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April 24th, 2014 marks the 450th birth anniversary of William Shakespeare.
Just thought of sharing some pictures from Stratford-upon-Avon. A timely tit-bit here – Avon, in old Welsh just meant “river”. So there are several Avons in England – and similarly there are several towns named Stratford. Shakespeare’s Stratford is on the banks of a river, and that’s how it ended up being called “Stratford-upon-Avon”.
Stratford, Main Street:
Is Shakespeare still alive? A street performer:
The main attraction at Stratford, obviously is the well preserved house where Shakespeare lived. It’s been converted to a very busy tourist place.
Side view of Shakespeare’s house:
Inside one of the rooms of the house:
Shakespeare’s father was a rich tanner by profession and was a rich man. Some leather in process, to bring back those times:
Inside one of the bedrooms:
How can you exit a “touristy” place, without entering the Gift Shop :) ?
According to Indian mythology, the spring season personified as Vasanta is a friend of Manmatha, the God of Love. Manmatha arrives along with Vasanta during the spring season to Earth. Manmatha carries a bow made of sugarcane, and arrows of five types of flowers, that are abundant during the season. How can any one hit with these arrows not fall in love?
Spring has been the inspiration of poets for ages. Here are a few Samskrta verses from Bhartrhari’s Sringarashataka and Kalidasa’s Rtusamhara, which have translated to Kannada:
ಕುಸುಮಿಸಿಹ ವೃಕ್ಷಗಳು ಕೊಳದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಮಲಗಳು
ನಸುಗಂಪು ಗಾಳಿ; ಜೊತೆ ಬಯಸುವೆಣ್ಣುಗಳು
ಮಸುಕು ಸಂಜೆಯ ನಲಿವು ಹಾಯಾದ ಹಗಲುಗಳು
ಎಸೆದಾವು ಮಿಗೆ ಗೆಳತಿ ಹಿತ ವಸಂತದಲಿ!
ಕೆಂಬಣ್ಣದಾ ಚಿಗುರ ಹೊತ್ತು ತಲೆಬಾಗಿರುವ
ಕೊಂಬೆಕೊಂಬೆಗೆ ಹೂತ ಮಾಮರಗಳೀಗ
ತಂಬೆಲರಿನಲಿ ತೂಗಿ ಹುಟ್ಟಿಸಿದ್ದಾವು ಮಿಗೆ
ಹಂಬಲವ ಹೆಣ್ಣುಗಳ ಮನದಿ ತವಕದಲಿ
ಹೊಮ್ಮಿರುವ ಮಾಂದಳಿರ ಮೊನಚು ಬಾಣಗಳನ್ನು
ಚಿಮ್ಮಿಸಲು ದುಂಬಿಸಾಲಿನ ಬಿಲ್ಲ ಹೆದೆಯ
ಹಮ್ಮುಗೊಳಿಸುತ ಯೋಧ ಬಂದಿಹ ವಸಂತನಿವ-
ನೊಮ್ಮೆಗೇ ಪ್ರಣಯಿಗಳ ಮನವ ಪೀಡಿಸಲು
ವಸಂತದಲಿಂಪಾದ ಕೋಗಿಲೆಗಳ ಗಾನ
ಮಲೆನಾಡ ಗಿರಿಗಳಲಿ ಸುಳಿವ ತಂಗಾಳಿ
ಅಗಲಿ ನೊಂದವರ ಜೀವವನೇ ಸೆಳೆದಾವು
ಕೇಡುಗಾಲದಲಮೃತವೂ ಆದಂತೆ ನಂಜು!
(Srngarashatakam – 38)
ಬೀಳ್ವ ಮಂಜನು ಬೀಳ್ಕೊಡುವುದಕೆ ಋತು ವಸಂತನು ಬಂದಿರೆ
ಹೂತ ಮಾಮರದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೆಲ್ಲಗೆ ಕೊಂಬೆರೆಂಬೆಯನಲುಗಿಸಿ
ಕೋಗಿಲೆಯ ಸವಿದನಿಯ ಹಾಡನು ದಿಕ್ಕುದಿಕ್ಕಲಿ ಪಸರಿಸಿ
ಮಂದ ಮಾರುತ ಹೃದಯಗಳನೂ ಜೊತೆಯಲೇ ಸೆಳೆದೊಯ್ದನೆ!
p.s: Just noticed that I had a post with the same title a few years ago!
(Found this text of a speech I gave at my Toastmasters club (named “Innovators”, sometime in 2011, when I was organizing folders on my PC. Posting as is)
I come from India. If you did not know already, India is a land where you’ll find people speak hundreds of language and there are at least 30 languages with more than a million speakers. It is not hard to find people who can speak more than one Indian language. Typical of many urban Indians, I can speak in several of Indian languages too.
But there is one language that I can’t claim to speak, but I can understand quite well. This language is Samskrta. It is the oldest known language of India, and possibly one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. This language has influenced every other language in India to a varying extents, and has a literature that spans over four millennia. Even though it is not claimed as a mother tongue by any, due to the antiquity, and the influence it has on the vocabulary on Indian languages, it is still one of the 22 official languages of the country. Till the time of the colonization of India by the British in the 18th century, it was in fact the pan-Indian language for communication among the educated class. A great number of texts about yoga, Ayurveda (or the science of medicine), Jyotisha (or astronomy) and Ganita (Mathematics) etc are written in this language.
When I was in my elementary school, my parents enrolled me to Samskrta classes. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to go to those classes, and I don’t know if I had any other opinion, it would have mattered! It was not a language that was taught in my grade school. These classes were held throughout the year, without even a summer break! What this meant was that I had to wake up early, take a shower, go to the class, come back home and then head out for my school. Sometimes, there were additional classes in the evening too. Going to these classes were the routine for me from the time I was in my kindergarten to about my junior year in high school. Since I lived in a small town, I could walk or bike to the classes quickly, so that was not a big problem. But I had to be always aware of these extra two hours needed in my day, when it came to preparing for tests or other work at my school, because I could never use the last couple hours before school to finish up anything!
Over the years, I passed through several levels in these Samskrta language classes. The classes were grouped based on the level, and not on the age. Since I started out early, I was almost always the youngest student in my class! Since Samskrta is not really a widely spoken language, there wasn’t much thrust in learning to speak the language, but the emphasis was on understanding the structure of the language, grammar and and appreciating literary texts. Some texts, specifically poetry had to be memorized too. As we all know, things that are committed to memory at a young age generally remain with us till much later in my life. Although I stopped going to my Samskrta classes during mid-high school, I still remember those verses memorized years ago.
Luckily, my interest in this language did not wane even after I stopped going to those classes. About five or six years ago, I tried to translate some poetry from Samskrta, to Kannada, my mother tongue; generally I started out by those poems that I knew by heart, from my age old classes! I started a blog to post these translations, and the positive comments from readers encouraged me to try out more. Then I had to look for other poems that I did not know before. Now that I am not that young anymore, and and can not commit these verses to memory, it was indeed a good idea for me to try translating whenever I found a new verse that sounded good to me!
To make a long story short, sometime back I was asked if I would like to publish a collection of my selected translations, and a book was published this year! The book is titled “Hamsanaada” and it is in Kannada. It got some favorable reviews in the press too.
As the verse on the opening page of my book says, needless to say translated from an age old Sanskrtit saying – “Start your kids on good things, when they are really young. The pictures etched on a wet mud pot will stay even after you use it for cooking for a long time!”
Dear Innovators, start off your kids to some good things – be it sports,or arts like music and dance, or learning a new language, or whatever else that they can grow up with, and take into their adulthood. With the current life styles, it may be a hard choice to put kids into many activities, and the kids may even resent them now. But I am sure you can find one or two activities apart from the regular schooling, that they’ll like or at least lean to not hate! I’m sure they will be thankful for what you did for them, later in their adult life, because the pictures etched on a wet mud pot, indeed stay forever!
Halebeedu is a little town in South Karnataka, famous for it’s twin temple- popularly known by the name Hoysaleshwara temple that enshrines two Shivalingas, called as Hoysaleshwara and Shantaleshwara. The town was the capital of the Hoysala dynasty that ruled parts of Southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu from 10th to early 14th century AD.
The old name of the town was Dorasamudra (ದೋರಸಮುದ್ರ / दोरसमुद्र). Although popular legend says the name came because of the enormous man made lake (tank) at the entry of the town (ದ್ವಾರ,dwAra), inscription evidence seems to point in another direction. The lake is actually from pre-Hoysala times, and was erected during the Rashtrakuta king Dhruva‘s reign. Dhruva is referred to as Dora (ದೋರ) in many inscriptions. The lake erected by King Dora was naturally called Dorasamudra. The name seems to gone out of vogue, and this place is known as Halebeedu (Old Place, literally). Right now it is not on the UNESCO list of places of world heritage, but may be nominated to the list soon. I consider this to be one of the Seven Wonders of India, nothing less! The temples are maintained rather nicely by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
However, we don’t see any relics of Rashtrakuta times in Halebeedu today. Inscriptions have long gone into some museums! But luckily we are left with several temples of the Hoysala times of which Hoysaleshwara is the largest and grandest. It is quite natural being the capital of the Hoysala country that this site was selected for this magnificent temple. The temple is said to have been damaged during Malik Kafur’s invasion in the year 1313AD. In spite of the damage, it is still the best Hoysala temple, and probably one of the best temple in terms of architecture.
Oh well, today I’m not writing much about the temple architecture – but would focus on the musicians of Halebeedu. The town being close to my hometown, I have visited this place several times and when I was looking at one of the pictures taken during a visit few years earlier, I was surprised to see a specific type of musical instrument in there and was rather intrigued by the looks of it. I wasn’t sure if the picture I had was one of the mutilated sculpture, and hence I could not come to any conclusion based on the picture. So when I revisited the temple few months ago, I made it a point to look at all those instruments and musicians from Halebeedu carefully.
Many of the sculptures that we find on the temple walls are of various Gods and Goddesses – and there are many that depict earthly, regular performing musicians. Hence we can make many inferences about the types of musical instruments being played in South India during those times. Of course, we have descriptions of various musical instruments in different texts of those times, but a visual representation is much better than a text describing anything , Right?
Here you can see a sculpture of Saraswathi – the Goddess of learning. She is normally depicted in a sitting posture, playing a Veena. Veena is a generic term for string instruments and there are different types of Veenas depending on their structure. In this sculpture, you can clearly see how Saraswathi is using the middle and the ring fingers on her right hand to pluck the strings and the fingers of the left hand to play on the fingerboard – which are true to this day on several Veenas in vogue. Due to the angle, we can’t see whether the fingerboard has frets or not. All this very well matches with how a Sitar or Saraswathi Veena is played today ( discounting the fact that these days Saraswathi Veena is played more laying flat rather than being at an angle), but for one important difference. I’ll come to that point when I comment about another sculpture down below. Oh, I forgot to mention that Saraswathi Veena is one of the types of Veenas played today. Other Veenas include instruments such as Sitar, Rudra Veena, Chitra Veena (also called Vichitra Veena) and Mohan Veena ( actually a modified sliding guitar).
I’m not sure if the following picture depicts an earthly musician or a celestial one, but you can seem him playing a Dhakka or a Muraja (a Damaru-like drum instrument). Anyone who has heard any of DVG’s songs on the beauties at the Belur temple ( another Hoysala marvel, I should say) would definitely recall the song ‘naTanavADidaL taruNi’ (ನಟನವಾಡಿದಳ್ ತರುಣಿ ) about the sculpture called murajAmOde (ಮುರಜಾಮೋದೆ ) refers to a danseuse playing this drum in one of the charaNas. This instrument is used even now with Kathakali music, in Kerala and it is called by the name Idakka . (I got this reference from my good friend Sankaranarayanan, Thanks Sankara!) The way the instrument is held by the player in the sculpture almost matches with how the Idakka is played these days. The sculpture is so life-like that you fail to notice that it is made of stone, can easliy take the twisted ropes to be real!
Now the following brings a few important points – Most Hoysala temples are built on a multiple-point star patterned basement. This type of structure provides a very large surface area for a given size of the temple. Apparently individual sculptures were made elsewhere, probably at the sculptor’s workshops and were set in place at the right places in temple walls. Here is one such corner where you see a musician ensemble. The lady on the left is playing a Veena , this time held in a different positon. It is now in a vertical position and you can see the frets clearly. This matches with the position how the Veena was played even as late as early 18th century. Indeed the construction of RudraVeena and the way it is held while playing today, almost matches with what is depicted in here, although the resonator in the sculpture seems to be much smaller than what’s used in these days. The lady on the right is playing a Dhakka – So together they form an ensemble, may be supporting a dancer. Incidentally, on the left side you can see part of another sculpture, which I take it to be a form of Shiva, or a gaNa of Shiva – which also holds a real Damaru, which you can notice is much smaller than the Dhakka, in it’s hand.
Here is another Veena player. The fret-board is depicted very clearly. The way she holds her instrument is very similar to how a Sitar player holds the instrument. Click here to see a picture of maestro Pandit Ravishankar playing his Sitar. Are you surprised?
Another thing I noticed in the Veena in this sculpture and Saraswathi’s sculpture earlier in this post is that the resonator is not seen at all. Now, how such an instrument would sound? I have no clue, but may be I’m missing something.
Here is another interesting instrument. This is called the Naga Veena. Notice the snake like end of the instrument that gives its name. But notice the right hand of the player. He seems to be using a bow of some sort, effectively making it somewhat like a violin. We know that the violin as used in Indian music today was due to Western influence during the early 18th century at Fort St George. But this instrument tells us although the form of Violin may have been new for Indian music, the structure and concept were not.
The following group of sculptures may represent performing musicians of Hoysala times, accompanying a dance. One of them is playing a bell, essential for providing the dance syllables, one is playing a damaru providing the rhythm and one is seen playing the flute, which might have been the oldest musical instrument, not only in India, but for the whole mankind.
With that, let me stop my rant and let you take a good look at these beautiful sculptures once again – Don’t you agree temples such as these are indeed time-capsules of history that help us recreate and appreciate history?
This article by archaeologist Andrew Lawler has appeared in the January 2013 issue of the Archaeology magazine. According to this article, the so-called Buddhist stupa in Mohenjo-Daro might have been a structure from much earlier than Buddhist times. Read the article in the following link for more details:
It’s almost one century since the remains of Mohenjo-Daro were unearthed for the first time – but it certainly it still holds many secrets of Indian civilization!