Friday, April 5, 2019


beliefs that are in the air
arguments that are not grounded
to not question and how
to not reason and out of mind
signing up for the falling
flowing into the herd
following other voices
or just one such
sleeping through the time
drugged to be happy
masked by the false
fooled by the mass
ignoring self


dare to understand

Excerpt from the book Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

In his book The Beginning of Infinity, David Deutsch argues that if we dare to understand, progress is possible in all fields, scientific, political, and moral:

Optimism (in the sense that I have advocated) is the theory that all failures - all evils - are due to insufficient knowledge... Problems are inevitable, because our knowledge will always be infinitely far from complete. Some problems are hard, but it is a mistake to confuse hard problems with problems unlikely to be solved. Problems are soluble, and each particular evil is a problem that can be solved. An optimistic civilisation is open and not afraid to innovate, and is based on traditions of criticism. Its institutions keep improving, and the most important knowledge that they embody is knowledge of how to detect and eliminate errors. 


Enlightenment's motto is "Dare to understand!" and its foundational demand is freedom of thought and speech. 


why should I live?

Excerpt from the book Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

"Why should I live?" 

In the very act of asking that question, you are seeking reasons for your convictions, and so you are committed to reason as the means to discover and justify what is important to you. And there are so many reasons to live.

As a sentient being, you have the potential to flourish. You can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through the arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. you can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world. As the heir to billions of years of life perpetuating itself, you can perpetuate life in turn. You have been endowed with a sense of sympathy - the ability to like, love, respect, help, and show kindness - and you can enjoy the gift of mutual benevolence with friends, family, and colleagues. 

And because reason tells you that none of this is particular to you, you have the responsibility to provide to others what you expect for yourself. You can foster the welfare of other sentient beings by enhancing life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety,  beauty, and peace. History shows that when we sympathise with others and apply our ingenuity to improving the human condition, we can make progress in doing so, and you can help to continue that progress. 




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

second-order questions

Excerpt from the book The Four Horsemen

Maybe faith and belief in divinity and an afterlife, even if founded on claims for which there can be no evidence, may nonetheless be considered a force for good?

Maybe they offer moral guides and ethical codes without which the world would be a cruel and riotous place? Much of what we live by is metaphor. Why shouldn't we accept a religious narrative irrespective of its truth - as a framework in this relativist culture cursed by the disappearance of structure, hierarchy, and meaning?

And what about spiritual, the numinous immanence we all feel? Can you really deny that there is a realm which reason and numbers and microscopes cannot penetrate?


Open inquiry, free thinking and the unfettered exchange of ideas yield real and tangible fruit. 


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Penukonda Fort

Penukonda is in the Anantapur District of Andhra Pradesh. As per the 2011 census the population of the town is 27,382. It is about 70 km south of Anatapur and about 143 km north of Bengaluru on National Highway 44 or the Bengaluru-Hyderabad Highway. In 2017 KIA Motorsof South Korea announced the location of an automobile manufacturing plant near Penukonda with an estimated investment of 2 billion dollars. A functioning Korean Restaurant on the main street in the town attests to the validity of the announcement.

Based upon inscriptions archaeologists have determined that the well-known Penukonda Fort was built during the 14th century by Vira Virupanna Udaiyar, the son of one of the founders of Vijaynagar Empire Bukka I. The fort is in ruins and it is difficult to see the full configuration of the original structure. The remnants, however, give a fairly good picture of what it might have been at its zenith. It is easy enough to imagine that it was a formidable fort that was built for effective defence with moats and bastions. At one time there were seven bastions along the perimeter of the fort. At the Yerramanchi Gate, the main entrance, there is a large granite sculpture of god Hanuman that is 11 feet tall. The narrow streets and some dwellings inside the fort bear witness to their origins from the 14th century.

On the way to the fort hill, overlooking Penukonda town

Fort walls on the way to the top of fort hill

Jeep road to the fort hill

Entrance to the fort hill complex

Mantapa at the Royal Centre on top of the fort hill

Dilapidated abandoned Lakshmi Narasimha Temple on top of the fort hill

Mantapa opposite to the temple

View of the Royal Centre ruins

Broken gopura of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple 

Ruins of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

Garbha Gudi of Lakshmi Narasimha Temple


A large kalyani with a mantapa at the Royal Centre 

Hanumantha carving at the fort entrance

Pedestrian entry to the fort

Yerramanchi Gate: Main fort gate in Penukonda town

A temple at the entrance of Penukonda Fort complex

The Mosque is an imposing building. The entrance is clearly through what was at one time a Hindu temple entrance with a gopura. The gopura has been demolished or has been let to suffer the vagaries of nature. The entrance way has maintained the Hindu temple columns indicating a preference for appropriating established architecture to ensure legitimacy of the succeeding ruler. Given this fact, it is reasonable to assume that the original Hindu temple was razed to make way for the Mosque. 

A hindu temple converted mosque in Penukonda

The following description is provided by the Archaeology and Museums Department:

An old Hindu palace i.e. Gagan Mahal is located to the south of Ramaswamy and Eshwara temples. It was the summer palace and harem of Vijayanagara rulers. The building is facing east and composes of two stories of arcade chambers, square on plan with corner tower on the northern side. In front of the building there are steps leading into the building also staircases on either sides leads to the first floor. The ground floor consisting with recessed and forty five foliated arches in the pavilion reminiscent of the Lodi type of arches in the buildings of Delhi. The middle of the ground floor and first floor made a provision of rooms. The first floor has twelve arches and eight windows. The surface of the walls of building is coated with stucco. The pyramidal roof built-up in tiers is obviously adopted from Sikhara of the Dravidan style. The tower has six projecting windows supported by brackets. It was built by a combination of Indo-Persian architectural style known as Indo-Sarcanic adopted by Vijayanagara kings. The palace was built without a single rafter, a unique specimen architecture.

Gagan Mahal Palace built in 1585

Painting of Sr Krishna Devaraya inside the palace

Peek into village outside the palace 
The Timmarasu Prison is a monument to a great tragedy. Even great leaders like Krishna Deva Raya were driven by unfounded rumours (fake news), innuendos, and character assassinations. Belated remorse, regrettably, does not remedy the error. The small stylized building leaves no doubt that a prisoner could not escape the confines of this small space in the mold of isolation chambers in contemporary prisons. The three largest mass murderers of the twentieth century, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Hitler would approve of the accommodation.

Thimmarasu Jail 
The Basavana Bavi (Well) is an impressive deep stepped tank on a smaller scale than the one at the Royal Centre in Vijaynagar. The two entrances to the steps leading to the well are under two large bulls. Looked at from the rear it is bound to bring smiles to the face of the onlooker. There is a contemporary school building that is under construction abutting the historic well and the historic mantapa. It is a shame that this has been permitted in an area suffused with heritage. Tastelessness, evidently, is not unique to the current President of the United States.

Basavana Baavi (well)

Basavana Baavi (well)

(Click on the photographs for an enlarged view)

Text: Narasim Katary
Photographs: Srik Parthasarathy

Thursday, November 8, 2018

If only Chukwu had a twitter account

Excerpt from the book Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

Throughout history most gods were believed to enjoy not omnipotence but rather specific super-abilities such as the ability to design and create living beings; to transform their own bodies; to control the environment and the weather; to read minds and to communicate at a distance; to travel at very high speeds; and of course to escape death and live indefinitely. Humans are in the business of acquiring all these abilities, and then some. Certain traditional abilities that were considered divine for many millennia have today become so commonplace that we hardly think about them. The average person now moves and communicates across distances much more easily than the Greek, Hindu or African gods of old. 

For example, the Igbo people of Nigeria believe that the creator god Chukwu initially wanted to make people immortal. He sent a dog to tell humans that when someone dies, they should sprinkle ashes on the corpse, and the body will come back to the life. Unfortunately, the dog was tired and he dallied on the way. The impatient Chukwu then sent a sheep, telling her to make haste with this important message. Alas, when the breathless sheep reached her destination, she garbled the instructions, and told the humans to bury their dead, thus making death permanent. This is why to this day we humans must die. If only Chukwu had a twitter account instead of relying on laggard dogs and dim-witted sheep to deliver his messages! 


Sigh. If only.

Now we know why we die?


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Magnificent and picturesque vistas of Kinnaur and Spiti

Presenting here some panoramic shots of the magnificent valleys of Kinnaur and Spiti. I have tried to post one or two photographs from every place we visited. These photographs are no where close to what we witnessed in person, but it may try to bring back the moment captured from the gorgeous valleys.

Click on the photograph for an enlarged view. 

Kinnaur Kailash Range seen from Kalpa 2960m

End of Kinnaur and Start of Spiti Valley (3200m)
Nako Lake - a high altitude lake in Kinnaur at the elevation of 3660m. 

Vistas around Nako Lake 3660m

Panoramic view of the Kaza town - the subdivisional headquarters of Lahaul and Spiti district (3800m)

Spiti river gorgeously flowing at Kaza (3800m)

Stupa at the River in Kaza. Kaza town to the right. 

Snowing at the peak overlooking Keeh monsatery

Keeh monastery 

Khibber village at 4270m

Khibber village at 4270m

Huge gorge and Chicham Khas village at the elevation of 4300m

Gorgeous Spiti river during the sunset 3800m

Mud village in Pin valley at 3500m. Mud is also the last village in the valley that connects Pin Parvathi pass or Bhaba pass

Mud village and the glacial stream flowing through the valley joining Pin river

Fukchung village and Pin river. Fukchung is a village of 3 houses at the beginning of Pin Valley

Nyingmapa Stupa - the highest point before reaching Demul (4400m)

Nyingmapa stupa - the highest point before reaching Demul (4400m)

Demul village at 4320m 

Komic ('Ko' - snow cock, 'Mic' - eye), situated at an elevation of 4513m is one of the highest villages in Asia and literally means the eye of a snow cock.
The Tangyud Monastery or Sa-skya-gong-mig Gompa at the village Komic

The entry door of the Tangyud Monastery at Komic

Prayer flags at the Tangyud Monastery at Komic overlooking the village. The village has 13 houses. 

A short trek to Hikkim village that hosts the worlds highest post office at 4440m

Langza - The fossil village in Spiti valley at 4325m

Langza village with the backdrop of Mt Chau Chau Kang Nilda (CCKN) peak (6300m)

The statue of Budha at Langza with the backdrop of Mt Kanamo and Mt Chau Chau Kang Nilda

Tabo monastery founded by the Buddhist king (and Royal lama) Yeshe O'd in 996 CE in the Tibetan year of the Fire Ape at 3280m  

Tabo village at 3280m overlooking the caves that are 1000 year old
Photographs by Srikanth Parthasarathy.