New Blog: Indian Sculpture

There are not many blogs on Indian history and so it gives us great happiness to see yet another software engineer on this low-visitor-count market. Also, this new blog Indian Sculpture is inspired by The Palm Leaf
Indian temples are a great source of cultural information and goal of this new blog is to glean information of dress, weapons or anything else of that time period.

I am fascinated by the detail in these sculptures. It’s almost like they were 3-D photographs of their day. Many of the sculptures that I saw had different faces and had different accesories. They were clearly meant to represent different people. Whether or not it was real people or the sculptor’s fancy is anyone’s guess. It’s pretty amazing how many details spring to your eye once you actually start looking for this sort of thing though.

Shah Jahan runs ASI

The Archaeological Survey of India is doing a great job with the financial constraints they have. But once in a while they do something which makes you want to bang your head on a nearby archaeological structure. One such incident came to light when we found from whom the ASI takes instructions — Emperor Shah Jahan. The fact that the emperor has become fossil fuel hundreds of years back has no effect on the ASI. They dare not violate one of his orders, for what if he comes out of the grave.
The issue is regarding the pay for the Imam who takes care of the mosque in the precints of Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan had fixed it at 15 gold ‘asharfis’ about four hundred years back. Now after adjusting for the new currency and inflation, the ASI has come up with an amount which should provide him with a posh life — Rs. 15. Yes, he gets fifteen rupees which is the amount an auto driver would charge you in Chennai if you looked at his vehicle.

“The salary of the Imam was fixed in accordance with the spirit of the Mughal ‘firman’ (rules), issued by Shah Jahan, who had fixed it at 15 coins,” said an ASI official.
What else can we do, we are bound by the will of the emperor,” the official told IANS over telephone from Agra.
Ironically, a peon appointed by the government to assist the Imam, receives a monthly salary of more than Rs.5,000.[For ASI, 15 Mughal gold coins and Rs 15 are same]

Someone gotta break the news, gently, to the ASI official that the emperor is not going to strike back.

A new history blog

I am happy to announce a new blog, The Palm Leaf, devoted to Indian History, hosted here at From now, the regular blog will cover current issues whereas time travel will be done in the history blog. This new blog has been initialized with all the history posts from the original blog.
The word, Palm Leaf, was chosen as it was a popular medium of writing in India for almost two thousand years. Letters were written on a dried, smoothed, smoke treated leaves of palm trees using a stylus. These were then blackened with vegetable juice and lamp black. This site hopes to be the electronic version of those palm leaves.
Even though the tagline says, A look at India’s Past, I don’t plan to cover each and every topic related to our history. So you will not see much mythology or discussions of various religious texts. Instead there will be archaeological news, coverage of development of language, and information on people, places and monuments. There will be more posts about the Mauryan empire, Saraswathi-Sindu civilization and Kerala due to my current interest in those areas.
On the technical side, the new blog runs Movable Type 3.2 with dynamic publishing. This means that only the main page has a physical existence. Rest of the pages are created on the fly based on the request. The style of the new blog is the same as the old one, but it will be changed soon.

Dave Barry taking timeout

Starting next year, Dave Barry will not be writing his weekly columns. He is taking an indefinite leave of absence from Miami Herald.

”I’ve never not had a column in a week in all of 30 years, even when I went on vacation,” Barry said. ‘At some point I said, ‘Well, maybe it’ll be OK to not do it for a while.’ And I didn’t want to wait until I hated it and I didn’t want to wait until I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got no more columns to write.’ ”[Dave Barry will take a timeout]

His columns will definitely be missed.
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Shankar, Gingger, Zakir and Sivamani

Last night I attended a concert by Shankar, Gingger, Zakir Hussain and Shivamani and it was one of the best music performances I attended (The others being, Amjad Ali Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, A R Rahman and Yanni).

  • The program which was to start at 5 PM started at 6 PM. At 5 PM the gates were not even open, which means the artistes probably woke up at that time and said “Ghosh! we have a show to do”
  • Even though the show started late, they did not have time to adjust the audio system, and so Shankar and Zakir Hussain were giving instructions to the audio control guys while performing. At one point I thought Shankar would fling his double violin at guy at the controls.
  • The first part was about 45 mins followed by a 1 hr intermission when the artistes probably went to sleep again. But the last 90 mins was just awesome.
  • I had seen Sivamani in two A R Rahman stage programs, but here there was a solo performance by him in which he produced sounds from almost anything he would lay his hands on. But then there was no connection between the various sounds he was producing. It would jump from one rhythm to another without any smooth transision.
  • This was followed by a solo performance by Zakir Hussain and then you know why he is called Ustad. I never knew such varied sounds could come from a tabala. He knows to work the crowd and is an entertainer.
  • Finally, the number of standing ovations: Zakir Hussain: 2, Sivamani: 1, Shankar and Gingger: 0.