India - November 2015
Day 2 - Udaipur
A little sightseeing around Delhi, a night show and tea with Maharaja! Splendid stuff…
Day 3 – Kumbhalgarh Fort
Day 4 - Enroute to Jodhpur
The intricate architecture of the Ranakpur Temple is impressive enough, but a closer look at the finials scattered around this site suggest there is something deeper to the design than just aesthetics. See Video (10.17) for more about fractals, mathematics and the Vedas.
Day 5 - Osian
More finials and more incredibly intricate architecture at Jodhpur. Equally captivating sights are found across India. Consider the man hours involved in creating these structures; both the mysterious necessity of such complex design and the additional demands it places on the construction process. One finished area would need cover and protection whilst another was being meticulously produced.
In India, beauty is everything.
Day 7 - Ajanta Caves
I’ve had the privilege of being joined on these tours by some amazing people from all walks of life and, although my approach is based on physical evidence, it’s amazing how often a scientific analysis will align with the observations made by those from a more esoteric and spiritual background. The Ajanta caves are built on a bend in a river; this bend could be analogous with a sine wave, and the sine wave comes up again and again when studying these ancient sites and cultures. Breathing in and out, contraction and expansion, continuous cycles of existence.
The Ajanta Caves are carved from amygdaloidal basalt and these tool marks could provide more than just evidence of how these cave temples were manufactured. A repeating theme found at ancient sites around the world is also seen here at the Ajanta Caves: Unfinished work. Like the unfinished obelisks of Ba’albek or Aswan, a war, famine or plague could have prematurely ended these engineering projects – or a very serious catastrophic event could have simply pushed their completion to the bottom of the list of current priorities.
Day 8 – Kailasa Temple
The Kailasa Temple is cut entirely from the bedrock, which is basalt. The method of its manufacture is at present a mystery, although gunpowder may have been used to clear the larger areas. Neither the tour guides or historians could answer the questions we repeatedly asked: What happened to the excavated material? Where did it go?
Like the Ajanta Caves, the observed tool marks would suggest that either chisels or claw tools produced this work but, according to the two firms of stonemasons I consulted with upon returning, these tools would have needed either diamond or tungsten tips. There is no evidence that the ancient Indians had these type of tools and also no evidence of the machines needed to manufacture the diamond or tungsten tips…but the physical evidence on the walls and statues is undeniably there! Somehow they did it…
So we have a very obvious question: How? Looking at the kind of stone anomalies found at other sites across the world, it would appear that some of these artifacts were produced by ‘softening’ the stone to make it easier to work with. Whilst mystifying at the moment, the tool marks found on the walls can be explained if those areas were treated with a chemical stone softener. Like a paint stripper, the chemical may have been given time to etch into the stone, then the treated area scraped away using only a medium-hard chisel or claw tool. This theory may raise some eyebrows, but it would make the manufacture of these walls and features infinitely easier. See Video (5.50) for more.
Day 10 – Srirangapatna & Somnathpur
The Somnathpur Temple offers the same intricate stonework on its exterior, but wandering around the inner chambers is more like being on the set of an ‘Alien’ film. Many parts of this temple have been rebuilt (badly in places) and its original orientation may also have changed.
A closer look at these columns reveals the unmistakable tool marks produced by ‘turning’ (i.e manufactured on a lathe). Rather than a mysterious ancient power source, these columns were produced, somewhat mundanely, using the brute force of elephants. And of course – knobs! No trip to an ancient site would be complete without finding these mysterious, protruding features. See Video (0.58) for more.
Day 15 – Badami Cave Temple & Pattadakal
Oh dear. Something observed at the Badami Cave Temple questions my own claims and the existing consensus on the subject of irregular blocks and joints. This technique of wall construction (below – also found in Egypt, Peru and Bosnia) was thought to be employed to make these structures less prone to vibration and therefore more difficult to topple in the event of an earthquake.
A wall constructed this way definitely would be more resistant to shaking but, although this type of joint work is found at the Badami site, this cave temple is not in a seismically active area. The upper section of the wall shown below was built as a safety measure and is only ten years old. The reason it features irregular blocks and joints is economic: The workers just gathered up nearby odds and ends of rock and then cobbled them together, probably using a disc cutter or similar tool. Hover over images for a closer look.
Day 16 – Hampi
The home of the musical temples and yet more mysteries in very hard stone. Unlike conventional tourists, my colleagues and I can be found squawking with excitement when one of us finds a flat surface or a 90 degree corner, and Hampi has plenty of interesting stuff to offer.
The Sitar Temple is exactly that: Just as a Sitar also comprises of strings that are sympathetic only, the hundreds of columns found at this site perform the same function. As a music venue, this temple must have sounded fantastic.
Everything in the gallery above is white granite, which has an approximate hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. Because of this we have the same manufacturing mystery as found at the Kailasa Temple: We see the unmistakable tool marks produced by chisels or claw tools but, to cut this type of stone, you would need diamond or tungsten tips (and a means of manufacturing these tips). As with so many other mysteries we see in stone around the world, a theory of chemical stone softening would explain a great deal.
end of tour
Despite seeing some stunning archaeological sites, genuine mysteries in stone AND sampling recipe ideas that I then brought home with me, a balanced analysis of India has to include some of the other things I noticed; and the complex and exuberant beauty of this country comes with a darker counterpart. There’s litter everywhere. No one picks it up or seems to have the imagination to invent a rudimentary bin. The cows, wild boars and stray animals go through the litter and the cows are then milked by the locals. People wash their clothes in rivers that, upstream, are being used by others as sewers. You can’t see the sun in Delhi because of the traffic jams and they’re prolonged and compounded by no one paying any attention to road signs and the right of cows to roam wherever they choose. The relentless beeping of horns is enough to drive anyone who wants a peaceful life, insane.
I found the societal mood oppressive and ‘old school’ with regards to gender. Marriage is not just a business here; it’s an industry and the wedding temples are open 365 days a year. Young men take on massive debts through the cost of these huge ceremonies and sometimes commit suicide. Homosexuals are forced into heterosexual marriages and the highly questionable treatment of women is disturbingly routine.
Pritti said, ‘India is a beautiful chaos.’ Ajay, a chap who’s lived in Bangalore all his life told me, ‘We are a vicious, racist country.’
Both are true.