Thursday, November 28, 2013

History mystery: Walking The Death, Sets The Minds Reeling

Walking The Death-1
Few of the Toraja people follow the ancestral animist belief which has three levels. The sky being the upper level which is ruled by the supreme god Puang Matua, creator of the people, plants and animals, while the land is the intermediary level and the underground, the place of the spirits, death and darkness. Their funeral ceremony takes place nine days after the first ceremony or later or even after several months in order to raise necessary funds for the funeral ceremony. The dead in the meanwhile are placed inside the house and the body is not placed in the tomb resulting in his soul searching for its way. When the funeral rites are restarted and the dead is put in a coffin, it must not touch the ground and hence it is carried on a hearse similar to a Toraja house through fields and rice paddies amidst sound of gong in the vast field of Ma’Palolo. The ceremony takes place in the day called `towards the tomb’, and the dead leave the field where the coffin located on the hearse is carried on the shoulders of the men. This being the last journey, the procession is accompanied by singing, reaching the funeral promenade which is a large rock in which the sepulcher of the families are carved and ascend is through large ladder made of tall bamboo stem with notches.

Walking The Death-2
Thereafter the people return home and thirty days later, the relative renounce to the mourning clothes. But in the ancient past it was believed that the dead should be buried not at the place of their death but in the village of origin and since these villages were at distant places and isolated, it became difficult for family members to carry the dead all the way to these distant villages. The possibility of seeking help from people was sought to make the dead man to walk back to the village where they were born. It was some sort of a mobile service for the dead making a stiff, motionless being to walk straight ahead without any expression and it was said that if anyone would address the corpse directly, it would collapse and be unable to continue the journey. These ceremonies were conducted in Tana Toraja Regency of South Sulawesi Island, in Indonesia where the deceased who had died away from the place of birth were temporarily revived (though the method of revival is unknown) in order to make them walk back to their birthplace to be laid to rest with proper respect. The Toraja society has an intriguing story regarding their rituals of death and the afterlife. It is believed to have come from Tibet where the dead are relocated from their tomb to replace their clothing each year.

Walking The Death-3
When the Tana Toraja people die, they are often kept in boxes which are then placed in tombs carved out of solid rock high up on the cliff and are not buried in the ground. With due respect to the dead and their afterlife, the boxes are removed from the tombs every few years and the body are cleaned and redressed. If the boxes are damaged they are replaced or fixed. Their funeral ceremonies being so extensive, it is also expensive and hence funds need to be raised for the same. The people of Toraja believe that death is a long process and at times takes years as the deceased gradually work their way towards Puya – the afterlife and hence the dead are placed in temporary coffin during which time the family accumulate the required funds for a proper funeral. When the funds are raised the Toraja believe that the dead are able to walk to their new burial site. Corpse walking is part of their tradition and the body is held in a standing position to stimulate ambulation. The body follows guided by black magic expert which takes it to the funeral site.

Walking The Death-4
It is believed that as a rule, if the corpse is called by name, the body falls and will not rise again. Hence those accompanying the dead during the procession would warn people they met, not to talk directly to the dead. The procession path was also chosen through quiet paths where the chances of meeting strangers seem less. According to their belief, the spirit of the dead person should return to their village of origin where it was necessary to meet his relatives who can guide them on their final journey into the afterlife after the completion of the ceremony. Earlier, the people were frightened to travel far in case they would die while they were away and then would find it difficult to return to their village. Nowadays the practice of walking the dead to their place of origin has reduced and this practice is slowly declining.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

History mystery: Amazing Facts on Mohenjo-Daro’s Town Planning

Great Bath

An archeological site in the province of Sindh, in Pakistan, known as Mound of Dead – Mohenjo-Daro was built around 2600 BCE and was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. It is also one of the world’s earliest major urban settlements which was abandoned in the 19th century and only rediscovered towards 1922. Several excavations have been conducted at the site and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980. Where town planning was concerned, the people of the Indus Valley civilization had achieved some amazing standards and each city when planned at the peak of the civilization housed around 40,000 people. A technologically as well as sophisticated advanced urban culture is portrayed in the Indus Valley civilization and the quality of municipal planning indicates knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments with high focus on hygiene. The streets of major cities were constructed in a perfect grid pattern which could be compared to the present times of New York and the houses were secluded from noise, thieves and odor.

A typical city was divided into two sections with each separately fortified where one section was located on an artificially raised mound known as the acropolis and the other was on ground level. It was the acropolis which contained the important buildings of the city such as the assembly halls, granaries, religious structures and the famous Great Bath of Mohenjo-Daro. The amazing construction of the Great Bath had the entire structure of about 179 feet long and 107 feet wide with the complex having a large quadrangle in the middle with galleries and rooms all around it. At the centre of the quadrangle was a large swimming enclosure of around 39 feet long with 23 feet wide and 8 feet deep with steps to a brick lined pool where the entire complex was connected to a water supply and sewer system. This Great Bath area was well built with layer of natural tar to keep away leakage and was presumed to be used for ritualistic or religious purposes It also featured a large well and central market place with a building having an underground furnace possibly for heated bathing. It was a well fortified city lacking actual city walls though it had towers to the west of the main settlement and defensive fortification towards the south. Another special feature of this city was the large granary which had an impressive structure running 150 feet long, with 75 feet wide and 15 feet high which gave an astounding space of 168,750 cubic feet. This was divided into 27 compartments in three rows and was well ventilated making it possible to fill in grain from outside and its large sized space probably indicated a highly developed agricultural civilization. The town plan was regular and the lower section of the city housed the inhabitants and here amazing features have been discovered.

Great Bath-1
The city having broad roads around 30 meters long were well connected which met at right angle. The fire baked bricks were uniform in shape and size while the regularity of construction and plan indicated a government that was well organized and with bureaucratic capacity. The houses were built with standardized baked bricks with many spacious courtyards while some of the bigger houses had multiple stories with paved floors. Another amazing fact is that almost every house had its own wells, bathrooms and drains with each house directly connected to an underground sewer system which ran throughout the city. This urban plan had the world’s first urban sanitation systems and within the city, the individual homes or groups had provision of water from wells which appeared to be set aside for bathing and the waste water was directed to covered drains which were lined along the major streets while houses only opened to inner courtyards and smaller lanes. Moreover the houses were constructed on plinth which rose above the ground level accompanied with stairs which were at the wall towards the front door having flat roofs and looked identical. The planning was done in a way so as to avoid any type of hindrance on the road with each detail well planned. The Indus Valley Civilization inhabitants thus enjoyed to some extent an excellent sanitary convenience as well as highly developed municipal life and the fact is that this civilization existed almost five hundred years ago. Mohenjo-Daro had amazing construction considering its antiquity with its planned layout based on grid of streets laid out in a perfect pattern.

Mohenjo daro drainage  system
At its height the city accommodated around 35,000 inhabitants and the buildings of this city was particularly far advanced with structures of same sized sun dried bricks of baked mud and burnt wood. Towards 1900 BCE, gradual decline began and people started to leave the city. The people who remained were probably poorly nourished and by 1800 BC most of the cities were abandoned. According to Sir Mortimer Wheeler, he proposed that the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by the invasion of an Indo European tribe from Central Asia and as evidence, he provided a group of 37 skeletons found in various parts of Mohenjo-Daro as well as passages found in the Vedas with reference to battles and forts though some rejected his theory. However this civilization did not disappear all of a sudden and many elements of the Indus Civilization are found in later cultures.

Mohenjo-Daro was destroyed and rebuilt at least seven times and each time a new city was built, it was rebuilt on top of the old ones. The flooding of the Indus probably led to believe the cause of destruction. The town planning of this city has amazed the archaeologist all over the world and excavations are being carried out till date leaving an everlasting effect on the people of today. This city has become a specimen of a wonderful town planning in the present world and has also inspired many. It is amazing to believe that in the ancient past civilization, people could think scientifically and were conscious in building a dream city which was well planned and well executed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

History mystery:Funeral Custom of Toraja


Funeral Custom of Toraja-1
An ethnic group in the mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia known as the Toraja has a population of around 650,000 out of which 450,000 live in the regency of Tana Toraja. Majority of the population are Christian while others are Muslim or of local animist beliefs known as aluk or `the way’. Toraja is derived from the Bugis language which means people of the uplands and the Dutch colonial government in 1909 named them Toraja. The Torajans are known for their elaborate funeral rites. Their burial sites are carved into rocky cliffs and their tongkonan are massive peaked roof traditional houses together with colorful wood carvings. Tongkonan meaning `to sit’, comes from the Torajan tongkon word and is their traditional ancestral houses which stand high on wooden piles having layered split bamboo roof which are shaped in sweeping carved arc incised with black, yellow and red carvings on the exterior.

Funeral Custom of Toraja-2
These houses are said to be the center of their social life and the rituals connected with the tongkonan is believed to be of great importance to Torajan’s spiritual life. Hence the family members are expected to participate in these rituals since it is a link between the ancestors, the living and the future generation. The Torojan myth is that the first tongkonan was built in heaven on four poles having a roof made of Indian cloth and when the first Torojan had come to earth he prepared similar houses and performed huge ceremony. They have amazing funeral rites which are social events, normally attended by a huge number of people and last for several days. To divulge deeper into the history of the Torajans, before the 20th century, they lived in autonomous villages and practiced animism and were untouched by the outside world. Towards 1900, Dutch missionaries converted these highlanders to Christianity and when the Tana Toraja regency expanded towards the outside world in the year 1970, it became a target of tourism of Indonesia with many tourism developer and anthropologists making their contributions in exploiting and researching. In the year 1990 this society changed considerably when tourism improved and their social life and customers were outgrown to a larger Christian society. Being a living tradition of the Tana Toraja Traditional Settlement, it is a heritage which has been handed over from one generation to another for around 700 years or maybe even longer during the prehistoric age.

Funeral Custom of Toraja-3
The funeral rituals of the Toraja society, is an expensive event and the richer and powerful an individual is, the more expensive is their funeral. The nobles according to the aluk religion are the only ones who have the right to have a death feast which is extensive and is attended by thousands of people lasting for several days. Rante, a ceremonial site which is prepared on a large green field with shelters for the people together with rice barns and other funeral ceremonial provisions for the deceased family is provided. Besides this, funeral chants, flute music poems and songs together with wailing and crying for the deceased are traditional Toraja expression of sorrow and grief. The ceremonies were often held weeks, months or even years after the death to enable the family of the deceased to raise the necessary funds to cover the expenses for the funeral ceremony. According to the Torajans, they believed that death is not an abrupt and sudden end but a gradual process towards the land of souls or after life also known as `Puya’. The body of the deceased during the waiting period is wrapped in many layers of cloth which is kept under the tongkonam and their belief is that the soul of the deceased lingers around the village till the funeral ceremony has attained completion when it begins its final journey to the land of souls or life after death. Their funeral ceremonies being a sad event also calls for occasion for entire families who gather from different locations of the globe as well as the villagers to take part in communal gatherings resulting in renewing relationships as well as reconfirming their beliefs and traditions set out by their ancestors.

Funeral Custom of Toraja-4
 For the preparation of the funeral ceremony, family members together with the villagers build a tower on a planned ceremonial site and the meat of slaughtered cattle is distributed during the ceremony. At the center, a stake is planted where the sacrificial animal is tied and killed and around the site, temporary shelters like balconies are erected to enable the people to watch the proceedings of the ceremony. The following day, the coffin of the dead person is shifted down from the tongkonan to the rice barn ground and decorated all around the bier. At the onset of the ceremony, a priest or a pastor celebrates a Catholic Mass or a Protestant service for the family members and the public funeral service begins.

Funeral Custom of Toraja-5
This being the most important ceremony, for the deceased, all the family members belonging to various locations join together in order to participate in this ceremony. For the formal procession known as the Ma’pass Tedong, an official day is dedicated, where families, individuals and groups bring along gifts and contributions which range from water buffaloes to pigs, alcoholic drinks and rice which are announced and registered giving rise to donors showing off their gifts by walking around the ceremonial site watched by everyone and getting to know who has given which gift. Moreover this part of the ceremony also confirms one’s status and wealth in society while it also enables the family in helping in the debts unpaid.

Funeral Custom of Toraja-6
Towards evening, the coffin is then brought by hundreds of people to the funeral site and placed on the high house followed by procession and the start of the buffalo fights amidst a lot of betting going on. Their method of burial is of three types wherein the coffin may be laid in a carved stone grave or in a cave, or hung on a cliff containing possession which the deceased may be in need of, in the afterlife. The ritual called Ma’Nene takes place in August each year and the bodies of the deceased are exhumed to be washed and groomed, dressed in new attire and the mummies are then taken around the village.

History mystery: Dravidian Architecture

Great Bath
The legacy of Mohenjo-Daro symbolizes the vibrant past from the times when the inhabitants from several parts of the world lived in caves. A recent survey into civilization indicates that Mohenjo-Daro civilization was perhaps the first kind of civilization where the concept of civil engineering, architecture and luxurious life styles prevailed which was not less than the current standard at that time. Mohenjo-Daro had a planned layout based on a grid of streets having structures built of bricks of baked mud, sun dried bricks as well as burned wood. The city probably had around 35,000 inhabitants. With its advanced drainage system, they had a variety of buildings of up to two storeys high with an elaborate bath space. It also featured a large well being an agricultural city as well as a granary and central market place.

GreatBath drain
Another amazing discovery was the building with an underground furnace or hypocaust which was probably used for heating the bathing with some similarity to those Baths built during the Roman period. The Great Bath was of fine quality brick work and drains which was 40 feet long and 8 feet deep and was a public facility according to normal standards. It was watertight with the use of two layers of brick, lime cement and finally sealed with bitumen or tar to stop any water leakage. The bath also included a shallow section for children and had channels to fill fresh water from river as well as drain the water out in to downstream. Besides, it had quarter turn steps in the main area on either sides rather than the main stairs in the centre.

The people of this civilization had gained spectacular standards in building their cities with each city carefully planned which housed the inhabitants where a typical city would be divided into two sections. This is turn was fortified separately with one section located on an artificially raise level known as the acropolis while the other was at ground level. It was at the acropolis which contained all the important buildings of the city like the assembly halls, religious structures, including the granaries as well as the Great Bath. The city was well connected with broad roads around 30 meters in length which met at right angle. The housing of the inhabitants was located within the rectangular squares that were formed and were built with standardized baked bricks having many spacious courtyards.

Mohenjadaro lower town
The bigger houses had provision for multiple stories with paved floors. The most peculiar discovery was that, every home had its own wells drains as well as bathrooms and the houses were directly connected to an underground sewer system which ran throughout the city. Thus these people enjoyed a life style of not only sanitary convenience but also a highly developed municipal life. The Dravidian or the Chola architecture was a style of architecture which emerged a thousand of years ago in the southern part of India and was built by the Dravidians. This style had a number of wonderful buildings, the growth of which had been patronized by various dynasties which ruled the region.

Mohenjadaro  high well
It consisted mainly of pyramid shaped temples called Kovils in Tamil which were intricately carved stones with a view to create step designs with many statues of deities, kings, warriors and dancers. In the ancient book Vastu shastra, it is mentioned as one of the three styles of temple building, which originated in the region of Tamil Nadu. A majority of the present buildings are in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Several kingdoms and empires namely Cholas, Chera, Chalikyas, Hoysalas, Pandvas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara Empire amongst others have a remarkable contribution to the evolution of the Dravidian architecture all through the ages. The earliest temple of the Dravidian was built by Cholas and it is appropriately called the Chola architecture.

teracotta drain line
 The Great Living Chola temples are of three granite temples namely, Brihadisvara in Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram which are dedicated to Shiva, showing the progress and development of its architecture and art. The Chola civilization is depicted between the 10th and the 13th century which was then succeeded by the Pallavan dynasty. Besides this, the Dravidian styled architecture was also found in the various parts of North India, central and northeastern Sri Lanka, Maldives as well as in the various parts of Southeast Asia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Prambanan in Indonesia. All these were built based on the early Chola Architecture. The Chola period domination was the golden age for Dravidian architecture and under the reign of the great kings, Rajaraja and his son Rajendra Chola, all architectural activities got royal patronage and the temples built during that time were large ones like the Grate Temple of Thanjavur. The Pallava period also provided several building, the earliest one being the rock cut temples and later on there were temples carved in one stone. It was the Pallavas who introduced the technique of building in stone in Tamil Nadu and were pioneers of South Indian architecture.

Tharasuram temple
Their rock cut temples dated way back to 610 – 690 CE and the structural temples between 690 – 900 CE, their greatest accomplishment being the rock cut temples at Mahabalipuram. There are also excavated pillared halls and monolithic shrines called rathas in Mahabalipuram and the early temples were dedicated to Shiva. Another example of the Palava style temple is the Kailasanatha temple also called Rajasimha Pallaveswaram in Kanchipuram which was built by Narasimhavarmsn II or Rajasmha. The Shore Temple constructed near Mahabalipuram by him is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Pandya style saw the beginning of huge towers, high wall enclosures and massive towered gateways while the Vijayanagar style was noted for its intricacy and beauty for the decorated monolithic pillars. All these description of the Dravidian temple styles are found in Tamil Nadu and the age of the temple are determined from the architectural features displayed by it together with references found in the ancient literature. The stone inscriptions found in most of the temples give us some indication on the history and the patronage extended to them by various rulers.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Apollo Spaceflight


The Apollo program, one of the most famous in American history, was the third human spaceflight program which was carried out by National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA, the United State’s civilian space agency and was responsible for the landing of the first humans on the Earth’s Moon in 1969. It was first conceived during the time of Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower with a three man spacecraft followed by one man Project Mercury putting the first Americans in space. Apollo later on was dedicated to President, John F. Kennedy’s national goal of landing a man on the Moon and bringing him back safely to Earth towards the end of 1960 when he proposed an address to Congress in May 25, 1961. Project Mercury was then followed by two-man Project Gemini between 1962–1966 and the first manned flight of Apollo was in the year 1968 and Kennedy’s goal was finally accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their LM, Lunar Module on the Moon on July 20, 1969 and walked on its surface while Michael Collins stayed in lunar orbit in the command spacecraft and thereafter, all three landed safely back to Earth on July 24.

After this, five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon the last being in December 1972 and it included a large number of uncrewed test missions and 12 crewed missions: Apollo 7, 9 and Apollo Soyuz, three Earth orbiting missions with two lunar orbiting missions – Apollo 8 and 10, a lunar swing-by Apollo 13 together with 6 Moon landing missions Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Two astronauts from each of these six missions walked on the moon and were the only humans who had the opportunity to set foot on another planet in the solar system. They were Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, Charles Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. The twelve men, who walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, came back with around 1/3 ton of moon rocks with the total funding for the Apollo program was approximately $20,443,600,000. Apollo 15, 16 and 17 provided important data with regards to geological features and enabled the formation of theories in accordance to the formation of the moon’s core, crust and mantle. The Apollo mission started with Apollo 1 also known as Apollo 204 with crew Edward White, Virgil Grissom and Roger Chaffee. It was destroyed on January 27, 1967 and planned launched was on February 21, 1967.

Apollo 1
Apollo 1 faced the worst tragedies of spaceflight when the crew in Apollo Command Module was killed in a fire during a preflight test at Cape Canaveral and was training for the first Apollo flight, an Earth orbiting mission which was planned for February 21. While they were taking part in plug out test, where the Command Module was mounted on the Saturn 18 of the launch pad as they normally do for actual launch, the Saturn 18 was not fueled and the plan had to go through an entire countdown sequence. Several minor problems propped up delaying the test with failure in communication taking place which forced a hold in the count at 5.40 pm. At 6:31, when one of the astronauts reported a fire in the cockpit, which spread in the entire cabin within a span of few minutes, the last crew communication was heard 17 seconds after the fire had started and they faced loss of telemetry.

Since the cabin had pure oxygen atmosphere at normal pressure for the test, the oxygen had circulated in the cabin resulting in spreading the fire rapidly in the cabin and the astronauts with no chance to open the hatch though the technician made attempts to open the hatch but were unable to do so due to the heat and the smoke. Moreover the Apollo hatch could only be opened from inside which were closed by a number of latches which needed to be operated by ratchets. Besides, it was also held closed by the interior pressure which was much higher than the outside atmospheric pressure and required venting of the command module before opening the hatch and the process of opening the hatch took 90 seconds under an ideal condition. All these problems that came up disabled the technicians in reaching the astronauts and by the time they succeeded in getting the hatch opened, approximately 5 minutes after the fire had broken off, the astronauts had perished due to the smoke inhalation and burns within the first 30 seconds.

A detailed investigation was made on the accident and the Apollo program was kept on hold for some time and the conclusion they arrived at was, that it was the most likely cause that there could be a spark from short circuit in a bundle of wires which ran in front of Grissom’s seat towards the left and with flammable material present in the cabin together with the oxygen environment that enabled the fire to break out and spread quickly. A good many suggestions came up after this event, which included designing a new hatch which could be opened outward and quickly. Removing flammable material and replacing them with fire extinguisher, making nitrogen oxygen mixture at launch together with recordings of all changes and checking all modifications to spacecraft designs more intently.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

History mystery: Wicked Bible

King James Version Bible

To err is human and everyone tends to be a victim to this folly. Anyone can make printing, writing or typing errors including the editors and companies printing the Holy Bible. Over the ages, some have even made mind twisting typographical mistakes and printing errors together with peculiar translation which have appeared in Bibles published. These genuine mistakes have appeared in copies of Bible text which were printed years ago after the autographs, stating that God only uttered the original text of the Scripture and not the copies.

Hence only the original texted copy is minus any error while the copies made thereafter have resulted in typographical errors but this does not change the contents of the original. King James Version Bible is one of the most rare collector’s item where the printers were fined 300 sterling pounds and deprived of their license to print, for their typographical error done in printing the Ten Commandments in omitting the most important word `Not’ rendering one of the commandments causing the text to read as `Thou shall commit adultery’ instead of `Thou shall Not commit adultery’, after which 1000 copies were destroyed with the exception of a few copies which escaped destruction, thus making them the rarest of the rare copies available.

Wicked Bible

Termed as the Wicked Bible, it was meant to be a reprint of King James Bible but due to the blunder in the print, all copies were ordered to be destroyed though a copy is in the collection of the New York Public Library and is very rarely made accessible, while another copy is available in the Bible Museum in Branson, Missouri. Yet another coy can be seen in the Dunham Bible Museum in Houston, Texas, USA and the British Library in London had a copy on display which was opened to the misprinted commandment in a free exhibition to the people.

The Bible had also appeared on display for a short time period at the Ink and Blood Exhibition in Gadsden, Alabama around 15 August to 1st September 2009, a copy of which was displayed until June 18 2011 at the Cambridge University Library exhibition in England on the occasion of the 400 year anniversary of the KJV. This edition of the King James Bible since then has been referred to as the Adulterous Bible or Sinner’s Bible, besides being called the Wicked Bible which was published in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas who were the royal printers in London with the intention of making a reprint of King James Bible.

 These are the only ones for sale costing around $99,500. This erroneous print caused great chaos and such a flagrant mistake outraged Charles I and George Abbot the Archbishop of Canterbury resulting in the majority of the copies to be cancelled and destroyed and depriving the printers of their license.

The omission of a single `not’ to the seventh commandment of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai was a set of biblical principles which were related to the worship ethics playing an important role in Christianity and Judaism. It also included the instructions to worship only God, keeping the Sabbath holy, prohibiting idol worship, blasphemy, murder, theft, dishonesty including adultery.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

History mystery: Castrati Singers

Castrati Singers
Singing is not only ancient and universal, but in primitive cultures, it was considered as an important factor with regards to entertainment or service and was important to individuals, social groups or religion. Singing as the vocal production of musical tones, is so basic to man that its origins are lost in the antiquity and predates the development of spoken language and the voice is presumed as the original musical instrument and there are no instances where human culture however isolated or otherwise that does not sing. In the mid 16th century, which lasted for around 300 years, the musical castrati was a craze in Europe where male soprano singers, originally from Italy, were castrated before puberty in order to preserve their high voices and singers having angelic and soaring voices were used for important role in singing.

This coincided with the development in the popularity of opera where the castrati were considered as featured performers. The castrati, the plural form of castrato, an Italian word for one who is castrated, were male singers castrated before puberty in order to enable them to develop a powerful voice in soprano or contralto range and the usual age for castration was between the age of 7 and 12 years. It became necessary for boys between this age group to sign a contract wishing to be castrated; the vast majority was still ignorant about the implication of the entire procedure. Some were led to believe that it was necessary for boys between this age group to sign a contract wishing to be castrated, while the vast majority was still ignorant about the implication of the entire procedure.

Castrati Singers
Some were under the misconception that the operation was the result of medical necessity rather than the economic benefit of those involved in this procedure. It was believed that when a boy was castrated before puberty, his voice would always remain high pitched and they would be great singers. Such singers were employed mainly in Italian churches during the 17th and 18th century who become prominent performers for operas. The practice of castration for the purpose of music was peculiar in Italy and to a certain extent in Germany. Evidence show that castrati were often employed as chapel singers in the early 1500s in these countries where the church for centuries had banned women from singing during services and had to depend on boy sopranos or men singing in high vocal tones. This practice was important in Baroque music which preceded the development of music in modern classical era and was a way of preserving the beautiful voices of male singers.

Castrati Singers
These castrated singers performed when women were not allowed to do so and the men could sing much better than women in many ways. Having beautiful voices of women with strong powerful lungs and chest muscles of men, composers began to write music which could demonstrate their abilities and for Baroque composers, excellent music meant more difficult with an elaborate ornamental melodious lines. This music of high Baroque era was tailored to the demands of the castrati and the prima donnas where the melodies and harmonies were simpler, clear-cut and the bass remaining iterated and static.

Castrati Singers
The reason for pre pubertal castration was to preserve the male unbroken voice into adult life and from pre puberty to adulthood there is an increase in the anteroposterior length of the thyroid cartilage which is three times greater in the male than in female, giving rise to the prominent `Adam’s apple’, where there is a greater chance of increase in weight of the thyroid, cricoids and arytenoids cartilages. Some specific receptors for dihydrotestosterone are identified in most tissues of male larynx and oestrogen receptors have also been found in non human primate larynx though it is uncertain whether oestradiol is responsible in the smaller growth of the human female larynx. In both the genders, the increased somatic growth which occurs at the time of puberty is brought about by growth hormone and other factors as well as the genetic influence of the X and Y chromosomes and this generalized growth leads to enlargement of the pharynx, oral cavity, thoracic cavity, skull sinuses resulting in the characteristic resonance and power of the adult voice when compared to that of a child. For Baroque music, the castrati was an important element and there were several major factors responsible for the development of Baroque music, resulting in large amount of money together with attention that was given to musicians and artist at that time. The style of the Baroque music spread from simple form of ornamenting the vocal line of the castratos’ singers to display their dynamic range and abilities and it was the church which played an important role in introducing the castrati to western music where they were at an advantage to sing naturally in the range of a boy soprano with the stamina and power of a man.

With regards to career, singers as young of twelve years of age were introduced in minor roles in the operas while the older newcomers were at times used in female roles until they were well established and could fit into the roles of main characters. Exceptional good singers who rose up in fame and well known had opera houses offering them the choicest roles in their productions. The salaries of these castrato singers increased with the rise in demand surprising their contemporaries at the rapid rise in their salaries. As opera seasons were normally of short duration, singers were often uncertain about the revenue during the times when there were no opera performances. Some of the castratos’ singers on their part with fame and fortune would behave like celebrity and many a times would be demanding. Most of the fact related to the rise and development of the castrati, remains a mystery since castration was by no means a new practice though it had been performed in various cultures and for several reasons in ancient times. The practice of castrating young boys virtually declined by the 19th century but the musical tradition did not immediately disappear in the conservative church.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

History mystery: Apollo’s Numbers – Part II

Apollo with Lyre
The special forms of lyre namely phorminx and the kithara were used more or less by professionals while the ordinary lyre was used for the social life due to its unsuitability of its softness for open air use. The strings of Hermes’ lyre vary but probably four strings were widely used originally and later on increased in number. The tetrachord or the four strings had to be tuned so that the first and the fourth strings could define the interval known as the fourth while the tuning of the other two strings seems uncertain. Towards 670 BC, the tetrachord got expanded with improvement by Terpander who added three strings to the original four strings while the last string of the original string acted as the double duty as well as the first string to the newly added strings together providing a new tetrachord. Mevsh or middle, being the common string, was considered the most important of all the seven strings. Based on standard pitch nowadays, A is considered as 440 vibrations per second and each lyre player tuned the strings to suit their own voice though whichever pitch was taken as fundamental for tonic or base note, the interval between the first and the fourth strings and between the fourth and seventh stings were called a fourth. The second, third, fifth and sixth strings were tuned according to the player and a number of varieties of tuning were used.

Performance was based solely on the ear and if the fourth and the fifth strings of tetrachord could conform to the interval of a fourth, the final results was the ear of the player that established it besides the fundamentals or tonic. Practitioners while committed to the interval of fourth as the basis for their instrument’s structure for performances had another larger interval demanding increased attention by way of octave. The string lengths were related to vibrations and shorter the string, greater was the number of vibrations resulting in higher tone. The Greeks had no means of measuring the vibrations of string but could measure its length and the common practice was to put the higher number first in a musical ratio though it was their custom to sing or play in descending scales while the custom presently is on ascending scales. Here the relationship between two tones is a ratio and the numbers are measured either on string length or vibrations, the ratio of which is called the interval between two tones. Intervals cannot be treated as string lengths and added but they may be combined. Combining ratio and intervals: When a numerical ratio is written as a:b, a, the first term is called the antecedent and b the second term is known as the consequent.

Pythagoras’s general principle has given illustration which shows that the interval which we call octave was defined by ratio 2:1 which means that if a string length was doubled it would define the tone of the octave below or if it was halved it would define the tone above. For scientific purposes, Pythagoras established the octave as the predominant interval and defined that it was the simplest string divisions and multiplications through doubling or dividing and the discovery in the use of the first two integers, 1 & 2, were the results of the most consonant of intervals. The next most natural consonants, the fifth, was defined by the ratio 3:2, and if a given string length is divided into three similar parts, the interval between whole string length and length of two of its part can be known as a fifth. With an interval of octave, it is possible to produce from a higher tone of the octave to a descending fifth which leaves the interval of a fourth i.e. `doh to fah’ and it is observed that an octave has been made up of fifth and a fourth. For the Greeks, the octave and the fifth were natural with pleasing sound to the human ear. In consideration of the lyre, the term octave is used but we do not have the scale eight tones but only seven tones due to the last tone of one string which did double duty as the first tone of the other tetrachord. Pythagoras used intervals to provide steps in the scale and he called a whole tone or just a tone and it was this interval which was used to separate the two tetrachords. With the given array of numbers representing the divided octave: 6 8 9 12 where 6:8 is the fourth and 6:9 is the fifth and the difference between them is the interval of 8:9 being a numerical expression of the whole tone of Pythagoras. Each fourth proposed by him should be divided into whole tones though the fourth will not contain the exact number of the whole tones and it will hold only two whole tones with a smaller interval left being close to a semitone or a half a whole tone with a calculated value of 234:256.

For example:

Let x:y be the left over interval

9:8 compounded with 9:8 compounded with x:y :: 4:3

Or 81:64 cp with x:y :: 4:3

Or x:y:: 4:3cp with 64:81

So x:y :: 256:24

On combining intervals; by multiplying we get

9/8 x 9/8 x 256/243 = 20736/15552 = 4/3 tone  tone   semitone   fourth, and the Pythagorean scale of one octave was made of following intervals -> tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, 

(first tetrachord)    (middle)     (second tetrachord) 

The arrangement was satisfactory with regards to the practical and ancient traditions of tetrachand though it was within the arithmetical musical division of the octave of Pythagoras. The division of tetrachand was in two whole tones as well as a semitone from which this system derived its name from those tones and was called the diatonic system. Scale or scales was the necessary base for tuning theory and diatonic scales were constructed mathematically or theoretically within the octave with the fifth and the fourth, while there was another method of constructing the scale with only the two intervals of an octave and a fifth, the method of which is known as the Spiral of Fifths. This had the advantage of being empirically tuned.

Friday, November 15, 2013

History mystery: Dravidian Maritime Knowledge

Maritime route
Maritime State of Tamil Nadu has an interesting history which dates way back to 6000 years ago which has been the cradle of the Dravidian culture. Trade relation resulted with the migration of people and developed into cultural relation with many neighboring countries. The Dravidians were the earliest people who build cities and engaged in extensive export and import business both through sea and land and by 7000 BC, camel trains trips were regularly done to distant Mesopotamia with Dravidian shipping pushing coastwise across the Arabian Sea to the Sumerian cities of the Persian Gulf and across the waters of the Bay of Bengal to the East Indies. The art of writing together with an alphabet was also imported from Sumeria by the seafarers and the merchants. The Dravidian centers of culture were in the river valleys namely the Indus and Ganges and along the three great rivers which flowed through the Eastern Ghats to the sea in the Deccan.

Moreover the settlements along the seacoast towards the Western Ghats had their prominence to maritime relationship with Sumeria. An ancient port having flourishing maritime trade namely, Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram is located on the shore of the Bay of Bengal and was the chief sea port of the Pallavas ruling over South India during the 1st century BC to 8th century AD. It has been recognized as the site of the greatest sculptural and architectural achievement in India. It was during the reign of Narasimha Varman, that this seaport began to grow as a great artistic centre and Mamallapuram is now a world heritage site as well as a testimony of the early Dravidians style of architecture. Most of the well known dynasties namely Chola, Chera and Pandya which reigned during the 4th century had maritime trade with countries like Far East Burma, Java as well as other Indo Chinese region while the Pallava dynasty ruled during the 4th century.

During the Medieval Cholas reign, the Chola Navy grew both in size and stature and their Admirals were treated with prestige and respected in the society. Earliest record of naval function dates back to the 1st century in the Roman report which presently is known as Poombuhar, where a description is made on how the trade vessels were escorted by the King’s fleet to the natural harbor at the mouth of the river Kaveri. Activities on the existence of maritime is derived from some excavated wooden plaques portraying naval engagements in the location of the old city and some knowledge into the naval activities of the Cholas has been derived from Periplus of the Erythrean Sea. Description from this unknown author relates the activity of escort ships assigned to merchant vessels with valuable cargo where these early naval ships had a kind of rudimentary flame thrower or a catapult type of weapon.

Great ships like the Colandia were used by the early Cholas which was used to sail to the Pacific islands from Kaveripatnam as a center. With the rise of the Vijalaya dynasty the Chola navy took shape in the aftermath of the Chola power and during the Pallavas’ rule took control of the territories as well as the cultural and socio economic affairs thus inheriting dominance over trade and control over seas from the Pallavas. Serious efforts during the reign of the Pallava king, Simavishnu, was done to control the piracy in South East Asia, to establish a friendly Tamil regime in the Malay peninsula though this effort was only accomplished three centuries thereafter by the new Chola naval power. The Cholas also excelled in maritime activity and foreign trade spreading their influence towards China and Southeast Asia and an inscription dated 1088, was found in Sumatra in the Chola country which indicates that there was an active overseas trade during the Chola period. At the end of the 9th century, southern India progressed extensively in maritime and commercial activity especially with the Arabs and the Chinese and the Cholas having control over the west as well as the east coasts of peninsular India were at the forefront of all these ventures.

ancient shipbuilding
Their main trading partners were the Tang Dynasty of China, the Srivijaya Empire in the Malayan archipelago under the control of the Sailendras and the Abbasid Kalifat at Baghdad. Trading with the Chinese was a very profitable enterprise and the traders needed the approval from the king and the license from the customs force department for overseas voyages in trading. The duration for normal trade voyage required three legs of journey beginning with Indian goods of spices, cotton and gems shipped to China with the return journey with Chinese goods of silk, incense and iron which were brought back to the Chola ports. Some of these materials were used for local consumptions while the remaining cargo along with Indian cargo was shipped to the Arabs where this transfer involved material cargo to many ships before they reached the final destination.

Ancient Chola navy’s trade vessel designs were upgraded to boarding implements which changed throughout history and the later navy was a specialized force with built ships suitable for any type of combat. In addition to the regular navy namely the Kappal-Padai, they had many auxiliary forces which could be used for naval combat. The Army depended on the Naval-fleets for logistics and transportation. Besides this, the Chola Navy also had autonomous service, a core for marines as well as saboteurs who were trained pearl fishermen and dived to disable enemy vessels by destroying or damaging the rudder.

 The Chola would also undertake peace time patrol, escort trade conveys and friendly vessels. They would also undertake naval battle close to home ports and at high seas, establish a beach head or reinforce the army whenever the need arose, denied passage for allies of the state’s enemies and sabotage the vessels of the enemies. Their multi dimensional force prepared the Cholas to achieve the political, military as well as cultural control over their huge dominion. The supreme commander was the king or the emperor of the entire navy and military force.

Monday, November 11, 2013

History mystery: Shiva - God of Dravidians or Aryans?

Shiva - Pasupathi
There is much controversy about the Aryans and the Dravidians where some debate that the Dravidians were a race who were aborigines of Indian subcontinent while others say they migrated into India. The Aryans on the other hand migrated to India from Central Asia forcing the Dravidian towards the South. The physical character of the Dravidians were short in height, well versed with urban culture, of black complexion and were the followers of Lord Shiva while the Aryans who were well built, of white complexion, rural inhabitants, were the worshippers of nature. With constant fight going on between them, the Aryans pushed the Dravidians down towards the banks of the River Sindhu, southwards and settled in the Northern plains of India. There were lots of contradiction with the Aryan Dravidian race theory, the latest being that the Indus Valley civilization, the actual Saraswati valley civilization and the river Saraswati, the lifeline of the people had dried up which caused them to move out of that area to a more fertile East and South territory.

Shiva of Gandhara
As far as their belief was concerned, the advocates of invasion theory state that the inhabitants of Indus Valley were Saivites – Shiva worshippers and since Saivism is more prevalent among South Indians, the conclusion is that the inhabitants of Indus valley region could have been the Dravidians and worshippers of Shiva else Pasupathi. The Aryan Vaishnavites, the star calendar used by them was adopted from the Semito Dravidian Indus Valley Civilization since it is not referred in the Rig Veda or Avesta and before the Aryans came to India it was compiled when the Indus Valley was at its peak.

Hinduism is a subject with many interpretations and to some it may appear to be confusing. Contradictions are seen in every scripture in the world and Hindu scriptures also contain some contradictory ideas which have been stemmed from different ideas right from its development of primitive to the present religion. Hinduism, considered as a culture and way of life as well as a religion started around 3000 BC with the Indus River civilization and the Sindh Indo Pakistani region and the two cultures blended together to form the beginning of Hinduism with the Aryans of the north and Northwest regions of India and the Dravidians presumed to be of central Asian origin, of south India.

As Indra was Aryan war lord and all hymns have been dedicated to him, studies show that Shiva was a non Aryan king who fought the Aryans. Shiva worship is also known in the Vedic culture and is not only restricted to South India, but some of the important holy places for Saivites are also located in North India where the traditional holy residence of Lord Shiva is Mount Kailas which is situated to the far north. The ancient Dravidian worship, developed into a six fold religion and the worship of Sivalinka developed in different angles. There are various theories about the proper origin of the world Dravida which is a Sanskrit word and according to scholars could be the formation of the Tamil word while others say that the word Dravida may have originated from Sanskrit – Drava which could be related to water or sea and the root word for this is Drava in Sanskrit, signifying that the people of India lived nearer to the sea. The Tamils started using the word Dravida only in the 9th century AD in the context of the linguistics and the Tamil lexicon called Senthan Divakaram used Dravidam to denote Tamil.  The Dravidians are presumed to be the composers of religious treatises and hymns in Tamil language as well as the founders of magnificent and amazing stone temples all over India. They also prospered in many kingdoms and the temples established by them got religious importance by visitors of Hindu religious heritage.

They also influenced Hinduism which is evident especially in the South. Besides this, many elements of the Tantra are their heritage while many of the rites are traceable to their earliest culture and the Dravidians are the ones who have made their contribution to the philosophy of non dualism of Lord Shiva. They have contributed to the cult of Lord Shiva, the worship of Shakti, the Mother Goddess as well as the institution of Yoga and have given us several symbols connected with these gods and goddesses. The worship of Shiva in the form of a lingam or linga is depicted in various forms and one common form is the shape of a vertical rounded column. The meaning of Shiva is auspiciousness and linga means a symbol or sign and Shivalinga is considered as a symbol of the great God of the universe who is auspicious. Moreover Shiva also means – one in whom the whole creation sleeps after dissolution and linga – a place where created objects are dissolved during disintegration of the created world. According to Hinduism, since Shivalinga represents God himself, it is the same god that creates and sustains the universe. One of the famous Indian temples dedicated to Shiva is in Kashi, Varanasi where he is worshipped as Visvanath who is considered as the God of all lands and there are twelve jyotirlinga temples in various locations of the country. Temples featuring architecture mainly in the South have been the origins of the Dravidians. In South the famous Shiva temples are in Tiruvannamalai, Tirunaikaval, Srikalahasti and Chidambaram.

Other important temples of Shiva worship are Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, and Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli. With regards to the Hindu culture, much of its basis has been the contributions of the Dravidians and the language adopted by them was Sanskrit. Moreover, they have also made contribution to important elements of the religious emphasis, the manners and customs, social structure, the arts which constitute the Hindu civilization. They have also given us many great philosophers like Shankar together with great products of artistic genius by way of dance and temple architecture and the sect known as Shaivism. Dravidian, the native Indian communities were the founder of Hindu religious and social systems. It was the Dravidians that had established a particular civilization known as the Dravidian civilization and according to some scholars, the speaker of proto Dravidian language were the founder of the Dravidian civilization. This civilization was presumed to be in existence much before the advent of the Indo Aryans in India. This pre Vedic civilization is the civilization of the people who spoke proto Dravidian language. The great mass of Dravidians deities, rites and superstitions had become a part of Hinduism and the Dravidians were very much involved as far as their religious rites were concerned and in most manners, there were links between Hinduism and the original Dravidian worship. According to some historians the proto Dravidians were part of a large Elamo Dravidian language while others were preceded in the subcontinent by Austro Asiatic people who were followed later by Indo European speaking migrants.

Other theories of Dravidian origin was propagated by Sir William Hunter who states that there were two branches of Dravidians namely Kolarians speaking dialects and the proper Dravidians which belonged to the Tamil section. While the first group entered India from north east, they occupied the northern part of Vindhya and this theory is considered obscure. Shaivism was indigenous while vaishnavism was imported and in earlier times both were competitive temporal philosophies. During the reign of Chalukyas’ rule in the peninsular towards 1000 to 2000 AD, there were instances of kings patronizing shaivism and prosecuting the vaishnavites and it was alleged that one of the Chalukya king, had removed the statue of Lord Vishnu from the Shiva shrine at Chidambaram and history relates that Shiva was the most revered deity of ancient India. Over a period of time, this competition between shavites and vaihnavites diminished and both of them merged to create Hinduism. Unless we take into account the food habits, folklores, dresses, traditions, customs and lingual dialects, the excavations of archaeological sites as well as the historical monuments do not relate the true tale of history making it an oral history besides written history. Based on the judgment of artifacts discovered only relates a disconnected and disconcerted information while most of the Indian history has been interpreted on the basis of potteries and metal works and the period have been assigned through a process of elimination. After the excavations at Harappa, ancient history has become prone to plenty of reasoning and arguments over Harappa being a pre Vedic or a post Vedic.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

History mystery: Apollo’s Numbers – Part I

Many stories are told about the Greek scholar, Richard Porson who was born in 1759 and was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge and held the Regius Professorship of Greek till his death in the year 1809. He invited anecdotes and at times was ridiculed for his Dipsomaniacal conduct. Porson had a wonderful sense of humor which was invoked by the Trinity Combination Room which had the custom of permitting smoking during the twelve days of Christmas and one of the wittiest stories in connection with him was his habit of always taking toddy to bed.

Plato too enjoyed intellectual witticisms and Plato’s Ion dialogue is full of intellectual witticisms, with many references and allusions to Apollo, though his name is not mentioned. Ion in its eponymous term in connection to Ionians is related to Apollo. The dialogue Ion composed by Plato was about joke and riddle and in ancient Hellenic world it was assumed that every learned person would be familiar with the lyre and its basic theory and its tune. The rhapsode Ion had come from a festival of Asklepios, a city of Epidaurus which had a shrine of Apollo while Asklepios was another son and both were born out of wedlock. The festival had all the arts of music and Apollo presided over it.

Ion after winning the first prize in the competition got engaged with Socrates in a philosophical discussion where he admitted when asked by Socrates that his skill in performance recitation was limited to Homer and all other poets bore him. This puzzled Socrates which led him to solve the riddle of Ion’s limited expertise and informed him that art critics and judges of sculpture do not limit themselves to judge the work of single artist but criticize the art irrespective of the artist. To understand the dialogue Ion, one needs to read it which is a continual reminder of Apollo though he is not mentioned in it and the understanding is in the ancient tuning theory where the comprehension could probably be in the present acoustics or harmonics, though it is not concerned with composition or performance, on the contrary, it deals instead with arithmetical structure of the tones, scales and intervals connected in music.

Present musical instruments are made in terms of the historically developed tuning theory which is described with regards to the terms associated with it though the instrument does not explain the theory but embody and illustrate it. Modern musical terminology is the result of the long complicated history, details of which are not understandable. For those interested in tuning theory, the following brief preliminary details could be helpful. Platonist, Plutarch, who for twenty years of his life was a priest at Delphi and had taken an oath of secrecy, wrote with knowledge on what he could not reveal though he provided us with his helpful hints.

His most relevant hints are found in Isis and Osiris wherein he informs that sixty is the first of measures related to the heavenly bodies that is with science, astronomy and harmonics. Second being The E at Delphi, he goes on to tell us that Pythagoreans called five, the marriage number, stating that it is an attribute of the god Apollo and that it is confirmed by the importance of the number in music. He states that the right angled triangle – 3, 4, 5 is used in the Republic in formulating marriage number and 3 is the male number while 4 is the female number. The number 5 is in some ways like its father and mother since they are made up of 3 and 2 making 5 the human number.

The number sixty derived from the ancient Babylonian use of sexagesimals, is the base of all scientific work. The number five, an attribute of Apollo, an importance in music, together with sixty is the human number which is also designated with the letter E in the Greek alphabetized system of numerals and carved in wood, stone, metal in Apollo’s temple at Delphi. The combination of sixty and five results in 60 to the 5th power, 605 or 777,600,000, regarded as Apollo’s number, intimated by Plutarch though it is not certain and may have been known at Delphi.

This number is most important in tuning theory being the least number needed in tuning with spiral of fifths and coordinating the sexagesimal as well as decimal expression of tones involved and hence it is given the title of Apollo’s number. As per the ancient practice, the zeros have been omitted and we have 6 to the fifth power 65 or 7776.

The Ion has 7776 syllabus as per Plato’s joke and since Apollo being the whole of it, is not needed to be named in the dialogue and the joke is in the form of an enigma. People often became famous by solving and making up riddles which were obscene and Plato was obscure and could not be obscene. Apollo was thus connected with riddles while riddles were philosophy. Having musical knowledge, Plato knew the number 605 though it is not mentioned in the dialogues but 604 is mentioned in the Republic- Book VIII, the sovereign of better and worse births in the Critias – the foundation of the mathematical model of Atlantis. Dating back to ancient Greek tuning theory, the most clearly associated name is Pythagoras, born on the Ionian island of Samos, migrated to Crotona and later died in Metapotum in Magna Graecia (Italy) around 497.

 He was the first Greek who provided a scientific basis for music theory. Musical performers did not need the development of theory. Performers played either on aulos which were translated as flute, which was an impossibility, since it was a reed instrument and could be a single or a double reed or a form of the lyre. The greatly preferred instrument was the lyre by amateurs since it had the advantage over the aulos where the player could sing to one’s accompaniment and besides this it was also Apollo’s instrument who had accepted this as a gift from his younger brother, Hermes.