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.

Friday, 11 September 2009

River of no return (Poem)

I am not a parasite on society
Nor on my family, least in any way.
Though longing for community
I shun away from identity.

I am in the river of no return.
There is no time to wait for anyone.
You came; you joined for a while
Looking for landing all the while.

This way is sometimes rough and deep
Some times fall from heights;
If you loose your breath, and weep
None other than river to console and wipe

Your tears other than the river.
Attach no meaning - no purpose to her.
She is in herself, by herself complete.
Breathe her in all fullness in and out.

I am reeling and rolling over and over,
Living this very moment to moment
Reaching out with every drop
To my beloved deep ocean infinite.

* * *
Remigius de Souza

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sense and Sense-Ability – 8: Taste

Remigius de Souza writes:

Illustration: Aesthetic Taste

1. Taj Mahal, India: precious/semiprecious stone studded fantasy mausoleum (in feudal era).

2. Bra: diamond studded fantasy (in democratic era).

3. Beijing Olympic Stadium and Inauguration: Technology gimmicks studded fantasy leisure (in autocratic state). Qualitatively their taste ethics and aesthetics don’t differ much from one another.


We are thinking, here, of taste, a physical sense, the phenomenon that goes long way from mouth to the entire gamut of environment-ecology-energy of Terra Incognita Indica, for that matter, of entire globe. Taste, here, is a business of mouth: To eat, drink and chew – primarily to satisfy the Basic Need, besides to speak, and to sing, and perhaps abuse...

We are not talking about that taste in the abstract realm of fashions and styles, arts and artefacts; they are but transient in time-space and places.

A new born baby sucks nipples of mother’s breasts (or teat of feeding bottle). Thankfully, s/he is not to be or cannot be taught by any high culture / low culture, or by any civilisation, or by any power savvy authority that would at once jump at the first opportunity.

Oh, that cones in other areas. The onslaught on their taste starts from the day one. The new born are generally on the supplementary feeds – drugs, vitamins, vaccines etc. For various reasons prescribed by the specialists (of course, to those who can afford; 90 percent Indians can’t). So, their taste buds now start getting tuned to the modern social and economic development, in other words, they are baptized in the Dharma of Industrialization.

The onslaught also comes from the omnipresent Market, the manufacturers, the show-biz – the pop stars farting on the TV screens every 10-15 minutes intervals, and so on. It comes with ready to serve canned and packed conveniences in attractive wrappings: That includes processed foods and drink – sweet – sour – pungent – salty (bitter and astringent excluded). The shelves are always full at the glitzy mall.

It could be so, because the mothers or parents or families are under constant pressure of time-crunch, that’s for one. Hence, the market is ready to serve. And other is knowledge-crunch. Because in the nuclear family raj, there probably is no grandma’s legacy left. They have spent their formative years (till 20 to 25) learning specialised courses – arts, sciences, commerce, ET-IT, engineering, business management etc at mass schooling. Their data bank is empty in this vital field of health about “when-where-why-who(m)-how” of right food to keep healthy. Well, some information filters through the print media, like guide books of their school days. But what is its reach?

In the cities, however, till now, the grocery shops and (vegetable) markets have number of varieties of great variety of grains, condiments, spices, dry and fresh fruits, tubers, rhizomes, leaves and roots in vegetables: I don’t know even the name of many. I wonder perhaps the medicos may know.

In the villages generally there should belocally grown grains, fruits and vegetables, and supplements from forests, woodlands and wetlands, if any still survive, and if accessible through the clutches of various departmental authorities. However, sooner or later the Market would take over to supply.... But why is there such a great exodus from the village to urban areas?

In the Indic region there has been great natural biodiversity. In the Indic region there has been a great natural biodiversity. It has influenced all the aspects of culture, not only food and clothing, in short, the four aspects of our daily living: Work, Leisure, Education and Health.

Biodiversity in India has resulted in rich medical systems – Ayurveda, Siddhayoga etc. It is there in the occult cults – Tantra, Mantra, magic practices. However much of the knowledge is with the ethnic and tribal communities that remain incognito (perhaps under a cloud of modern day superstitions or prejudices), besides in the treatises. What’s the point in giving official recognition to the systems, but not its bearers, the people, who are treated as second class citizens?

Shamefully, the visible reality down to earth is the country’s most of the green cover, woodlands, forests and wetlands are either get pollute or are disappearing, consequently the loss of wild life, diminishing surface and subsoil water, and comes expanding desert. Another consequence is people’s knowledge and skills, preserved through generations. are vanishing. In the place of biodiversity there comes monoculture of plants and monoculture of mass society is being groomed through mass schooling. All this is for the delight of bureaucrats and the ruling powers for the easy control, and modern development of economic by regimentation.

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Friday, 4 September 2009

My lesson on slate (Poem)

(Key words: Minimalist Architecture)

Learning on a slate may not be comprehensible today for the urbanite in a mass education system.

I learnt to write and read “letters and numbers” on a slate with chalk-pencil at primary school at my native village, in Marathi vernacular.

And, I must add, I also learnt “to make things” at home and at paddy and vegetable farms and indulged in many errands in life-sustaining skills, like any other village kids.

The only problem has been, then during British rule and now in the democratic India, the people’s skills and knowledge remain without official recognition.

How does the Taj Mahal relate to the slate made out of ordinary stone?

I learnt a most wonderful lesson early in my life.
It is that from time to time, each time, I wrote my lesson and my homework I wipe my slate clean to rewrite.

No attachment to – no identification with – no memorial out of ego with whatever work done. Each time wipe the ego. Each time internalise the lesson and learning. And make it a stepping stone, in success as well as in failures.

Taj Mahal, or pyramids, or Great Wall of China, or Berlin Wall… all shall perish sooner or later.
Even this blog – this writing – shall perish.
Yahoo already has scraped Yahoo-Briefcase service.
Google is about to remove Google-Pages.
More shall follow.

I don’t know what the western or westernized scholars and pundits have to say about “Minimalist Architecture”, either about building designing or web-designing. But who does talks the thought and walks the talk?

The twenty-first century continues to capitalize on the feudal monuments of the past. It glamorizes them – the wonders of the world – to keep centralized power in the hands of the few, which reaches the global level.
Democracy is but only a new bottle for the old wine of centralized feudal power.

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Metropolis (महानगर)


Words lost
Tones lost
Expressions lost
Meanings lost
only here
in this jungle.

(Translation from original Marathi by the author)


शब्द हरवले
सूर हरवले
मुद्रा हरवल्या
अर्थ हरवले
या अरण्यात

रेमीजीयस डिसोजा

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.