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.
Plop!'
         [Basho, Japan, 17th Century.]


Mumbai
17-9-1995

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© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

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