Monday, December 7, 2009

The Bangalore Inscription

Today's Deccan Herald carries my article on Begur and the 9th century inscription that mentions Bengaluru. I like their title for the article: Here lies the Bengaluru inscription.

Incidentally, INTACH had a Parichay to Begur last Sunday. We had a very enthusiastic of people, with a good sprinkling of architects this time, for some reason. Dr Jegannathan gave an interesting and intriguing talk on energy zones and everyone was most interested in the Lecher antenna and how he uses it. Dr SK Aruni of the Indian Council of Historical Research was there as a participant, but was quite happy to speak to the group about Begur. As always, he impressed everyone with his phenomenal knowledge - on the temple, hero-stones, Bangalore...The most exciting part of his talk for me was when he pronounced the potsherds that I had collected on a previous trip as being quite old - 2000 years old or thereabouts!

The good news is that the temple trustees, who also came to listen to the talks, were quite keen on preserving the inscriptions, especially the one that talks about Bengaluru now that they know what it means and what it stands for.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Parichay to Begur

INTACH Bangalore invites you to a Parichay to Begur.

Begur has a special place in Bangalore's history - the name Bangalore first appears in a 1100-year-old inscription found at the Panchalingeshwara temple here.

This ancient temple is a fitting venue to learn about the concept of energy zones in traditional Indian architecture from Dr R Jegannathan, who will demonstrate how to measure energy fields and speak about them in his talk, "Ancient Wisdom - A Pathway to Modern & Sustainable Living". We will also explore the history of the temple and the settlement around it.

When: 8:30 am on Sunday, 29 Nov 2009
Where: Panchalingeshwara temple, Begur

Directions: Head south on Hosur Road towards Bommanahalli. At Bommanahalli junction, turn right onto Begur road. The Panchalingeswara temple is on Begur Road, 3.6 km off Hosur Road.

There is a fee of Rs 100 for this event. Seats are limited, so please call ahead to register. For registration and more information, call: 9986023014.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mystery of the sands

For a really unique mix of history, mystery, archaeology and a lovely dose of nature, you can do no better than head to Talakad (variously spelt as Talakkad, Talkad and Talakadu).

Talakad is an ancient town, dating back to at least 2000 years ago, judging by megalithic remains found here. In the early 1600s, Alamelamma, wife of the defeated Vijayanagar viceroy jumped into the river Cauvery here, but not before famously cursing the Mysore Wodeyar dynasty and the town of Talakad itself. You can see a documentary made by Sashi Sivramkrishna about the curse here. Of course, what is really intriguing about the story of the curse is how it seems to have come true. Many Wodeyar kings have indeed not borne male heirs and have had to adopt to continue their line; and the town of Talakad has indeed been deluged by sand.

So what does the scientific community have to say about this remarkable coincidence? Check out my article in today's Deccan Herald about this. I had a good time researching this article, including an enjoyable talk with MB Rajani, a postdoc at NIAS.

Today, most people know of Talakad either as a place of pilgrimage, for the Panchalinga darshana that is held here (to be held next week), or as a picnic spot, to frolic in the sun and sands along the Cauvery. But the next time you visit there, take time to go off the beaten track to see signs of the city (or cities?) that lies buried beneath the sand under your feet. Trust me, you can see them...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heritage walk

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

The chorus of Rudyard Kipling’s famous The Ballad of East and West can aptly be applied to Bangalore – a city of layers – a twin city with the European Cantonment to the East and the Indian Pettah to the West and Cubbon Park in between, serving as a barrier between the two!

Join us to find out if the two ever met and, along the way, experience a bit of Cantonment life along with some surprises thrown in.

Date: 31st October 2009

Venue: St Mark’s Cathedral (entrance near Koshy’s)

Time: 8:00 am

We will wrap up in about 3 hours. As always, we will provide a light snack. Please carry some water with you. Parking is available along the road in front of St Mark’s, in Cubbon Park near Victoria Statue, or behind the Government Museum half a kilometre away.

Seats are limited for this event. Please register in advance by calling 99860 23014.

This walk is organised by INTACH Bangalore, Bangalore City Project (BCP), Max Mueller Bhavan, UDHBAVA Forum and MPSR Foundation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Nallur tamarind grove

Deccan Herald carried an article I wrote on the Nallur tamarind grove last week. There is something quite alluring about the grove of gigantic ent-like tamarind trees and the little Gopalaswamy temple that lies in their midst. As someone has commented on the article online, the carving of Krishna eating butter is enchanting. And though Dr Anuradha from Maharani College prefers the carvings on the Devanahalli Gopalaswamy temple, to my uneducated eye, the carvings at Nallur were truly remarkable. All in all, it makes for a quiet picnic spot...but watch out for the innumerable monkeys!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hoysala heritage

We visited Halebid and Belur a few weeks ago. Halebid has hardly changed in the decade or so since I last visited. The temple is still as breathtaking and the government-run hotel right opposite still as flea-bitten as I remembered it from all those years ago! My only quarrel is with the new lighting in the Hoysalesvara temple, which from a distance, looks like a whole bunch of pigeons roosting on the roof. My favourite place in Halebid still remains the Kedaresvara temple, where nary a soul goes. We spent a magical and very rainy two hours there. I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the sculpture, while the kids had a whale of a time in the little pools that formed as a result of the downpour.

Bennigudda Hill was a new discovery this time around - highly recommended too, for the views, for its serenity and for its rustic feel.

Today's Deccan Herald carries an article I wrote on the lesser-known monuments of Halebid.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resorption efficiency

Something a little out of the ordinary...although a couple of years ago, this was what I used to live, breathe and think about, day in and day out!

Here's a journal article that began life as a paper I wrote for an ecology course some years ago. I'm quite pleased to see it has been well received and cited a fair bit too...

The dustiest place in the world!

I remember reading about dust inputs into the Amazon during my stint in Costa Rica. Then, as now, I couldn't help but be amazed at how inter-connected things in the natural world are. A couple of recent papers on the subject of dust in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences prompted this article in Deccan Herald this week on how climate change might affect the dustiest place in the world...No, it's not in India, it's in Chad.

World's dust bowl
We already know that climate change might drastically alter landscapes around the world. Interestingly, one of the prime agents of changing ecology might be dust from deserts, and often where you least expect it.
Several studies have shown that the Sahara desert is the world’s largest source of desert dust. A mind boggling 240 ± 80 million tons of dust is transported from the Sahara desert to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond every year.

You can read the rest of the article in Deccan Herald.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Personal change

Here's a very interesting read on why change at a personal level (e.g., switching off the lights when you leave a room) alone is not going to help us change our world for the better. Read the comments too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Minister of State for External Affairs

Today's Deccan Herald carries a story on the Nilekanis and the MoS for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, releasing a book called Study in America: The Definitive Guide for Aspiring Students.

Doesn't this strike anyone else as odd? Shouldn't our esteemed MoS release books titled Studying in India: The Definitive Guide etc etc instead? Perhaps someone should tell Mr Tharoor that External Affairs does not mean working for other countries...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More than just an airport

Today's Deccan Herald carries a piece I wrote on Devanahalli fort, one of my favourite places in Bangalore.

"Mention Devanahalli and everyone thinks ‘International Airport’. But Devanahalli is also where one of Indian history’s most colourful personalities, Tipu Sultan, was born. Indeed, the town is quite a heritage hotspot, with a history stretching back several hundred years even before Tipu.

A fine fort famous for its association with Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali lies just off the national highway, about 10 km beyond the airport exit."

You can read the rest of the article here.

Incidentally, we (by which I mean Intach, not the royal we!) conducted a heritage walk at Devanahalli just two days before this article appeared. Sunday saw me and two colleagues from Intach talk to 48 (yes, 48!) children about Devanahalli. Of course, it wasn't just us; volunteers from SECA were there, too, to keep an eye on their flock and make sure all 48 came back!

We had a blast and I'd like to think at least some of the kids did too. A few of them came up to me at the end of the walk to tell me this wasn't like any history lesson they had ever attended. I'm certainly glad they thought so.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bribing the gods

Janardhan Reddy recently gave a diamond studded crown worth about Rs 45 crores to the god in Tirupati. Reddy is Karnataka's minister for tourism and also owns Brahmani steel plant and Obulapuram mines in Andhra Pradesh. I assume this gift is in return for the Lord having showered his blessings upon him, and to ensure more such showers in the future…In India, even the gods are open to bribes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Earth Hour and all that

Another Earth Hour has gone past. According to the official website, “For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote - Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming.”

As one who chose to study ecology years before it became fashionable, I am, just possibly, ‘greener’ than you. But I did not switch off all my lights at the appointed hour on Saturday.

Apart from the fact that I found the concept of voluntarily switching off lights ridiculous in a country where the government does it for us anyway – for several hours every day – I do feel the whole idea of Earth Hour trivialises the issue of climate change.

Sample this poppycock from a national newspaper: “Have you always wanted to contribute in your own way to preserve the environment? It’s simple now. Even your children can do it, and it’s akin to giving the ailing Earth a thousand hugs. Just switch off all your lights.” If only dealing with climate change were as simple as that.

Events like Earth Hour allow people to feel good by doing something that is essentially useless, even counterproductive. A lot of people will switch off their lights this Saturday evening and most will probably feel very righteous about doing their bit to save the planet. But once the hour is up and the lights, TV, refrigerator, music system, air-conditioning, and all the rest of it come back on, it’s back to business as usual. Apart from the warm and happy glow of ‘having done the right thing’, nothing would have changed.

For most people, participating in Earth Hour is not going to lead to any tough decisions being taken on lifestyle. They can hop back into their SUVs to get to the neighbourhood store to buy bottled water without feeling guilty. After all, they already cast their vote against global warming, didn’t they?
And then there are the candles. There are going to be the now-customary candlelight marches. Hotels and newspapers are promoting candlelight dinners. One major city mall will dim its lights and has urged citizens to illuminate the place with candles instead.

This would all be funny if it weren’t so serious. Clearly more people need to understand the link between carbon dioxide and the climate. Candles = wax = hydrocarbon = fossil fuel = carbon dioxide. Depending on its size, burning a candle for an hour releases anywhere from 15 to 60 g of carbon dioxide. A standard 100 W bulb in India would release between 40 and 60 g of carbon dioxide in an hour.
This is not to say we don’t need awareness about climate change. But time, resources and people’s attention spans are all limited. Couldn’t we direct our efforts into promoting awareness in a useful, meaningful way that would have long-term effect on carbon dioxide emissions, rather than waste them on an energy-sucking event that will lead to an insignificant blip on energy use?

Surely India’s innovative minds can come up with an awareness-raising exercise less useless and more appropriate to the country? How about a car-free hour? One Bangalore-based IT company already has no-car days every few months when employees are encouraged to take public transport, walk or cycle to work. Another has planned a bike camp for its employees to promote biking to work.

But these are too few and far between. We need more such intelligent initiatives. We need to learn that every hour every day is earth hour.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Harini Nagendra

I recently met a very inspiring and dynamic young person who I thought I had a lot in common with (!!). She works in the field of urban ecology and is currently researching street trees in Bangalore. You can read more about her and her work in this article I wrote about her for Citizen Matters.