G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Was Lord Krishna's Panchjanya a Matchless Cone (Conus cedonulli)?

(Today is my mother's 73rd birth anniversary. Thank you, Aai for those wonderful story telling sessions at dinner times. Mahabharata never became boring because of you more than Vyasa!)

I was always fascinated by reading of conch shells that were blown in the battles described in Mahabharata. They seemed to be an important weapon like a mount or a bow.

Thankfully, in real life, I heard them only in temples and a couple of homes.

When did they travel from slaughter-grounds to sanctum-sanctorums?

Are they mentioned in the ancient literature describing battles from outside India?

Each conch had a distinct sound. Like Louis Armstrong's horn sounds different from that of Miles Davis.

"...Krishna blew His conch, Paanchajanya;
Arjuna blew his conch, Devadatta;
And Bheema, the doer of formidable deeds,
Blew (his) big conch, Paundra.

The son of Kunti, King Yudhishthira,
Blew (his conch) Anantavijaya,
While Nakula and Sahadeva
Blew Sughosha and Manipushpaka conches, respectively..."

If you read Marathi, read a page from Vinoba Bhave's विनोबा भावे lyrical Geetai गीताई:


(double click on the picture to get a larger view)

[btw- As on January 2009, Geetai has sold 38,57,000 copies!]

Interestingly, I have never come across conches in battlefields of Ramayana. I wonder why.

Alas, there are no pictures of conch shells from those days.

CORNELIA DEAN has written a wonderful essay on seashells for The New York Times July 12 2010.



courtesy: “The Book of Shells” by M. G. Harasewych and Fabio Moretzsohn

Matchless Cone (Conus cedonulli) was one of the rarest shells in the 18th century. In 1796 a specimen brought more than six times as much as a painting by Vermeer that was sold at the same auction. It is still considered rare to uncommon, and it is prized by collectors for its beautiful pattern. With the advent of scuba diving, it is now found more often. All cone shells are venomous and should be handled with care when alive. The venom of C. cedonulli is not fatal to humans, but its sting may still be painful.