the men and their preys. The shepherd in the third scene is an old man resting on a stone.  No stick in his hand to herd his flock. And, the fourth shows men attending to animals on tether, one of them racially different. It is tempting to speculate the valorous men in the first scene are from high social status until we find the two men on the right in the first and the fourth scene, the latter handling the camel, are dressed almost alike.

The flora and the fauna do not appear well-proportioned. The trees have their main trunk cut! The second one from the right seems to have its branches and leaves upside down. The blooms are pointed in all directions (So, where was the sun exactly?). Why is the camel shown spotted? No grass or pasture plants on the ground for the sheep to chew.

Flaws? No, I would like to think it is stylized representation combined with abstraction yielding a beautiful and riveting mosaic.

Unfortunately, the inscription at the bottom is all Greek, literally and otherwise, to me.

This large piece on the floor, quite like the Roman practice, was uncovered undamaged from under another mosaic of beautiful geometric patterns because of Iconoclasm prevailing from 726 to 846 AD, which decreed that the depiction of humans in icons and mosaics as sacrilegious. Another similar piece nearby may (not) be seen left intact even today, under its cover of a geometric mosaic, for the fear of damaging it in the process.

Much as I wished, I could not keep this one out; for it was not in our itinerary:

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The nearby Church of Saints Lot and Procopius, we learn, has an extravagantly tiled floor portraying grape harvest. Does the grape harvest symbolically relate to the wine component in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist? Shows men stomping on the grapes in wine making! And what’s the man on the right doing? Playing music to the vines or to entertain the men on the left in their arduous task?

Mosaics in the Church of St George, Madaba

The modest looking 19th century St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba, built in the Byzantine-era style, sports a rich collection of mosaics. And, is best known for the spectacular mosaic preserved in the floor of the church. The mosaic dates back to the 6th century, and it consists of around two million differently colored individual pieces of stone. Interestingly, the mosaic doesn’t only depict the local area. Instead, it’s basically a detailed map that includes Palestine; the entire Nile Delta, as well has the Holy Land (Byzantine Jerusalem). The amount of detail is astonishing, complete with landscapes, mountains; livestock and etc.

Not into the geography of the region (what about history, you ask?), I was not able to appreciate its true worth. For the interested, a lot is written about it in the net.

Inside the church, I found this one interesting for a reason:

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Unfortunately, the picture is lopped off on either side. So much for my photography☹

This panel shows Jesus on the ground being comforted by his disciples on his side. The minor detail that caught my attention was the depiction of the internal organs as you can see, showing a glimpse of the knowledge of human anatomy prevailing in those times!

Bonus

In my googling, came across this bewitching mosaic of an anonymous lady famously known as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee from Sepphoris (Israel). This was found on the floor of the dining room of a palatial mansion built in 3rd century AD.  I’m sure you wont fault me for including it here though we went nowhere near.

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Sources: Collated from blog.mozaico.com/a-journey-through-byzantine-mosaic-art/, Wiki, factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/sub369/item2064.html, helenmilesmosaics.org/blog/walls, manypathstotread.com/, seetheholyland.net/tag/mona-lisa-of-the-galilee/, christusrex.org/www1/ofm/fai/FAImukh9d.html and egypttoursplus.com/madaba-city-of-mosaics/.

 

Revisiting Padmavati, One Last Time

PSri's Book Blog

(Readers of my blog who aren’t interested in Indian cinema, history and folklore may safely ignore this post and avoid bemusement)

In the legend of Padmavati (to resurrect a dying controversy but move beyond the controversial dream sequence), her husband Ratansen is captured by Allauddin Khilji, who demands Padmavati as ransom for releasing the king. Instead of Padmavati, some brave Rajput soldiers led by the heroes Gora and Badal dress up as Padmavati and her maidens, and are carried into the Khilji camp in veiled palanquins. Once inside, they take the guards by surprise, rescue Ratansen and flee the camp, though a few of them die in the attempt. It’s a very unique story, you’d think, until you hear another story that is startlingly similar, one that supposedly took place 920 years earlier, a story we know purely as legend. It makes you wonder about repeating themes in legend and…

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Why Great Men Are No Longer Born In India?

You don’t have to look far for the reason. It stares in your eyes if you keep them open.

All because of successive Indian Governments aggressively pursuing Family Planning initiatives, particularly Narendra Modi’s.

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We didn’t have the tools before. Now thanks to Big Data, we know:

Mahathma Gandhi was the son of the fourth wife of his father.

Babasaheb  Ambedkar was the 14th issue of his father.

Ravindranath Tagore was also the 14th issue of his father.

Subash Chandra Bose was the 9th among the 14 siblings.

Swami Vivekananda was the 6th among the 10 siblings.

So, folks, if our children are where they’re in life, it’s not their (un)doing:-)

You know who to blame!

And all this science-speak of sperms and eggs degrading with age…

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Source: Received thru whatsApp; veracity not checked.

Identity Crisis

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Source: www

 

 

 

How Wrong Mahatma Gandhi Was!

Would have been a lot simpler winning freedom and history very different if only he had known

Indian Indpenedence

 

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Source: DumpAday.com and Uberhumor.com