Category Archive 'India'
25 May 2017

This is India — The Place You Call When You Have Technical Problems

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04 Oct 2016

India’s Urumi Whip Sword

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Atlas Obscura profiles another really strange non-European weapon.

The urumi hasn’t regularly been used as an actual weapon for generations, but even as a demonstration weapon, it is still incredibly dangerous. Especially to the user.

The urumi (which can be translated as “curving sword,” and is also known as a “chuttuval”), hails from southern India. The historic weapon was saved from the erasure of time when it was incorporated into Kalaripayattu martial arts, an Indian fighting style that is considered one of the oldest in the world. Incorporating elements of yoga and performative dance, Kalaripayattu movements look like violent but graceful choreography. Urumi fighting is no different, it is just far more dangerous to those who would attempt to learn the skill.

Like any sword, the urumi comes in a number of varieties, with a variable length, and even a variable number of blades, but they all follow the same basic construction. Usually simpler than more elaborately decorated sword weapons, at its simplest, the urumi consists of a hilt connected to a thin, flexible steel blade. The handle is usually protected by a crossguard and knuckle-guard. The long blades extend somewhere between four and six feet in length (or even longer in some cases), and around an inch in width, but the aspect that makes the weapon unique is that the steel is always thin enough to flop around. Almost like a cartoon-version of a rubber sword.

Given the urumi’s unique construction, wielding it is also an art unto itself. Since the flexible blade is no good for stabbing, it is slung around similarly to a traditional leather whip. In order to make continuous strikes with the weapon, it must stay continually in motion so that the momentum which gives the blade its slashing power is not lost. This usually requires the user to swing it over and around their head and shoulders in furious arcs.

While this makes the urumi incredibly hard and dangerous to use, it also provides it with one of its major benefits as a weapon. When the blade curves around the sword wielder in quick arcing slashes, it creates a defensive bubble of flying metal that an opponent would be reckless to get close to. In addition, it makes a terrific weapon for defending against multiple opponents, both by providing a good barrier at a number of angles at once, and for the long, wild attacking arcs the steel whip provides.

Urumi sparring incorporates small buckler shields that are used to deflect direct swings of the weapon, but when the urumi was used in actual combat, it was said to have had the added benefit of curving around the edges of enemy shields, landing cuts even when blocked.

As an added bonus of having a wildly flexible blade, the urumi could be tightly rolled up for easy travel and concealment. In fact, it has often been worn as a belt.

Of course all of this versatility comes at a price. As you can imagine, winging metal whips around your delicate face flesh at high speeds can easily result in a missing nose, or other mishap. Wielding the urumi correctly and safely takes years of training, learning techniques for everything from bringing the blade to safe stop, to altering the rotation of your swings without slicing your arm off.

24 Sep 2016

The Nearly Extinct Gharial

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Ark in Space:

This strange looking creature, with its immensely long and delicate snout is the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). Until very recently it thrived throughout the Indian sub-continent but now it numbers less than a few hundred in the wild. …

Once it flourished and could be found in all of the major rivers of India and Pakistan. The Indus, which has its source in Tibet and flows through Pakistan and Northern India had gharials along almost its entire length. Now, in this vast river not a single one may be found.

It is the same in many other major river systems. The list is depressingly long. The Irrawaddy in Myanmar holds none, neither does the Brahmaputra of Bhutan and Bangladesh – and this is not counting the many tributaries of these vast waterways. In fact the gharial can now be found in only 2% of its former territory.

These survivors from the age of the dinosaur need our help to survive – or it will be goodbye to them forever within a few decades. There are nine protected areas in India for the gharial. Eggs are often collected in the wild and raised in captivity. …

Over 3,000 young gharial have been released under these operations. Even so, it is thought that at most there are only around 400 breeding pairs in the wild. …

There are about ten places in Asia where the gharial is bred in captivity with the young released in to the wild at around the age of three. Another 8 centers in the US and 3 in Europe also offer some hope to the gharial.

gharial2

09 Aug 2016

Leopard Rescue

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Young female leopard rescued from 60′ well in Pimpalgaon Sinddhanath village, Junnar, Maharashtra, India.

23 Jun 2016

Bahubali (2015)

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One of those Facebook friends I don’t really know yesterday posted a video of some amazing battle scenes from a South Indian epic film called Bahubali (released last year in two parts), made in Telugu and Tamil. (When’s the last time you saw a Tamil-language film?) Bahubali became the highest grossing Indian film of all-time, understandably since the fight scenes are pretty spectacular.

I discovered quickly that the DVD of Part 1 with English subtitles can be ordered from Amazon. (Part 2: The Conclusion does not seem to be out yet.)

Bahubali: the Beginning

Bahubali: the Conclusion

23 Feb 2016

Somebody Should Have Fixed That Roof

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LeopardRoof

09 Feb 2016

Leopard Mauls Six in Indian School

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LeopardBangalore

Telegraph:

A young male leopard injured six people as it eluded capture for 12 hours after it ventured into the grounds of an elite school in the Indian city of Bangalore. …

The leopard was first spotted strolling around the thankfully empty corridors of the Vibgyor International School on surveillance video by security guards. The CCTV footage later showed it had entered the grounds at about 4am.

As crowds gathered to watch the animal prowling around the school premises, forest department personnel arrived on the scene equipped with dart guns and tranquillisers.

But the animal then went into hiding and remained out of sight for several hours before it was spotted outside the school in nearby bush.

As locals descended on the scene, the animal darted back inside the school where the near fatal case of hide-and-seek intensified.

With officials closing in on its hiding place in a classroom, the big cat made a run for it and raced towards the swimming pool, sending people dashing for cover.

It lunged at one man who managed to ward it off. But it then took Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife expert, by surprise as it raced towards him.

Mr Gubbi tried to scale a compound wall, but the animal caught him and dragged him to the ground, mauling him next to the pool as he fought it off.

It was after this encounter that one of the forestry team finally managed to shoot it with a tranquilliser.The animal retreated towards a bathroom where it finally collapsed.

“It was a long struggle to capture the leopard,” senior police official S Boralingaiah told reporters. “Although it was injected with tranquilisers it could be captured only around 8.15pm local time when the medication took full effect.”

The leopard, which is thought to have ventured from a nearby forest, has now been moved to a national park. The six injured people were treated for minor injuries.

01 Dec 2015

A Junior Magistrate’s Education

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Philip Mason (1906-1999) attended Sedbergh School and Balliol College, Oxford before going to India to serve in the Indian Civil Service in 1928. He found himself stationed at Saharanpur in Northern India working as a magistrate with third-class powers, meaning he could send someone to prison for three months or fine someone 50 rupees (the equivalent of £4 or $16 at the time).

He recalls in his memoir, A Shaft of Sunlight, 1978, that as junior magistrate, he was in charge of the smelly jobs.

There was a reward of five rupees for a dead wolf. A party of very low caste, nomadic gypsy folk called Kanjars (pronounced as in conjuror) [Wikipedia: “listed under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, as being a tribe ‘addicted to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences.’] came in with thirteen dead wolves, which they had collected in the course of a trip into the jungles of the Siwalik foothills, away to the north. There was a strong stink, and so of course it was I who was sent to certify that they were genuine wolves, not jackals. They were covered with dried mud and blood and not very easy to see but they seemed too big for jackals so I certified that they were wolves and ordered the Nazir [the Quartermaster] to pay the rewards. The Kanjars were told to cut off their ears and tails and burn them; I waited till I had seen these grisly relics thrown on the fire. It was a strange task for a student of philosophy.

The Kanjars were back again next month with more wolves. It was on their third visit that I discovered that they had kept the sun-dried carcasses of the original wolves, inserted a fresh-killed jackal inside the rib-cage — as the chef of a Victorian duke might stuff a quail inside an ortolan — and sewn on new ears and taild manufactured from hessian and smeared with fresh blood. My formal education being over, my true education had begun.

24 Nov 2015

Good Rhetoric

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RemnantsofanArmy
Assistant Surgeon William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842 in Lady Butler’s Remnants of an Army, 1879, Tate Gallery.

Philip Mason (writing as “Philip Woodruff”) in his The Men Who Ruled India: Volume One, The Founders praised generally quite fulsomely the courage, intelligence, and disinterested statesmanship of most Governors-General of British India, but George Eden, Lord Auckland, Governor-General 1836-1842, initiator of the First Afghan War, failed to come off, in Mason’s history, quite so well.

[Lord Auckland] had a reputation in England for ability. he had a mild preference for justice, a mild and amiable good nature. In India, however, he was bored. Invested with the empire of Tamerlane and Akbar, made suddenly heir-at-law to Kubla Khan and Prester John, he was bored. Charged with the destiny of millions, moving in magnificence at which he mildly chafed through a country-sidestriken by famine, among children dying of starvation, he was bored. ‘G. detests his tent, and his march and the whole business so activelythat he will not perceive how well he is’, wrote his sister. She took him one evening to see an interesting ruin, but poor G. was more wretchedly bored than ever. …

Lord Auckland was a humane man. It may be that he was appalled by the horrors of the famine and dismayed at hos ignorance, his impotence to take any effective steps. It may bethat he concealed his wretchedness behind an emotion that seemed more appropriate to his birth. That is an interpretation more charitable to the man and more in keeping with his character than to take his boredom at face value; it does not, however, raise his reputation as Governor-General. …

The famine was at least the result of the weather and cannot be attributed directly to Lord Auckland. Not so the Afghan War. Miss Eden has a pleasantry of a flying squirrel that sat on G.’s shoulder, apparently whispering to him, ‘and though G. said the squirrel was only pulling his ear I am convinced he had more to do with public affairs than people generally supposed.’ Some explanation of public affairs was certainly needed.”

09 Aug 2015

Successful Job Interview

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SirJohnMalcolm
Sir John Malcolm 1769-1833, Governor of Bombay 1827-1830.

[Malcolm] was a grandson of the manse, his father being a small farmer of Eskdale. He was one of seventeen children and when his father fell suddenly into financial trouble it became necessary to settle as many sons as possible. The Directors of the East India Company were doubtful whether they could stretch things so far as to commission a boy of thirteen. ‘Why, my little man,’ asked one of them playfully, ‘what would you do if you met Hyder Ali?’ he being the father of Tippoo and the ogre of the moment. ‘I would draw ma sworrd and cut off his heid,’ replied the candidate, and was commissioned at once with acclamation.”

–Philip Woodruff, The Men Who Ruled India: The Founders, 1953.

30 Sep 2014

Tantric Painting

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HinduPainting

17th century Tantric painting from Rajastan: a meditation on “the endless dance of energy.”

Siglio Press book page

From Frank André Jamme’s Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan

Stephen Heyman, in the New York Times: 17th Century Modernism?

Hat tip to Virtual Artifacts.

27 Sep 2014

Inebriated Student Fell or Jumped Into Tiger Enclosure at New Dehli Zoo

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Heaven666:

A white tiger at the New Delhi Zoo has attacked and killed a young man inside the tiger enclosure.

There are mixed reports as to whether the young man jumped, or has accidentally fallen into the enclosure, and even the age of the individual. However, the most credible reports indicate the young man was an Indian student who slipped while taking photo’s.

National Zoological Park spokesman Riyaz Ahmed Khan said the man ignored repeated warnings that he should not get too close to the outdoor enclosure and climbed over a knee-high fence and small hedges.

Authorities eventually frightened the tiger into a small cage inside the enclosure. Police arrived on the scene “very quickly”, but could not save his life. The man, whose body remained in the outdoor enclosure two hours after the attack, was dead by the time help reached him, Mr Khan said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police M.S. Randhawa identified the man only as Maqsood and said he was thought to be about 20 years old…

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The Daily Mail says that Maqsood was drunk.

26 Aug 2014

Man Bites Snake

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Blue krait, aka Common krait aka Indian krait (Bungarus caeruleus)

The Telegraph has a story of the tables being recently turned.

A man in central India killed a venomous snake by biting it after he saw the blue krait slithering towards him in bed.
Rai Singh, from Chhattisgarh, told a local television channel he feared the venomous blue krait was about to bite him and decided to bite the creature.

“At nine o’clock in the evening while I went to sleep on my bed, I saw a snake and tried to shoo it away with a stick but it attacked me. I bit it”, he told a local television channel.

His neighbour R.S Singh described the incident as “astonishing” and said it was a “miracle that he survived since this snake is highly venomous”.

Kraits are one of the four poisonous snakes which account for the most attacks in India where 50,000 people are killed by venomous bites every year.

The krait is nocturnal and often wriggles into homes at night during the monsoon season to keep dry. Its bites rarely cause pain and often go unnoticed by their victims as they sleep.

They are, however, highly venomous and up to 80 per cent of their victims die after suffering progressive paralysis.

Read the whole thing.

19 May 2014

Serrated, Cobra-Headed Khanda Sword

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A very rare Khanda hilted sword with serrated edge and of Cobra form

This formidable example is 98cms [38.6″] long from end to end.
The blade is 82cms [32.2″] long, 4cms [1.6″] wide with a weighted tip 9cms [3.5″] wide.
The large Khanda hilt has a pierced knuckle bow and langet ends and a curved pommel spike. The grip is bound with layers of coated twine.
The serpentine blade is a very unusual form that resembles a hooded cobra and would have taken some time and expertise to complete.
the edges are serrated and a medial ridge runs from the base through to the tip with the exception of the wide hooded area that has been hollow forged.
In profile and in hand the sword has the overall forward curve and weight of a large Souson Pata or Kirach and is surprisingly well balanced.

A very rare type of Indian sword, likely from the late 18th century in good as found uncleaned condition.

From Swords and Antique Weapons via Sword-Site posted by Ratak Monodosico.

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