Monday, February 21, 2011

The Big Temple, Thanjavur

Before venturing out to see the 1000 year old Brihadeeswara temple (also called Rajarajeswaram temple) at Thanjavur in central part of Tamilnadu state in India, I had read that its vimana - the tower over the sanctum sanctorum was visible from a distance. Out of curiosity and as the bus was nearing the town I was looking all-around eagle eyed to spot the monument but in vain. Disembarking the bus I asked someone about the temple. "Oh, the Big temple is in old Thanjavur some 4 km away from this place", he said guiding me to the local bus going there.
Finally, after about another 15 minutes or so the 65 metre tower was visible to me when the bus stopped at its gate. Obviously today the high rise structures and multi-story buildings are obscuring ancient monuments and heritage structures almost everywhere in India.
Temple architecture in India falls under a variety of styles depending upon the part of the country, the era, and taste of the rulers.

This marvel at Thanjavur (completed and commissioned in 1010 CE by a Chola king and now a UNESCO world heritage site) stands among the most magnificent and tallest done in the South Indian style.

The premises are spread over an area of 2.88 ha and the 13 tiered vimana
stands 64.82 m tall (including 5m cupola over the 59.82 m tower). Granite stone is used without any binding material. Stones are just interlocked. This being a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, a huge granite bull - Nandi, the mascot of Shiva, is placed in front just after the second entrance gate.
Life-size figures of Shiva among many other statues adorn the outer walls of the temple. One most talked about and prominent is the statue of one dwarpala (door keeper) holding a massive mace which is encircled by a python which in turn is swallowing an elephant. That clearly sends one’s imagination towards a massive dimension about the things associated with those times of kings and their valour. Inside, they say the sanctum sanctorum is hollow inside right up to the top. Since that one is a living temple and I don’t enter places of worship, I can’t describe the inside finery of the structure.

As a remarkable example of architectural stability of a high-rise structure, this temple has withstood many unrecorded and at least six recoded earthquakes till date. They say not even a minor crack or damage to any part of the massive structure has been observed over one millennium year history of the temple.

The main hall is said to have been used by the dancers and musicians performing in service of Shiva. There are some musical pillars producing different sounds when tapped. Someone told me that the one pillar with a sharp ringing sound was hollow from inside. I questioned him on this stating the wonderful and almost mystical musical pillars of Hampi where sounds of different types of instruments came out of pillars but they are not hollow, he was answerless.

 Reaching Thanjavur

60 Km from Tiruchirapalli, it has plenty of buses plying round the clock. They charge only Rs 20 and take an hour and a half. In Tamilnadu the bus service is very efficient and cheap.

There are many trains from Egmore, Chennai.

(I visited in January 2011)

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Promoting Atheism: the Entrepreneurial way

In today's market driven environment anything that has takers, sells. For any business endeavour or collective public initiative to succeed you either have to have ready takers or need to create them. Theists can sell concepts easily because of an existing universe of takers of their products but for atheists there exist none. And to find takers you need to go searching for the needy. Then find contributors who will support your efforts. Once that is done watch out for the competition lurking around. Atheists have always faced a formidable and persistent competition from the theists.

A Group Charity

Finding the needy can be accomplished by initiating a charity for, say, education and healthcare purposes. If a group of atheists can start off with a couple of hundred thousands as seeding capital and offer to help those really in need, I think a beginning would have been made. Charity can help sustain a mission in a small way, however. For a longer sustenance we need donors and committed contributors in cash and kind. For that some wealthy atheists have to be roped in. Such a collective charity effort should never be made on the premise of minority or majority status of people as that would tantamount to exploitationary tactics of a different kind never in harmony with the idea of equity and justice in atheism.

On Individual level

It will not be far fetched if with time  one finds displays like, 'Atheist Public School' or 'Atheist Charitable Hospital' or on a smaller scale, name boards like 'Atheist Public Library / Reading room' etc.

Similarly, an atheist businessman can add 'Atheist' or a similar prefix to the name of his business concern. The prospects are endless with no dearth of ideas in the matter.


No non-profit mission can be accomplished without committed volunteers. Volunteers, who can spread awareness through publicity as well as work on ground. However, finding volunteers with strong motivation is not that easy but service to humanity can act as a motivation. Once you find a cause and establish a mission, finding volunteers would not be difficult.

Atheism and morality

It is a very strong connection and volunteers can find a sustainable motivation in morals and ethics. An atheist will cherish and possess strong moral values as he wouldn't look for any scapegoats or take resort in a non-existent god for his actions gone wrong. I own up what I do because I can't lay my wrongs at the door of some god or resort to proverbial fate accompli. Any person subscribing to this philosophy would be ready to become a volunteer with a strong reason to spread atheism as a culture.
I put forth this idea of adding the word 'ATHEIST' with the name of  business entities or non-profit ventures at the 8th World Atheist Conference 2011 held in January at Trichy in Tamil Nadu, India.

I believe proper media coverage and visibility of an endeavour based on strong moral ideals can attract volunteers as well as audiences and consumers.

The renowned atheist Prof Narendra Nayak in his writings stresses the need to practice atheism under all circumstances. Let me add that atheism ought to be visible as well. Visible -the entrepreneurial way.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Dr Binayak Sen

Dr Binayak Sen

First, he is handed down life imprisonment under some 125 year old and obsolete sedition law and now his bail pleas stands rejected by the Chattisgarh  High Court. That is the funny case of Dr Binayak Sen's.

The prosecution alleges that the searchers couldn't find a stethoscope from his place and he professes to be a medical doctor! How funny?

If a case is built on such findings then Mr Ramjethmalini's assertion that it was “a case of no evidence” hold solid ground.

Compare this with what is happening in Kashmir - the terrorist infested state of the Indian union where terrorists belonging to one religion want to break away from India in order to establish a theocracy. Instances have been reported, years back, of arms and explosives having been transported from Srinagar to Jammu in flag cars belonging to the state government. Hard core militants have been captured but none convicted so far during the past 22 years of active militancy in J&K. Leave aside those who have been let off under various 'healing touch' schemes and packages. Then there are those who deliver hate speeches and raise anti-India slogans right in the capital of India.

Both the Kashmir terrorists (local as well as foreign) and the Maoists have raised an armed rebellion against the country. Both don't take part in the electoral process. However, the Maoists don't have an organised religion backing their cause that can wield a clout with or create a sense of fear in the politicians mind.

Karmapa, from whom billions in foreign money including ‘crisp’ Chinese currency have been seized, continues to be a free and an honoured guest of India. Does possessing heaps of foreign money not qualify as an act against the State of India? Then there is this highly connected Indian citizen (among many others whom the government would not name), whose billions have disappeared from foreign banks after the government of India got information about the stash.

Are these people not working against the interests of Indian State? Is that not sedition? Does Binayak Sen's alleged crime weigh heavier than that of these honourable men?