Swami's Mission to India

Sannyasin Arumugaswami brings us a vision from South India, documenting part of the trip that he and Yoginathswami have just returned from.

View of an unknown river on our way from Chidambaram to Chennai.

Paddy field on the way

Our driver is overtaking a truck, while a bus approaches as we pass through a small town along the way.

We pass through a tunnel of tamarind trees. The trees are painted with white and black stripes to indicate they are state-owned.

We share the road with an ancient mode of transportation -- the bullock cart -- which is still used in many parts of Tamil Nadu and across India.

We had short visit by Silpi Lokesh’s wife, Kushuma, and his son. Silpi Lokesh is one of the few Karnataka-born silpis who work at Iraivan Carving Site in Bangaluru. He has been part of our Kauai silpi team since August, 2008.

Yoginathaswami had a two-hour-long meeting with Artha Enterprise staff Jiva, Sentilathiban and Thuraisingam Rajasankara.

The meeting focused on various aspects of the Iraivan project, including carving priorities and schedules, crating and shipping details and silpi selection.

The newly built Artha Enterprise stone carving shed.

Our partially completed stone bell. This will be hung from one of Iraivan’s structural ceiling beams just to the right after entering through the Rajagopuram. Devotees can reach up and hit it (on the inside) with a wooden mallet. We tested the sound quality of this black granite bell--it has an amazingly sharp bell sound! We also verified the weight of the stone bell--600 pounds, which is within the required specifications.

Group photo of all the silpis present.

Upon our return to Chennai from
Bangalore, we were visited by Chidambaram Sthapati’s son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

Yoginathaswami meets with Selvanathan Sthapati to go over a series of questions regarding the second prakaram wall and other issues. Sthapati came with his nephew, Vinod Kumar, who is being trained to be a master temple architect.

Arumugaswami with, from left to right, Selvanathan Sthapati, Vinod Kumar, Mr. Nellaiappan, Dr. Sabharathanam and Dr. Karttikeyan, at the beginning of a discussion on the Saiva Agamas and their translation.

On the 26th we visited the Sanskrit Department of the University of Madras. This is Dr. Dash, the department head, who explained the NCC project.

He was an animated and passionate speaker. He is in charge of a massive project called the New Catalogus Catalogorium, or NCC. The task is to assemble all the catalogue of unpublished manuscripts in Indian libraries and selected overseas libraries into a single source--hence, the “catalog of catalogs.” The project was begun in 1937 and proceeded in fits and starts to this day. Dr. Dash is determined to complete the project and has some 15 Sanskrit staff and students working on it.

The catalogue entries from several hundred catalogs were each written on a piece of paper, as seen here, creating hundreds of thousands of entries. These have been assembled by manuscript title, then rechecked against the original catalog entry. They are next entered into the computer, but originally the process proceeded entirely by hand.

Here he shows the computer dbase and web interface being developed for the NCC project. Eventually a researcher will be able to find any entry in the dbase from anywhere in the world. Dr. Dash makes constant appeals for funds to sustain the project. Immediately after our meeting, he had a scheduled appointment with India’s finance minister in Delhi.

Arumugaswami talks to the entire project staff explaining how palm leaf manuscripts can be easily (if tediously) digitized, and ultimately made available on the Internet. Present studies of the ancient manuscripts are greatly hindered by the need to physically go to the library where each is kept. This field of research is rapidly changing as more and more of the ancient manuscripts are digitized.

The NCC staff, a highly dedicated group.

These are several volumes of the NCC, from the earliest published at the left to the latest at the bottom right. Some 27 have been published, and there are still 20 plus volumes to go.

A sample entry. This tantra is available, if we read this correctly, at the Travancore University.

Gunalan family takes our swamis to dinner at a local restaurant.

This is a nagalingapoo flower, upside down (sorry), which when fully intact has a little Siva Lingam inside it with the pedals over the Lingam. This is comes from a “cannon ball tree,” so named for the cannon-ball shaped fruit which grow out from its trunk.


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