Wednesday, 23 December 2009

But who will bell the Cat-the Bureaucrats?

In continuation of the previous part: "Built Environment and Biodiversity:

(This paper, "Architecture and Biodiversity in India: A Context to Aesthetics in Our Times", was presented to PAITHRUKAM 2004: Seminar/Workshop on Aesthetics in Indian Architecture: Past, Present and Future, at MES College of Architecture, Trissure, Kerala. This is Part 3 of the paper.)

But who will bell the Cat - the Bureaucrats?

THE LAWS AND ACTS that affect built environment must first understand the aesthetics of biodiversity.

They were made to venerate industrial civilization. In the wake of biodiversity, it is not only the prevailing standard building bylaws but also the development plans and the development control rules of towns and cities will need to be overhauled and changed. They were devised for the delight of the regimental officials of the departments. Every town and city – old or new – and the region will have to device their own codes based on its people and the region, i.e. its bio-region. The same should apply also to the “ghettos of development” that mushroom in the rural areas as public or private development projects.

The development plans

Look at any development plan. It typically shows land-use zones, floor space indices (FSI), and road network for automobiles and centres for services/ shopping. Of course the grey zones of the existing slums are not visible. People rarely figure in except as population densities or numbers, which mostly go Topsy-turvy.

The boundaries show as if there exists nothing beyond the city – an island in ocean. There is hardly any thought given to the ergonomics in social, economic, political and physical context of a person and the society, land and waters, flora and fauna, and biotic and abiotic nature. Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivali in Mumbai is a classic example. The panthers at SGNP recently started attacking humans. So the easiest ‘curative’ measure devised by the ‘authority’ was to deport the panthers to other place. Ironically the Warli tribe living in this forest for ages venerate their ‘Vaghdeo’ – tiger god – as a keeper of the forest (Warli House and Habitat).

The regional plans

Typically the regional plans look like replicated, enlarged city plan. The major features indicate more industries, services and infrastructure, of course, to serve the main cities. These do not offer any solace to the locals, particularly the weaker sections – children, women, the poor and the marginalized. The rich elite, industrialists and the real estate developers purchase large tracts of land in these regions. One could hardly imagine the plight of the small farmers, the landless labourers, and the tribal. There is no succour for the land and water from pollution or deforestation. The consequence is that the diversity of the region turns into despair.

Five Steps to Planning

In the preparation and execution of any plan or law, the following important and most essential issues emerge.
  • To ascertain the likely fall out due to a plan or a law in the affected areas – people, land and waters, flora and fauna – directly or indirectly, in the near or distant future, and within and outside the planned area.
  • To prepare appropriate policy, infrastructure and measures for implementation to preserve, conserve, rehabilitate and restore the affected areas mentioned above, as an essential part of the compe4nsation package.
  • To create and use appropriate means of communications to inform the citizens – the starving, the illiterate, the half-naked, and the elite – of the planning action at every stage of its process, from the inception to after-implementation of the plan or a law.
  • These measures should be taken before the plan or law is sanctioned and enacted.
  • To file regular returns to the public of the planning and implementation actions, the success and failures, and functioning of the project every year till the end of the project period.
Public Participation and Transparency

We are in the age of information and communications. We have made large investments in satellite and other technologies. These should offer the means of direct communication to inform and educate people about the planning process. It is the first step towards the “public participation” and “transparency”. It is as worthy as, even more than, any election at a national or state level.

The issue of biodiversity needs to be taken up on emergency basis before it is totally destroyed.

Here biodiversity is not limited to plants and animals only, but also include people and their cultural sub-groups (See previous post "Built Environment and Biodiversity"). The world has seen the worst effects of industrialization। Now under the auspices of biotechnology the GM foods are already taking the world by storm. No one knows its full implications. Experiments on the dumb animals for cloning are already on the way, which may facilitate the powerful to start with human cloning, though, of course, not without a strong opposition.

Continuing Education
for the Legislators, Bureaucrats, Judiciary and Planners

It is high time the legislators, policymakers, lawmakers, executives, architects and planners educate themselves in biodiversity and ecosystems at the ground level, and then evolve the plans and designs. Even the Supreme Court (SC) has admitted at one stage (‘Clean Ganga Project’) that it had to educate itself on ‘environment’. But SC should note that it is only a beginning.

Learning from People

Learning is possible with the help of the locals. Planning and designing without user participation amounts only to self-glorification. The so-called masses are the people with body mind intelligence and creative ability. Anonymous people in millions have understood biodiversity over millennia in its multiple dimensions for their sustenance.

People are Energy

We are thousand millions now, and that’s our strength. For example, there are about hundred colleges of architecture in the country; of course this is a negligible number. Unfortunately even they are ill equipped in the domain of biodiversity. India will require over one thousand colleges of architecture to work with biodiversity on their agenda.

The essential action first, theories follow

We are not talking here of any established theories of aesthetics. The essential action first, theories will follow as has been happening throughout the history of mankind. There is no hope of help from the foreign consultants. It is also not possible with bureaucratic, regimental mindset. The volumes of information must be tested at the ground realities, because every place is unique. The planning ‘authority’ then cannot be a dictator or demigod but is only a facilitator.

We are looking down to earth, as is, where is, for help and succor, here and now. Biodiversity-oriented architecture and planning is a collective action; it anticipates people’s autonomy and participation, decentralization of power, human scale and collective creativity.

Epilogue: Architecture of Diatoms
Diatoms (Source: Internet)
DIATOMS – microscopic algae – are known for their beautiful and elaborate glass shells, each with uniquely shaped shell. Nano-technologists are interested for their several commercial applications rather than their aesthetic merits. Our challenge is what wonders we – the hundred crore people, particularly the silent majority – could work in harmony with nature in true freedom when we look up to humble algae!

We end, or rather begin, with optimistic note by quoting Ben Okari, Nigerian writer: “The full potential of human creativity has not yet been tapped. Along with the ever-increasing miracle of love, this fact is one of the brightest hopes for human race.” (Ben Okari, A way of Being Free, 1999, P 28).
* * *
PRESENTATION to this paper:

1 Biodiversity: ‘Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from al sources, including interallia, terrestrial, marine and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species; between species and the ecosystems.’ (Article 2 of the Convention of Biological Diversity, UNEP 1992)
2 Biotechnology:
(a). Biotechnology is the application of biological organisms, systems or processes to manufacturing and service industries (Spinks, A. ‘Biotechnology’ report of a Joint Working Party, HMSO, London 1980).
(b) ‘Biotechnology is the art of manufacturing living forms as though they were machines’ (Stephan R. L., and Clark K. “Modern Errors and Ancient Virtues” in Ethics and Biotechnology, Eds. Anthony Dyson and John Harris, Routledge, London, 1994)
3 This paper, "Architecture and Biodiversity in India: A Context to Aesthetics in Our Times", was presented to PAITHRUKAM 2004: Seminar/Workshop on Aesthetics in Indian Architecture: Past, Present and Future, at MES College of Architecture, Trissure, Kerala, December 16 – 18, 2004.

Previous Posts:
1. Garden under a Glass Cage...
2. Built Environment and Biodiversity
* * *
Remigius de Souza | 16-11-2002 (23-8-2004)
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Built Environment and Biodiversity

(This paper, "Architecture and Biodiversity in India:A Context to Aesthetics in Our Times", was presented to PAITHRUKAM 2004:  Seminar/Workshop on Aesthetics in Indian Architecture:  Past, Present and Future, at MES College of Architecture, Trissure, Kerala. This is Part 2 of the paper.)

Built Environment and Biodiversity

WE THINK OF ARCHITECTURE HERE, also, because it is major consumer of energy that affects ecology in a major way, and modifies environment through its six design fields. Architecture is no more “a plot and a monument”. The scope and context of architecture has widened with environmental awareness. Here we consider architecture as “built environment”, which has six design fields: Product Design, Interior Design, Architectural Design, Urban Design, and Town planning, now added by Regional Planning. Any of these six design fields have bearing on all other fields, which include land, water, air, and biotic and abiotic nature. These could be verified in any example at any place and time.  
   What legacy the Industrial civilization has given us? We know that industrial civilisation only takes from the earth but never returns. We may generalize it in brief. About 10 percent people of India may have made it theirs. They rule and force others to accept it (Industrialization). It is not a willing acceptance or by understanding it. It has left increasing gulf between the educated (now armed with computer education) and the illiterate, the rich and the poor (includes those below poverty line and the starving, the unemployed whose skills are redundant in industrial society and the educated unemployed).

      Yet in spite of environmental and ecological degradation all is not lost in India. There are a large percentage of people that still remains outside the folds of industrialization.  There are still a number of social and cultural sub-groups who are not trapped by the cult of monoculture. These diverse subgroups have their kinship with biodiversity in their regions. Their languages, culture, life-supporting skills, traditional wisdom, and of course architecture — vernacular architecture, are akin to the biodiversity. There are fifteen regional languages recognized by the State, leave aside fifteen hundred vernaculars, and as many bio-regions and as many “styles” of vernacular architecture.

      The ruling minority has made persistent efforts to colonize them or to bring them into its web of economy, education, planning, law and institutions but they have remained outside. Are they defiant in spite of being a weaker section or is the system not keen? It is perhaps both. The system has failed them again and again though no one will want to admit it. It is happier in self-gratification. In such a situation the people – the masses – become easy target for attacks by either the State and the power mongers or the terrorists.

      We fail to recognize even at the turn of the last century in the historical context, if not democracy, that no person or a group has any credibility without people. There is no credibility for any brand – economic, social, religious, political or any other – without people. We mention religion not with any bias but it is our mindset, irrespective of rites, rituals, castes, sects, creeds, or superstitions.

            It is a historic flux. We are parting our ways mentally, morally and culturally from nature and the living traditions, while dilly-dallying between old and newfangled ideas. We easily begin by falling for commercial brands issued in attractive packages and with compulsive justifications through multimedia and propaganda in the name of information and communications, and market economy. Leisure, for example, is free for anyone, but now it comes as entertainment industry with a price tag of money, time and health. We are indeed destitute in time by being helpless, complacent, or contented, or irresponsible to the society at large and the posterity.

No one ever needs to justify needs

            In such a state, we – individually and collectively – have only one option left to our discretion. It is to sift, screen, scrutinize and select between the needs and wants: personal, social and beyond personal. While the needs are permanent, universal and timeless, the wants always remain transient, temporary and passing fads. No one ever needs to justify needs. But the wants, now and then, need justifications. Manufacturers and traders tell us what we must want and have. Architects are not far behind them to advocate through their products and designs to tell people how they must live in a mass society. This is a joint venture to make people opt for the ways of industrial society.
      All products (and ideas) supplied and sold, or even donated, by the industrial society in the name of needs, wants, conveniences, philanthropy or altruism, must be tasted in the laboratories of environment, ecology and energy for health of man and nature, and scrutinize their price, cost, benefit and value. But it may not be our priority, not being a profitable venture.

      Science, religion or philosophy, unless responsible for the sustenance of all the living beings, may remain a dead irrelevant matter. In spite of all the glamour, the Einstein and the Nobel Prizes are irrelevant, even irresponsible to the large majority of the needy. Perhaps that is why mythologies have lasting value for people. Sooner or later we, and the future generations, may even loose them, or get them distorted.  Why does an arrow (archery) have a symbolic meaning and not the ICBM? Why does ‘Hermit’s Hut’ come in the discussion on architecture? Is there any example of mythical value in the modern architecture?

            Modern architecture is a by-product of industrial revolution, and is born in city. A city has always been a symbol of power. In modern times, metropolitan city has emerged not only as a symbol of unlimited centralised power but also as a parasite on the planet. It has extended its footprint beyond its physical boundaries of sovereign states for its sustenance into the regions near and far. It extends even beyond the sovereign state and beyond continents. This (globalization) does not mean that any place should adopt the dictate of International Style of architecture. It is not obligatory.

            Regional planning becomes a pressing problem in India due to the accelerated mechanization and industrialization, migration of peasants from their homestead and the neglect of hinterland, large population and biological diversity of the country. We must note the difference between the conditions of developed countries and India. In the West the urban population is about 80%, while in India it is about 30% that includes a large number of slums. In 1890 almost 30% of entire US population was living in the cities.

      Environmental awareness has brought up the grave issue to the fore of destruction of biological diversity and the need to conserve it. It is time now for architecture or the built environment to bring biodiversity into its discipline. Or revive itself in the realms of biodiversity instead of becoming an instrument or expression of inequity and exploitation of people, land and waters. This revival, having sufficient understanding of the Indian agrarian society, should bring forth the ethical and new aesthetic values; their roots are already in the land and her people. 

PRESENTATION to this paper: Man and Nature (Within and Outside)

To be continued
See the link to previous post: Garden under a Glass Cage… 
Author: Remigius de Souza
14 OCT 2004
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Garden under a Glass Cage

Architecture, Biodiversity and Aesthetics
(This paper, "Architecture and Biodiversity in India: A Context to Aesthetics in Our Times", was presented to PAITHRUKAM 2004: Seminar/Workshop on Aesthetics in Indian Architecture: Past, Present and Future, at MES College of Architecture, Trissure, Kerala. This is Part 1 of the paper. There are no pictures/images/photographs of any models in this paper, for obvious reasons!)

Prologue: Way of Nature 

THE ATTRIBUTE TO DESIGN IN NATURE is cryptically described by Martin Jones, bio-archaeologist:
“In whole organisms, randomness structure is uncommon. Everything seems finely tuned by brutal rigours of natural selection. There are no spare limbs to be found and hardly any dispensable organs. This forced economy of organism design has always limited the use of bodily form as evolutionary timepiece" (The Molecular Hunt, Penguin 2002).
This is most relevant definition of design even for man-made objects or institutions. Nature – within and outside – is the first and the last guru, irrespective of the tools – arts, sciences, religions or trades. All wisdom and knowledge originate in the nature. It is time now for ‘Srishtiyoga’ – Reunion with Nature.
Garden under a Glass Cage…

We are thinking of architecture because at primary level it is everyone’s need – from a shelter to farming to damning a river. It has emerged as a most costly commodity not merely economically but also environmentally.

Architecture – good or bad – is concrete manifestation of abstract thought. Any thought is always abstract. Language, script or graphic is abstract. So also, sciences, philosophies or religions are abstract. We comprehend abstraction by our perception of reality. Art also is abstraction; it is surreal. A farmer is an artist, who works with elements on the canvas of soil, where thought and senses are unified in action as a way of life. He works at tremendous risk. His work is concrete and spiritual at the same time. We are not referring to industrialized farming.

Architecture is primarily a utility; its interpretations, however, are abstract and various. A thought involved in architecture is abstract; it may even be superstitious, whether it is scientific, philosophical, social, economic or religious, or legal such as, building bylaws or development control rules for cities and regions. The superstition may appear by way of imitation, reproduction, adoption or mass production. Architect is a thinking person, unless of course one is physically, mentally and spiritually involved in the construction, even if it may be a modest artefact, where thought is dispassionately tested in action. The word architect is variously to various occupations, for example, building a nation in politics, writing a constitution for a nation, or creating virtual reality on computer.

Buddhist religious thought, for example, we assume, is translated in its religious structures, such as, Stupa, Vihara and Chiatya. However we are not informed about any example of Buddhist secular architecture. Hence we presume that when Buddhist religion is a person’s way of life it’s a concrete form. Can we interpret any architectural edifice – secular, religious or monumental – of any time or place as a way of life? The archaeologists do that taking help of many disciplines, though with their perception. Or is Buddhism yet another brand for mass conversions in defiance of another brand? Or is Buddhism, in our times, merely an intellectual kick in discourses or at coffee-table-talk?

It is said that Vihara was derived from the tribal village halls or men's clubs, and cave ethos share with ‘Gotuls’ or youth dormitories of Muria Tribe. This has been the way of life of the tribal, even now. The tribal communities were, still are, republicans. Knowing such facts, now even vernacular architecture is acknowledged along with classical, historical, ancient or so-called modern architecture.

Zen Buddhism has enriched daily living in its expressions in gardening, painting, poetry, drama, Ikebana, Tokonoma and tea ceremony that are elements of architecture and planning. In India too there are innumerable such expressions. Call them customs, rituals, religion, or traditions or whatever you may. Undoubtedly they originate in and relate to Nature.

The industrial civilization emerged with the Mechanical–Industrial Revolution (generally called Industrial Revolution), in the West. It started mass production; so much so, that communities turned into a homogenized mass society, which took to monoculture. It also started many institutions. It has institutionalized almost every aspect of private and collective life of an individual and the society, and reduced their autonomy.

It took a few hundred years to build (!) Ajanta Ellora. Here we notice a remarkable consistency and diversity both in the edifices as they materialized over a long period of time. How was it made possible? It took a few decades to build Taj Mahal. Now it takes a few months to build a skyscraper or a township.

Today technology renders several buildings and building types obsolete before their building-life is over. The West now has developed “controlled demolition technology” to ground multimillion dollar worth new buildings in the heart of cities, with total disregard to environmental-energy-ecology cost. The large industrial establishments are decentralizing and shifting their manufacturing units to different places and countries. Technologies and products including those for modern buildings are abandoned. Some prove hazardous to health.

We are in state of flux than ever before. Whatever may cause this flux it is man-made. Where can we draw a line between that which is permanent, universal or timeless and that which is transient or temporary? Homo sapiens have not changed biologically ever since they appeared.

Are the architects merely going by conventions of the past, or by those set elsewhere? Do they comprehend the present and foresee the future? Are architects obliged to accept, follow, or imitate blindly or piously the architecture of the 20th century that originated in the West? It, of course, is a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. A 20th century “form-giver” aptly said, “House is a machine for living in”. Now the investors and profiteers, hand in hand with science and technology, after exploiting the resources of the earth, have turned their eyes on biology and biotechnology [2]

Biotechnology is now becoming the buzzword of the 21st century in the industrial society. It, of course, is motivated to investigate and exploit new avenues for profit and power. It is banking on genes of every kind of species of animals, insects, plants, including man, after defiling land, waters and air, and biotic and abiotic nature, and after causing extinction/ annihilation of fellow human beings. Biological diversity however is the lifeline for the survival of mankind.

Who shall be the next master to be the 21st century form-giver? Who shall write the guidebooks? What shall be the new slogan of 21st century? It may be perhaps, “Garden under a glass cage is a house for the clones” who will live at the command by remote control in New York, London, Paris, Brussels, and Tokyo… or New Delhi, Mumbai!
Presentation to this paper:
Man and Nature (Within and Outside)

To continue
1 Biodiversity: ‘Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources, including interallia, terrestrial, marine and aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species; between species and the ecosystems.’ (Article 2 of the Convention of Biological Diversity, UNEP 1992)
2 Biotechnology: (a). Biotechnology is the application of biological organisms, systems or processes to manufacturing and service industries (Spinks, A. ‘Biotechnology’ report of a Joint Working Party, HMSO, London 1980).
(b) ‘Biotechnology is the art of manufacturing living forms as though they were machines’ (Stephan R. L., and Clark K. “Modern Errors and Ancient Virtues” in Ethics and Biotechnology, Eds. Anthony Dyson and John Harris, Routledge, London, 1994)
This paper was presented to PAITHRUKAM 2004: Seminar/Workshop on Aesthetics in Indian Architecture: Past, Present and Future, at MES College of Architecture, Trissure, Kerala.
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Monday, 16 November 2009

CIVILIZATION: A Smallest Poem on India

.. CIVILIZATION: A Smallest Poem on India which may be true for the whole world... 

Civilization, painted poem by Remigius de Souza, Mumbai
On the Gandhi Birth Anniversary Day (October 2, 2000) many NGOs in Mumbai organised a procession that was culminated   into a public meeting on national integrity at August Kranti Udyan, Govalia Tank.

We are patriotic to land and waters and all living beings (beyond a handheld palm-size map of the country).

We hail Environment + Ecology + Energy bestowed by the unwritten ancient Law of Nature, which is larger than all human artefacts, may they be arts and sciences, religions and philosophies... 

We are aware all boundaries are vulnerable to change through history of civilized societies, and even in the History of the Earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Art of Recycling

‘Recycling’ is not a new concept but rather a practice for most Indian people. Those who live in the close contact with nature – natural environment – do witness the constant recycling that takes place there, though they may not give a discourse on the subject. They too adapt to the process of recycling. Hence community participation is one of the features of their collective living at societal level. Their educational system is intrinsic and a lifelong process for the young as well as the elders.

    The industrial society has discovered ‘recycling of industrial waste’ not out of the love for nature or to conserve the finite resources of the earth. It has been more for the love of wealth, to generate new avenues of income and profit.
    Education, yet another division of labour, overtaken by Industrial Civilization, has been a tool to create the workforce to support the expansion of industrialization rather than transfer of knowledge and benefits to the people thus to make it universal.


© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Essays in early Indian architecture (Book Review)

By Remigius de Souza

Essays in early Indian architecture
Author: Ananda K. Coomaraswamy
Edited by Michael W. Meister
Publishers: Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, and Oxford University press, Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras. 1992 
Price: Rs 400/- pp xxviii plus 151, Illustrations: 164.

"Vastu, add the meaning, “real estate” (Meyer, “Liegenschaft”): “Vastu includes houses, fields, groves, bridges (or ghats, setu-bandha), ponds and reservoirs,” Arthasastra, III, 8”(A. K. Coomaraswamy, Indian Architectural Terms, P. 97)

THE BEGINNING OF 1993 saw two significant events in Indian architecture.
The INGCA and OUP made available five essays by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877–1947) which were earlier inaccessible to the public.
The other event was the theme chosen by the National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA), India, “Back to the Roots” for their national convention held at Bhubaneshwar, Orissa (now Odisha).

Though it may not be perceptible, very few are aware of the Indian ethos in different areas of creative life and expression. But at the end of 20th century, with the imminent fall of ‘industrial civilization’ (or ‘economic civilization’), the awakening of ethnic identity is a global phenomenon. Parallel to the environmental movement, there is a ‘Anti-celebration to Columbus Day’ all over the world, and a new awareness in different disciplines.

The essays by Coomaraswamy reappear when people of India (not the statisticians) are groping for salvation in an ever-increasing chaos. The much sought-after development aping the west has only worsened the living conditions of the people of mainstream India. While this book may pamper the inflated Indian ego, it may be life-saving plank to multitudes in 20th century modernity called consumer civilization.

The common theme of the essays is to present a picture of secular, domestic, urban, rural architecture of India 2000 years ago, the remains of which do not exist because of impermanent nature of materials used. The book is about how the common man’s architecture, a hut of a villager that became a source – a form-giver – and developed into a unique architectural style, complex structural system and highly developed building vocation – into a tradition that materialised in thousands of and continued during the late medieval period under royal patronage (
Chapter IV. Huts and related temple types, P 103).

For instance, “Tree-cult”, tree worship which was adopted by the Buddhists in “Bodhi-gharas” was an animistic practice of the people before Aryans came (
Chapter II. BODHI-GHARAS, P 19).

Though Coomaraswamy does not mention so, the “
Tree-cult” still exists in India in different forms, for example, “Tulasi-vrindavan”, holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum L.) on a platform or in a pot, is a common feature of the Indian household. The plant is known for its medicinal values and is also an organic insecticide. “Brahman” – a banyan tree with a built platform, is a common feature of villages in Konkan region – a well known monsoon forest region on the West Coast of India. “Devarai”, sacred grove, is a “protected forest” by the people for the Indian villagers and forest dwellers, by unwritten law of ancient tradition, though not recognised by the development projects, or by the British-made “Forest Acts” that still continue in modern India.

Why Tree-cult?
Coomaraswamy has not posed this question here. Did some visionary scientists or wise men of the aborigine communities initiate tree-worship as a measure of environmental protection?

A. K. Coomaraswamy opens up the first essay on “
Cities and city-gates, etc.” with a statement, “…cities are despised and there are no ceremonies for urban life”(P.3). He quotes “It is impossible for one to obtain salvation, who lives in a town covered with dust” (Baudhayana Dharma Sutra, II, 3, 6, 33).

Elsewhere he says, “…but the village is still typical centre of Aryan life” (History of Indian and Indonesian Art, p 15) referring to Maurya period. Indian society has remained agrarian even under the wave of industrialization.

Among several features of city, Coomaraswamy describes city-gates: toranas and gopuras, which were used for protection and security or for honorific and ornamental purposes. In contemporary times, Mr
Shankar N. Kanade, architect, has used city-gates in “Jala Vayu Vihar” township at Bangalore (now Bengaluru), enhanced by adding elevated water storage tank. In present day context, more than being ornamental it gives identity to a place in urban chaos; it is a symbol of celebration, besides utility. Isn't it embedded mimetic memory in Indian mind!

Indian Architectural Terms
(P. 71 – 99) is a critical essay on two books written by Prof. P. K. Acharya, “Indian Architecture According to the Manasara-silpasatra” and “A Dictionary of Hindu Architecture”. It is a combative but constructive criticism. This essay helps to learn ‘how to criticise and how to take it, and gives access to ‘meanings’ of the terms.

Take the term,
Vastu, much in currency these days, for example: “Vastu, add the meaning, “real estate” (Meyer, “Liegenschaft”): “Vastu includes houses, fields, groves, bridges (or ghats, setu-bandha), ponds and reservoirs,” Arthasastra, III, 8” (P. 97).

He has presented over 100 sculptured relief works in photographs and drawings – some of them restored in exquisite drawings by him, as visual evidence, from monuments built in or carved out of rocks centuries ago. The author referred to textual evidences from Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali law books, epics and Kavya literature. These reliefs were executed by sculptors, guilds of master craftsmen who documented epics of Indian civilization on stone surface. It is worth noting that the sacred texts were handed over by mnemonic method, though writing was known, for reasons of accuracy, which is still being observed. In the relief sculptures there is no scope for errors or adulteration or manipulations.

The population of India around 1st A.D. was perhaps 30 million or so, with growth rate of probably less than 0.01 percent per year. As the feudal power over people increased, which is now growing to a global scale through its invisible tentacles, the epic writer in stone is now visibly disintegrated.

What happened to the guilds as the population grew?
For instance, the communities of stone-cutters called “Wadar” and “Beldar” living in the slums of cities and towns not far from the famous monuments of Karla, Bhaja, Elephanta, Kanheri etc. and several forts in Maharashtra. Are these the descendants of the guilds of the ancient times? Just as the Brahmin descendants of the sages – Vashishta, Agasti, Vyas, Bhrugu, Vaishampayana etc. whose pedigree has been maintained by the high caste?

What Michael W Meister probably missed
in the conversation with Joseph Rykwert is to give 20th century parallel in modern architecture to A K Coomaraswamy’s thesis of “primordial hut as a form-giver” to historical Indian Architecture (Afterword: Adam’s house and hermits’ hut: A conversation, P. 125) . In the twentieth century modern (western) world architecture there are only “master form-givers”, whose works go down as second hand and third hand imitations to the masses: Indeed a true expression of economics of Industrial Civilization that give the fruits of its development and progress, prosperity and powers to the society by the “trickle down formula”. This formula is also applied to the education system to support industrial civilization.

In today’s context,
awareness of environment, ecology and energy which are being destroyed at unprecedented rate, Coomaraswamy’s work of timeless quality is all the more relevant, a ground prepared for ‘further work’.

It is a book for all:
scholars and architects, planners and politicians, pundits and leaders alike: a collector’s copy. It may also help a new vocabulary – a new form of expression to emerge – a departure from twentieth century architecture and other disciplines (born and developed in the West); a restoration of dignity of labour; a change in planning parameters; a right to manage their own affairs to the local communities. What John Papworth calls, “Democracy after all does not mean government for the people; it means government by the people. We hope, in Coomaraswamy’s words, “…mark a final victory of the conquered over the conquerors” (History of Indian and Indonesian Art, P. 5).

(NOTE: This is an edited version of book review, published in INDIAN ARCHITECT & BUILDER, Mumbai, May 1993, P. 85-86)

Image: Portrait of Ananda Coomaraswamy by Arnold Ronnebeck, 1929. This bust represents Coomaraswamy at about the same he was working on "Early Indian Architecture" and other wor
ks in transition (P. 103).

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 30 October 2009

My Home My Heart (painted poem)

With money you can buy houses, but money cannot buy for you a home. 

House is where the Home is;
Home is where the Heart is.
Squatters in Mumbai - fallout of Development in India
(Image: Shelter for the bus passengers / Shelter for the Displaced in Mumbai: Contradiction in Mumbai's Urban Design. 
Both togather symbolise India's Development Planning, and exposes its hypocrisy.)

Whenever I walk down-to-earth in Mumbai I notice 55 million people live in the slums and squatters, struggle for their daily bread.
It is their Daily Prayer in Action to Life. They aren't activist like the elite; they are actionist without duplicity, and without words.

It seems their number is daily rising defying the official statistics:
just like the rising national GDP of India;
just like rising Stock Exchange indexes in the money market;
just like rising numbers of skyscrapers rising higher and higher on Mumbai's skyline;
just like rising number of vacant blocks of houses awaiting higher returns of their investments.
It seems all these have lost their heart and home, both, in the money market, though the squaters on the street-side!

The reason to notice them is simple: Once I practiced as architect-planner; once I was a teacher; once I was landless teen age farm labourer; once I too was a displaced person. Only I had opportunity for formal education in time.
All these people have come from many regions of India. They come from the places wherever Mumbai has left its footprint. The rulers of India must not ignore this fact. The capitalist – Indian and foreigners – who have settled in Mumbai are capable enough to buy over all of them, but where they can get educated slaves why should they care?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Son of Soil

There is nothing like
to be in communion 
with soil, Bliss eternal like 
a savage – an aborigine, 
the son of soil. 

Alas! The son of man, 
not by will, astray gone 
belonging to civilization. 
My last wish, action - out and in, 
O, Soil, is to love you forever.

(This post is revised as some errors occurred inadvertently.)

Remigius de Souza
(Mumbai | 28-12-1999)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Anahad Naad is Primal Sound or Supreme Silence

 (This is a revised article; I have deleted the previous post.)

Anahad Naad” (in Indic languages),as far as I know and understand, means “Primal Sound” or “Supreme Silence” that is contained in “Srishti” – Nature. I suppose, all living beings are capable of hearing / listening the Primal sound. It seems to me that the potted plants on my terrace do hear / feel my compassionate or hostile thoughts.

One, however, particularly in modern urban habitat, may not hear the Primal Sound by the sense organs of ears. Even skins can feel the vibrations of sound. (I have tried to explore some of it “Senses and SenseAbility 5: Hearing” in my series of articles on Senses on this blog.)

I once read information about science that it has discovered ‘music in sand dunes’.
I am also informed that (traditional) Indian farmers say, "Water goes to sleep, and Water wakes up". Just information, such as this, does not help to listen or perceive "word" by land and water without being in tune with nature, though.

Artists, folk and classical artists, particularly musicians – vocalist and instrumentalists – who follow “Naad-Yoga” by riyaz – regular, rigorous practice – may have ability to listen / perceive Supreme Silence. And of course, the aborigine tribal, too, who live in the close proximity with the elements. The aborigine tribes (and animals) of Andaman Islands ran to safer higher grounds before the last tsunami reached the land; it is already a known “story”.

 Hearing by ears 

In today’s context: We, who are accustomed to hear by ears but sometimes fail to listen, become aware of Supreme Silence when volcanoes erupt and the earth tremors, by thunder storms and lightning, hurricanes and tsunami, when mountains rise and land is submerged. 
We become aware only when the weak, meek and silent people’s uprising in revolt causes mighty civilizations and powers vanish. Silence does not mean weakness.
I have heard that the complex letter or word “OM” has power of “Big Bang”, whoever may have had real experience; we don't question.

God may be a concept for some. However, Srisihti - Nature - is not a concept. All that one need to perceive Srishti - Nature is to follow “Srishtiyoga – Way of Nature” or the Communion with Nature.  

The photograph shows a Warli tribal sings while playing his string instrument. All tribal – men and women – dance and sing collectively and individually.


I add following quotes from “KATHA UPANISAD with Commentary of Sankaracarya”, Translated by Swami Gambhiranand (Publishers: Advaita Ashram, Mayavati, Himalayas).

Note 1: The word or letter or symbol - "OM"

“This letter (Om), indeed, is (the inferior) Brahman (Hiranyagarbha). And this … letter is (Om) the supreme Brahman. Anybody, who, (while) meditating on this letter, wants any of the two, to him comes that.” — Sloka: I.ii.16, p. 53. 

Sankaracarya comments “...For, of them both this letter (Om) is the symbol...” (p. 54).

Note 2: Five Elements and the Senses

Translator’s Note 1, which elaborates Five Elements, in reference to Sankaracarya’s Commentary, “...How is the thing to be known very subtle? That is being said: Now, then, this earth is gross, developed as it is by (the principle of) sound, touch, colour, taste, and smell; and it is an object of perception to all the senses. So also is the body...” (Sloka: I.iii.14, P.79-80).
“Earth is possessed of five qualities ? smell, taste, colour, touch, and sound; water consists four qualities beginning from taste; fire of the next three; air of the next two; and space of the last one. It is difficult to translate the word akasa. Vedantasutra defines it as the element that provides space and sound as its quality” (Note 1, p.80).
(I am neither a scholar of Sanskrit, nor an authority on Scriptures of any religion including Christianity, nor on Spirituality. My series on “Senses and Sense-Ability” refers to a living on gross level. However, where does the Element "akash" (usually called space) dwell in the body? How do we attend the sense of hearing, besides other senses? How do we hear the so-called "Inner Voice", if we ever hear?)

Please do write if anyone knows or feels otherwise about “Anahad Naad”.
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Planet in balance

Isn’t it better while speaking on personal, collective and institutional matters to keep it on objective level instead of getting sentimental? Institutions occupy major part of our personal and collective life in space and time. It is often noticed people bring in personalities in the matters of institutions rather than looking at the issues in the larger context of ground realities of people, land and waters.

This is not healthy either for an individual or the collective for holistic growth; growth on all the planes – "Work, Leisure, Heath, Education and Propagation";  growth in quality not in quantity as is in industrial mass production, whereby to have firm roots in self-sustenance and self-reliance. Institution is a faceless entity, an instrument which needs overhauling, servicing and even replacement.

Look at the family! It is an ancient institution, which is not a faceless entity alike the institutions established by civilised societies. Family, therefore, also community, appears in other species as well as among humans. Family is breaking up in modern times: orphans, the destitute women – widows – the aged, the singles, and the single parents. It is inevitable fallout of industrial society. What is the point in shedding tears on the dead and the dead matter?

If industrial society needs babies science and technology can help. It could go for cloning, while annihilating, through several means and for several reasons, millions of humans and other species. One of the reasons is endless consumption (and waste) for profit and power. Until recent times there have been intellectual clones (or zombies? Or morons?), earning their daily bread by discourses.

Now, physical clones are started, beginning with plants and animals. Clones have neither pedigree nor posterity. If any sense(s) – sensuality – that is characteristic of ‘natural’ beings is still left in them, then any clone could mate with another clone at fancy, like picking up ready-to-eat-food packets at departmental store or supermarket. No side effects, no after-effects! As and when felt the clones will produce more clones also at labs.

They (the clones) also will die faster than ‘natural’ humans like the broilers born in incubator, if not by killing each other, either for ‘fun’ or ‘revenge’;
Come rising temperature, green house effect, depleting ozone, melting glaciers... either by industrial society, or by Acts of gods; 
And even if the intellectual hominid continue to profess the Future, to make their dough for the day; 
Or even if human species vanish like other species in the Past:
The Planet, without remorse, remains in Balance.

Remigius de Souza    
 © Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Cow Dung for Sustenance in India


 Cow Dung for Sustenance in India

The cow dung (organic manure) helped  us to help grow food in farms and kitchen garden, to cook our food (energy), and helped us to protect our mud houses; thus helped us to sustain (ecology). We used cow dung wash on the floors and walls. Even the ashes from “Chulha” – cooking hearth made out of mud and finished with cow dung wash – were used in the farms to rejuvenate the soil.

And finally the used cow dung in all its forms as a waste went back to the earth.
All the actions predominantly used human energy, besides animal energy, which is abundant in the Third World India. The governments, though, may not acknowledge while craving for fossil fuel and atomic energy sources. Indeed it explains how cow has been sacred to Indic People for millennia.

There is much interest in “cow dung” worldwide, which is welcome sign in view of “carbon tax”. However, the western attitude to recycling cow dung is to use mega industry, mass scale production, centralization... that are basically harmful to very concept of sustainability. (Deceases due to nuclear-electromagnetic radiation,  mad cow disease, Bird flu, Swine-flu etc. HIV-Aids, apart: Some of them travel by airplane.) On the contrary, the “processing” cow dung in India is decentralized at a household level. This, of course, is a matter of lifestyle! How helpless!!

Inevitably the industrial society goes for mass production, be it cattle, pork, meat or poultry for food, or education, or leisure... that leads to centralisation of power. To save environment – energy – ecology the invent machinery that destroys the very purpose of such intention.

Could modern science and technology replicate this cyclic process, by learning from the people, rather than exploiting the Nature, even after so much of their so-called advancement? Could, at least, any economist verify the cost, price, value and benefit of cow dung in terms of Energy-Ecology-Environment at micro-meso-macro levels?   At least I am not aware of any, neither at home or abroad.

Read more on cow dung and its relevance to Life and living:       
1. Clay–Cow dung Grain Silos of Saurashtra, Gujarat
2. Cow dung, Rice and Amartya Sen (a critique): Challenges of 21st Century
3. Collecting cow dung for Energy 3
4. Collecting cow dung for energy 2
5. Collecting cow dung for energy

Remigius d Souza
(18 June 2007)
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Mission Impossible!!

Remigius de Souza writes:

Things don’t happen by their own accord.
However we often tend to make this statement: “It happened.”
By our apathy or empathy, we too are the part to make the things, which we presume “they happen”.
But logic – rationale is a double edged weapon. Hence we don’t use it till it reaches its inevitable end. We leave it on its way once we reach a conclusion which seems convenient for us: “Things happen”, we say.
Because, by and by, the other edge of the weapon starts hurting us too; we give up logic.

I watch a Hollywood / Bollywood movie that shows cheap love in plenty and violence – mass destruction in plenty, either by design or default. It is produced at a heavy monetary cost ? a mass destruction of the Earth’s resources, which are actually the privilege of all the living beings of the Earth. The movies are destroying the resources by burning the currencies available (or borrowed) at hand. There are produced in hundreds for mass consumption to provide cheap and passive entertainment, hardly for any creative ends, except to make profit (losses). I resent it, yet continue to watch them.

I don’t look at my logic squarely, because it is about to show my cheap desire to buy most uneconomical but most degraded form of entertainment, even at personal cost of my physical, mental and economic resources. It’s only because I have currency (hard-earned or borrowed) at my hand. I don’t want to look for other creative options of healthy leisure! Mission Impossible!!
- - - - -

Remigius de Souza

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Dimensions of Sound at Kanheri Caves, Mumbai

Architecture of Sound- 2

 About 2000 years old rock-cut Buddhist Caves at Kanheri are now within the Metropolis of Mumbai. The Buddhist campus is located in the hills. This area is notified as National Park, a place of heritage of Forest and the caves too. I am ignorant of what it looked like then, two thousand years ago. But our experience there has been unique.

Chaitya at Kanheri Caves, SNGP, Mumbai

There are many visitors, particularly at weekends and holidays: Tourists, families, students, singles and couples. Sometimes some of the visitors have their fun of hearing the noise they make by shouting all together in the Chaitya. They perhaps learn something here? They experience reverberations. But the learning, unfortunately, does not go further than the noise of which they are used to in their urban life. Mass-mania! They perhaps also do not take notice of the notice put up there by the Archaeological Survey of India, not to make noise.

    In the empty (of other visitors) hall we, my student Nadakumar Jethe and me, spoke to each other. We stood some 15 meters apart. We began our conversation by a whisper, in low decibel. We raised our voice slowly until it was heard clearly by both of us.
    There were no reverberations.
    The sound level was lower than two persons talking to each other, sitting at one-meter distance in a crowded restaurant at a busy street-side in the city of Mumbai. How many monks did gather here for discourses, debates, and prayers etc? There are about hundred caves on the Campus.
      Imagine for a while, the Members of the Parliament of India, representatives of the people in the contemporary times, holding a session here in the Heritage building of Chaitya, on the hot issues of the country! They too, perhaps, may discover the Dimension of Sound (or SILENCE!), and its significance, not only in the Third Ecology – human ecology – but also in the entire ecology of Land (and Waters)! They too, perhaps, may acquire an ability to listen to the other beings, besides human beings, and the other happenings in the world of animals, insects, trees, reptiles, the night, clouds – lightning and thunder and droplets , breeze – storms and gales, water –  waves and floods and rain, the ground – the sprouting of a grain, and earthquake.
And also imagine about the teachers in modern education (and architecture) holding their classes here!
    We are generally deprived of leisure, an important dimension of life, as much important as Work, Education and Health, in these times of stress and strain, speed and efficiency. In the wave of visual aesthetics of hedonism we are missing, now and then, the other senses of existence. In here, going into the Earth, was like returning to womb ― a tranquil environment ambivalent for meditation – recollection  leisure; the mind and SELF face to face ―  listening to the soundless sound.

"The old pond
A frog jumps in.
         [Basho, Japan, 17th Century.]


© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Architecture of sound

It is the kind of speech 
no eye can see.
Kabir says, listen 
to the word spoken 
in every body. 
— Kabir
 (Translation by Linda Hess and Sukhdeo Singh)

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." 
 — New Testament [John 1.1]  

IT WAS the middle of monsoon in the world famous monsoon forest of Konkan, West Coast region of India. The hills of Karnala Bird Sanctuary, about 70 km from Bombay (now Mumbai), were lush green with grasses and bushes. Otherwise they radiate heat waves rest of the year.

Four students of architecture and one of their professors from Bombay City were wandering near their project site. They were in the hills about quarter of a kilometer from the Bombay-Goa Highway.

"Do you hear anything?" asked the teacher.
"We hear the sounds of trucks and cars passing on the highway."
"Do you hear anything more than that?"
"No, Sir, nothing else."
"There is too much noise in our heads. Let us stop that noise and then listen."
"Oh! The murmur of a stream! Sir, where is it?" They exclaimed in unison.

With the progress and development of the civilized world, a few, very few, dance and sing and play; and the millions watch them dancing, singing and playing, on the cinema and television screens, and listen them on gramophone, radio, audio-video-players, and on the public address system during public festivals. [Incidentally there are "Adivasi" ― aborigine ― tribes named Katakari and Thakar in and around the hills of Karnala.]

In the increasing noise of market economy and information technology, transport and communications, media and propaganda… the Self is lost.

Four years after the incidence in the hills of Karnala, which was of course forgotten, the students of architecture had the 1994 Western Zonal Convention of NASA [National Association of Students of Architecture] held at Mumbai (then Bombay). Its theme was "AWAKENING OF SENSES". It is the beginning of a very hard journey in the present urban environment to experience "ANHAD NAAD"? Silence, which is the heart of music, and the primordial sound, intelligible sound ? "Nada", “Nada Brahma".

In the architecture of sound, the archetypal "Lomas Rishi Cave" [mid third century BC] at Barabar Hill, one could hear the sound within oneself and move towards the quietude.

Note: Illustrations: Top- Facade of Lomas Rishi Cave, Barabar Hills, Bihar. India. Bottom: View of inner chamber, plan and section of the cave. See, also, "Masters of Timeless Architecture".

(19-11-1994 | published in "Soundsnipe" - magazine of acoustics, issue 2, New Delhi, January 1995)

Remigius de Souza
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.