|The Kailasanather Temple [Credit: M. Karunakaran]|
The Sri Kailasanathar Temple, tucked away in a quiet street branching off from the main road — hardly 300 metres from the seashore — dates back to the Eighth Century A.D., according to Archaeology Department sources. They say that there is proof in the form of inscriptions on the Aavudaiyar (Lingam) and on the surrounding walls to show that the temple was built centuries ago.
Speaking to Downtown, K. Sridharan, former Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Excavation Section, says that Kovalam served as an important sea port for 600 years from the 10 th Century B.C. to 16 th Century B.C. It was during this period that the Kailasathanar Temple was built and maintained by the traders’ guild. “There is proof in the form of inscriptions in the temple to show that the Lingam was installed in Eighth – Ninth Century. The Aavudiayar bears an inscription ‘Sri Satheruman Murthiper’. ‘Sat’ means a trade guild and ‘Satheruman’ refers to the Lord. This, along with other inscriptions engraved in the ‘Adishtanam’ (base) of the ‘Maha Mandapam (Inner Mandapam on the eastern side) were discovered by the State Department of Archaeology in 2000 during Epigraphical survey,” he states.
Mr. Sridharan says that the traders exported many items, including cotton and arecanut from Kovalam for which they levied tax. This revenue was gifted to the temple for worship and maintenance. Successive generations renovated, extended and modified the temple structure. This continued till the Vijayanagar Period (16th Century) for which there is evidence and is also recorded in the department’s ’Kalvettu’ magazine,” he adds.
Padmavathy A, who retired as a Senior Epigraphist in the Archaeology Department, and who had visited the temple during her tenure, says that the Aavudaiyar bears inscription in Palaeography Script that is very rare. “The inscription dates back to the Eighth Century A.D. and is proof that the Lingam was sculpted during that period.”
She says that the Sanctum Santorum and the Outer Mandapam were built in the 13th Century A.D. “In fact, an inscription dating to this period is found on the Dakshinamurthy idol. The inscription states the name of the merchant who installed the idol. There are also other stone sculptures and inscriptions belonging to the 16 th century in the temple,” she adds.
Besides the presiding deity, the temple has separate sannidhis for the Lord’s consort Kanaka Valli and Subramanya with his consorts Valli and Deivanai. A unique feature of the temple is the presence of thee Ganesa sannidhis — Kubera Ganapathi, Vijaya Ganapathi and Siva Sakthi Ganapathi.
The nearly 200 sq ft Mandapam on the northern side of the temple has deities of Lord Venkateswara flanked by Bhuma Devi and Surya, a huge Lingam, Kalikambal and Swarna Bhairavar. The pillars bear sculptures depicting scenes from the Ramayana. There is also one sculpture that shows Siva pushing Yama with his foot to save Markandeya.
However, the temple gopuram, the walls of the sanctum sanctorum and the outer walls have developed cracks that show that the structure has withstood the ravages of time. The growth of weeds and plants on the gopuram, with their roots making their way inside the sanctum sanctorum through the roof is testimony to the neglect of the centuries-old place of worship and the threat to its very existence.
T. Kripa Sankar, Managing Trustee of Shantha Kripa Sankar Trust, who is spearheading a one-man campaign to restore the historical temple to its pristine glory, says: “It was by accident that I chanced upon this temple in 2000. When the bus I was travelling to Mahabalipuram broke down in Kovalam, I went round the seaside town and discovered this temple which was in utter mess. I learnt from the local people that it was under the care of the local fishermen. The premises had an overgrowth of vegetation and the gopuram, praharam and the vast stone-pillared mandapam were in a bad state.”
He says that he wrote to the then DMK Government seeking assistance to save the temple from ruin. “Till date, there has been no action in this regard, except for the fact that the temple was brought under the control of the HR and CE Department in 2005.”
Mr. Kripa Sankar, through his trust that is engaged in many social services, has refurbished the stone mandapam and given it a fresh coat of paint. Rubble and wild growth can be seen all round the cobbled pathway leading through the praharam.
Yet, an octogenarian priest, M. Subramaniam, has been performing a one-time puja to the deities daily for the last 20 years. “The temple was in a bad condition and infested with snakes till a decade ago. It is only with the help and care of Mr. Kripa Sankar’s trust that we have been able to clean up this place a bit,” he says.
The temple is now administered by three trustees. But paucity of funds is a major drawback. Earlier, the temple was administered by the EO of the Thiruvidanthai Temple. Under the Government’s scheme in which funds from revenue-earning temples are given to those with poor revenue, a sum of Rs. Two lakhs was sanctioned for this temple from the Thiruverkadu temple, according to Devarajan, former EO of the Thiruvidanthai temple. He says there is a proposal to renovate the temple by retaining its main structure and carrying out repair works on the vimanams and laying a new weathering course and flooring.
Mr. Kripa Sankar says that the temple is in dire need of renovation if it is to be preserved for posterity. “At a time when new temples are mushrooming in every street corner, it is pathetic that ancient temples that hold within them our rich cultural heritage are languishing in anonymity or even being ignored,” he says.
“The Government should act at the earliest to save this treasure. Many people outside this locality are not even aware of the existence of such a temple. It is up to the authorities to take up repair work, restore the temple to its original glory and popularise it among the masses,” he adds.
Author: Saraswathy Srinivasan | Source: The Hindu [July 21, 2011]
The archaeologists believe it was used as a prison cell or an armory. The bunker has two cells and the walls are made of coral, lime and clay, says the head of the exploration team. The team has observed a crack on one side of the bunker.
There are 14 other bunkers in Galle Dutch Fort and they were renovated during the British period. However the newly discovered bunker has remained intact, the archaeologists say.
They expect to excavate the ground of the bunker that is filled with soil to the height of about one to two feet.
The Galle Dutch Fort has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site under criteria IV.
Source: Colombo Page [August 02, 2011]
Restorers at the Isa Khan’s tomb in the precincts of the Humayun’s Tomb World Heritage Site have discovered that the Isa Khan’s tomb stood within a hitherto unknown sunken garden that predates the famed gardens that the Mughals built and popularised. Also uncovered at site are pieces of underlying archaeology.
And with this discovery, the country now has a new chapter added to the history of the Mughal gardens.
“It is an important discovery as the Isa Khan’s Tomb garden predates the Humanyun’s Tomb garden by two decades. It is also very significant as Isa Khan’s garden tomb can now be considered the earliest example of a sunken garden in India – attached to a tomb – a concept later developed at Akbar’s Tomb and at the Taj Mahal,” said Ratish Nanda, Project Director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, that has been undertaking an urban renewal project in the Humanyun’s Tomb Nizamuddin Basti area.
“We were not expecting to discover that the earth levels in the enclosure were over a metre lower than the existing levels, when we began the restoration of the Isa Khan tomb. We realised that the level of the garden, as was designed originally was much lower than its existing level. So we began the work of restoring the garden to its original design,” he added.
The restoration work of the Isa Khan’s Tomb is being carried out by the AKTC in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India and with co-funding from the World Monuments Fund.
The ongoing restoration work has thrown up underlying archaeology, including building elements such as finials of the dome and canopies and terracotta toys, all of which have immense historical relevance.
Referring to the work that has been underway for the past eight months, he said: “Once we discovered that the garden was much lower than what it had risen to, we had to begin earth moving work. And since we were operating in an area rich with underlying archaeology, we could not use machines, and everything had to be done manually. Over 3000 cubic metre of earth was removed to restore the garden to its original level.”
Over 20,000 man-hours later, the AKTC team today is in the middle of restoring the garden and the tomb that it circumferences to its original glory.
After a peer review, with national and international experts, before the onset of works from July – December 2010, restoration work began with test pits being created that revealed the original levels to be 1m lower than existing levels. Restorers also found parts of building elements such as columns of the tomb’s dome and finials buried in the garden that are now being used for its restoration.
“It is an exciting and a wonderful discovery. The sunken garden here has revealed how the gardens have risen over the years, just as layers are added to history; layers have been added to the gardens as well. Over the years gardens have come up at the level of the monuments, but this garden has revealed that here it was originally three to four feet below the monument with the tomb sitting high,” said Amita Beg of the WMF.
The discovery has also shed light on the grandeur of the tombs, rising above the gardens and overlooking the trees and the landscaping. “By placing the tomb higher than the garden, not only was the magnificence of the tomb enhanced, but it would also allow visitors to the tomb to be at eye level with the surrounding tree species such as citrus varieties popularly used by the Mughals,” said Mr. Nanda.
Isa Khan finds mention in history as a brave and valiant noble under Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan ruler who had overthrown Humayun. The tomb built in 1547 is octagonal in shape and has exceptional decorative detailing.
Author: Smriti Kak Ramachandran | Source: The Hindu [August 05, 2011]
The fort, occupying an area of 200 acres of land and 3km, consists of two circular fortifications. The height of the outer wall is lower than the inner wall, with a 30 feet deep moat in between. In some areas, both walls have portions that have turned to rubble, which is now being repaired.
Many monuments like Jamia Mosque, Ranamandal, are located inside the fort. But these monuments are also dilapidated and damaged by miscreants.
Speaking to ‘The Times of India’ ASI conservation assistant Mouneshwar Kuravatti said 195 families have encroached upon the monument area and built houses inside the fort. Gulbarga Urban Development Authority is rehabilitating these families outside the fort and in city.
A grass lawn has been installed inside the fort, while repairs are being undertaken on the mosque meant for women, which collapsed.
The ASI is undertaking repair using traditional equipment without using cement, lam and sand to maintain a uniform look with the monuments, said Mouneshwar, However, a concrete bed is being built surrounding the Jamia Mosque.
Former secretary of Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board Shalini Rajanish has sent a proposal of Rs 50 crore proposal to the Union tourism ministry to connect the three districts — Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur — from Hyderabad airport to turn it into a tourist spot.
Source: The Times of India [September 20, 2011]
Passing on healthy genes
Assuming that female orgasm aids in conception, the researchers concluded that women may have evolved to orgasm more readily with attractive partners so as to pass on their healthy genes to offspring.
“Thus, possible conception-promoting correlates of female orgasm may be especially effective and/or likely when copulation occurs with masculine males,” the authors wrote.
Brendan Zietsch, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Queensland who has researched the female orgasm, said the study provided strong evidence that sexy men were more likely to produce orgasms in their female mates – but that this was not necessarily linked to natural selection.
“I do not find it compelling support for this evolutionary function of female orgasm. I would guess that men also orgasm more readily having intercourse with an especially sexy woman, but few would argue that this indicates that the function of male orgasm is to choose the best mate,” he said.
“My point is that arousal being related to both partner sexiness and orgasm frequency is compatible with numerous possible evolutionary explanations of female orgasm.”
He pointed out that the study also found no link between frequency of female orgasm and the man’s facial structure in cases of non-reproductive sex – such as orgasm during foreplay – but that this may be because more masculine, dominant men might spend less time on non-coital sex than other men.
“I think we are a long way from understanding the evolutionary function of female orgasm, if indeed it has a function,” he said.
Coital orgasm not constant
Dr Maciej Henneberg, Professor of Anthropological and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Adelaide and an expert on evolution, said the study relied too heavily on self-reporting.
“The authors’ own findings are that only about half of women (52%) experience coital orgasm. This means it is not a constant feature. Their measures of “genetic quality” of males are purely speculative (appearance, facial asymmetry),“ he said, pointing out that the study may have underestimated other features women may find attractive in men, such as their social or psychological qualities.
One cannot assume that function of female orgasm is to aid conception nor place too much emphasis on the idea that the human libido is driven by the urge to procreate, he said.
“Most of human sexual intercourse is for reasons unrelated to fertility. Moreover, the ability to conceive in humans is low. It takes a persistent copulation every other day for three months to achieve conception, on the average.”
“All this leads to the conclusion that humans use sexual intercourse for bonding and pleasure, rarely for conception,” said Dr Henneberg.
“We are unusual amongst animals in this respect. Only dolphins, pygmy chimpanzees and maybe chimpanzees use sex for social contacts. Other mammals copulate only when a female is fecund (can conceive) and the intercourse takes a short time. We can do it for hours!”
Author: Sunanda Creagh | Source: The Conversation [July 20, 2011
The team’s findings, published in the June 6, 2011 print edition of the Washington, DC-based scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), hold that “Eurasia was probably occupied [by early humans] before Homo erectus [the species from which a straight line of evolution to modern humans begins — ed] appears in the East African fossil record.”
The sediment in which the artifacts, crude stone tools, were found is “almost 70,000 years older “ than the 1.85 million-year-old early human fossils, also found at Dmanisi, that date as Eurasia’s earliest homo erectus, Reid Ferring, a professor of geoarcheology at the University of North Texas and a member of the research team, told EurasiaNet.org. The sediment is located “several meters below” that earlier find, he said.
No human fossils have been found next to the tools, but the researchers believe that the artifacts — stones sharpened for cutting — belonged to humans more primitive or from the same era as Dmanisi’s 1.85-million-year-old homo erectus (known as “homo georgicus”). The artifacts will be kept at the Georgian National Museum run by team member Davit Lordkipanidze, a prominent archaeologist-anthropologist who discovered homo georgicus.
The evidence has prompted the Dmanisi researchers to consider the strong possibility that some more primitive form of human evolved in Africa, came to Eurasia, and there evolved into homo erectus.
“For a long time, everyone assumed that homo erectus evolved from homo habilis [1.44 million to 2.3 million years], but later it appeared that homo erectus and homo habilis lived side by side in Africa for hundreds of thousands of years, so one cannot evolve into another and both survive,” Ferring said. “That raises the question where homo erectus came from.”
“Very importantly, the Dmanisi fossils are just barely homo erectus. They are the most primitive of homo erectus . . . very small-brained, very short people,” he continued. “Most of the skulls in Dmanisi have a brain size of 600 cubic centimeters, while the first homo erectus found in Africa is almost 850 cubic centimeters; more than one-third bigger.”
Researchers on the ground in Dmanisi also do not rule out the possibility that Eurasia’s homo erectus may have evolved in parallel with homo erectus in Africa.
Ferring describes homo erectus as the “first cosmopolitan” human, with an apparent penchant to travel. The hominid is believed to have spread quickly from Eurasia to China, Southeast Asia and Europe.
The possible reasons for such a move may not be immediately clear, but, to the homo erectus of the time, territory was territory, one American anthropologist noted.
“Remember, it would not have been obvious to the hominins they were leaving Africa. There were no signs saying ‘You are leaving Africa now — come and visit us again!'” George Washington University Professor of Human Origins Bernard Wood joked to the weekly journal Nature.
While few doubt the importance of the Dmanisi find for the study of human evolution, some observers caution that only new human fossils could warrant a conclusion in favor of the hypotheses of the Dmanisi team. Ferring acknowledges that “very aggressive surveys” are needed to find “even older fossils,” but underlines Georgia’s potential role in providing answers to key questions about human evolution.
“Once again the answers may come from the Caucasus, “ he said. “We may even say maybe from Georgia.”
Author: Giorgi Lomadze | Source: Eurasianet [June 10, 2011]
Countdown to doomsday
Today, the bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, comprising no less than 18 Nobel Laureates, almost every one of them a physicist or chemist, sets the hands of the clock based on their reading of “threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences”.
They’ve a much wider brief now, a longer list of threats, and, I guess, more reasons to be pessimistic.
Around 500 million years ago, animal life was almost non-existent on Earth. Today, biologists recognise up to 6 million animal species.
Humanity – Homo sapiens – is just one among the 4,500 living mammal species; and some understanding of where we might be headed can be gleaned from where we’ve been – our evolutionary journey.
Our starting point as a group of two-footed, small-toothed, weakly-muscled, brainy “have-a-chat” apes is the ancestor we share with living chimpanzees some 7 million years ago.
(The two chimpanzee species are endangered, incidentally, because of the environmental destruction caused by us, their closest cousin).
Our evolutionary group – the hominins – diversified quickly after the split from the human-chimp ancestor, and through its multiple evolutionary iterations natural selection produced 25 or 30 two-footed ape species – undoubtedly with more to be found as anthropologists discover more fossils.
All of these are now extinct, except us.
Those 7 million years represent only the last couple of minutes on a 24-hour clock of Earth’s 5 billion year history. The culling of 30 species to 1 in this short timeframe, or a more than 95% loss of hominin biodiversity, is worse than the worst mass extinction episode recorded in the fossil record: the Permian event some 250 million years ago.
But these mass events obscure the fact that, in the history of life, extinction has been a dominant theme, a continuous process. Evidence from the last 600 million years shows roughly one-third of existing animal species going extinct every 10 million years.
Seen in this context, the rate of extinction in the human evolutionary tree is striking, about three times faster than normal. This strongly suggests that we hominins are a highly extinction-prone mammal.
The blame game
Why the dramatic loss of hominin diversity? What caused all these species to disappear? These are difficult and complex questions, but the answer may in part centre on the dramatic changes in climate that provided the backdrop for much of our evolution.
Hominins, pre-dating our own species, were living in Europe at latitudes as high as 53° north by 700,000 years ago.
The tyranny of chance
Biologists have identified various intrinsic features of mammal species that increase their chances of extinction. They include traits such as:
- large body size
- narrow ecological breadth (i.e. specialist feeders)
- low abundance, or sparse numbers of individuals, in the landscape as well as fluctuation in population over time.
Hominins are large mammals. Estimates of mass and stature for many Ice Age species would easily qualify them for spots on the front row of a rugby team … and that’s just the females!
Estimates of population size from this period are remarkably low, with perhaps only 5,000 individuals in warm phases, plummeting to 1,000 or less during the cold stages, probably for the whole of Europe.
If around today, these individuals would be part of an endangered species, vulnerable to rapid extinction. And all of this applied to our own species as well for all but the last little bit of our brief evolutionary history.
Around 10,000 years ago, something unprecedented occurred that altered the course of our evolution: we invented farming. This massive change in dietary, social and economic behavior, a cultural shift known as the Neolithic Revolution, shaped the future course of our own, and the planet’s, evolution in remarkable and unpredictable ways.
It resulted in anatomical, physiological and genetic changes that massively altered our evolution.
Our domestication of plants and animals, and the large-scale clearing of land, altered the history of many others as well. It paved the way for a rise in infectious disease, and social changes such as occupational specialisation, writing, standing armies and empires, long distance trade, money and markets.
But the most profound shift of all was an explosion in human population, the result of greatly improved food security resulting in a dramatic lowering of infant and childhood mortality.
In Europe, from a base of perhaps only 5,000 Ice Age hunter-gatherers, the take-up of farming from approximately 8,000 years ago sharply increased population growth to an estimated rate of 3% per annum, from a long-term average of zero.
This is roughly three times today’s global annual growth rate. From a population of less than 100,000 people worldwide, we have grown in less than 10,000 years to almost 7 billion.
Moments lost in time
Seen in its broadest context, the history of life on Earth soberly demonstrates that the vast majority of organisms that ever lived, perhaps 99% of them, no longer do. It also shows that mammal species normally last 1-2 million years before extinction inevitably bumps them off.
Yet, unlike most mammals, including our dozens of extinct hominin cousins, we have escaped the vulnerabilities of a small and massively fluctuating population.
The simple, but profound act, of growing our own food delivered us the food security that ensured most of our children survived and our population grew.
In effect, farming gave our species level assurance that the biological isn’t always inevitable. The odds have shifted to such a degree that we may now be, with or without climate change, extinction-proof.
Author: Darren Curnoe | Source: The Conversation [June 06, 2011]