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‘Temples of India’ is a fascinating way to understand science of Geometry and Architecture

Tarun's books 'Holy Cow and the Other Indian Stories' contains small chapters that answers simple questions about India

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NEW DELHI, August 12: It’s unusual to come across a person who is indigenous to both pen and camera- more so when photography grew out of a casual remark. Tarun Chopra is one such person and what he has managed with his 12th book, “Temples of India – Abode of the Divine”, is to also trace the evolution of temple building with major architectural trendsetting examples.

To this extent, “Temples of India” (Prakash Books/pp 360/Rs 1,295), with its plethora of photographs, illustrations, ground plans as well as sections, is a valuable resource for both experts and laypersons to understand the fascinating science of geometry and architecture as temple-building evolved over some 2,000 years.

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Lingaraja Temple in Orissa. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Lingaraja Temple in Orissa. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Ten years in the making and based on painstaking research of the ancient texts of Shilpa Shastra and Vaastu Shastra, as also interactions with temple priests, the effort is quite an eye-opener.

“I visited the temples of varied faiths. It somehow compels you to think if there is a God, He has to be one for all. He cannot be different for each religion. The realisation then dawns that there is one Supreme cosmic power which itself has no religion,” Chopra told IANS in an interview.

A 48-page introduction makes for a handy primer on subjects like the oral tradition, Vaastu Shastra, Vaastupurushamandala (the metaphysical plan of a building), the legend of Vaastupurusha, temple builders, traditional building rites and rituals, the main architectural features of a Hindu temple, iconography of the temple, proportional measurements of an image, and temples as the markers of energy zones.

This sets the tone for Tripping On the Divine: a visual documentation of the evolution of most prominent temple styles spanning more than 2,000 years.

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“Very few places in the world offer this vast a canvas of art and architecture. This book is not based on the temples of religious importance; rather the temples illustrated in it are purely on their architectural merit. Many of them have unique qualifications to be first of their kind in the Indian subcontinent and in the world. Some temples are the stepping stones of architectural styles and initiated temple styles that evolved for the next 1,000 years,” Chopra writes.

Most of the 28 temples featured are A-listers — Sanchi, Ajanta, Ellora, Elephanta, Kanchipuram, Shravanabelagola, Khajuraho, Trichy, Madurai and Hampi, to name just a few. There are also some not too well known, at least for readers in North India. Among them are Teli Ka Mandir in Gwalior Fort, Gangaikondacholapuram (a smaller replica of the Brihadeshwara Temple in Tanjore), Darasuram (Tamil Nadu) and Aihole (Karnataka).

The bulk of the temples are located in South India and Chopra explained it thus: “Due to waves and waves of invasions that North India experienced at the hands of idol breakers, the temples in this region bore most of its brunt. Since the temples down south were relatively protected due to geographical distance, there is a wide variety of architectural styles that still exists today.”

“Temples…” is a logical extension of Chopra’s 11 previous books, most of which have India as their theme.

“My bestselling book ‘Holy Cow and the Other Indian Stories’ contains small chapters answering simple questions about India, why cows are on the road, why we get stamped so many times at the airport, the chaos that exists on the roads.. ‘India Exotic Destination’ illustrates the places frequented by visitors, while ‘Soul of India’ is a photo book that illustrates the beauty of the land through portraits, landscapes, street life and the like,” Chopra said.

“I am a photographer and writer devoted to making books on India. My endeavour is to take out books that are easy to read and assimilate. As a photographer, I have been commissioned to do various projects both in India and abroad,” he added.

All this grew out of a casual remark: “Why don’t you start taking pictures since you travel so much?”

What is rather unusual about “Temples…” is its standard format rather than the large coffee-table format generally adopted for such books — and the publisher said this was with a purpose.

“We decided to go with a smaller size to make the book handy for the buyer. Typical coffee tables are larger in size, but the sales of these books are down for the last few years, mainly because of the internet. A lot of images and data is now available on the net, but also because it’s hard to carry large books because of weight limitations or the general bulkier nature of the book.

“We wanted the readers to be able to enjoy ‘Temples of India’ while they travel through India and visit these temples,” Megha Parmar of Prakash Books told IANS. (IANS)

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A Significant Find By Archaeologists Hint At Piranha Like Fish In Jurassic Era

The new fish is a most interesting example of convergent evolution

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Fossil Fish
A new piranha-like fish from Jurassic seas with sharp, pointed teeth that probably fed on the fins of other fishes is seen in this artist's reconstruction of a fossil which was discovered in southern Germany in this image released from Eichstaett, Bavaria, Germany. VOA

You can call it a prehistoric prequel.

Scientists said on Thursday they have unearthed in southern Germany the fossil of a fish that, with its mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, strongly resembled today’s piranhas, the stars of more than their fair share of Hollywood horror films. But this one lived during the Jurassic Period 152 million years ago.

Named Piranhamesodon pinnatomus, it is the earliest known example of a bony fish — as opposed to cartilaginous fish like sharks — able to slice flesh rather than simply swallowing prey, enabling it to attack victims larger than itself as piranhas can.

Piranhamesodon, about 3-1/2 inches (9 cm) long, lived in the sponge and coral reefs of the Solnhofen archipelago, a shallow tropical sea in what is now Bavaria. Piranhas are freshwater fish that inhabit rivers and lakes in South America.

Fossil Fish
A new piranha-like fish fossil from Jurassic seas with sharp, pointed teeth that probably fed on the fins of other fishes, discovered in southern Germany from the time of dinosaurs and from the same deposits that contained Archaeopteryx, is seen in this image released from Eichstaett, Bavaria, Germany on October 18, 2018

Piranhamesodon was small, but its mouth was worthy of a scary movie. It boasted long, pointed, dagger-like teeth along the outer edge of its upper jaw and at the front of its lower jaw. It also had triangular teeth with serrated cutting edges on the side of its lower jaw.

“We were stunned that this fish had teeth which are capable of slicing flesh. It comes from a group of fishes, the pycnodontids, that are famous for their crushing teeth,” said paleontologist Martina Kölbl-Ebert of the Jura-Museum Eichstätt in Germany, who led the research published in the journal Current Biology.

“It is like finding a sheep with a snarl like a wolf,” Kölbl-Ebert added.

The fossil came from the same Bavarian limestone deposits as Archaeopteryx, the earliest-known bird.

“From the same quarry, we also have a number of other fish which may have been the victims of Piranhamesodon. They show injuries to their fins and fin bases, some freshly wounded before they died and got fossilized, whereas others show completely healed injuries with regeneration of the fin,” Kölbl-Ebert said.

Fossil Fish
With Piranha-Like Teeth, This Prehistoric Predator Never Bit Off More Than It Could Chew.

While it shares traits with piranhas, Piranhamesodon was neither their long-ago ancestor nor related to them at all. The oldest-known piranhas lived around 15 million years ago.

Piranhamesodon is an example of a phenomenon called convergent evolution in which organisms independently acquire similar characteristics as a result of adapting to similar ecological niches or environments.

Also Read: Fossils of 400 Year Old Invertebrate Marine Species Found in China

“The new fish is a most interesting example of convergent evolution, evolving — for bony fish then — a completely new way of life,” Kölbl-Ebert said. (VOA)