Category Archives: This is Life

The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded Europe. General Subutai, a Mongolian general, and the primary military strategist of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan was the mastermind behind the invasion. Batu Khan and Kadan, both grandsons of Genghis Khan, the first Khagan of the Mongol Empire commanded the Mongolian forces.

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Mongol Empire, 13th century.
Mongol Empire, 13th century.

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The Mongol invasion caused the severe and rampant destruction of East Slavic principalities and major cities, such as Kiev and Vladimir. The invasion also affected Central Europe. The Battle of Legnica on April 9, 1241 that caused the fragmentation of Poland and the Battle of Mohi on April 11, 1241, in the Kingdom of Hungary threatened to cast European Christendom under the rule of Ögedei Khan, the 2nd Khagan of the Mongol Empire.

Realizing they had to cooperate in the face of the Mongol invasion, warring princes of central Europe suspended local wars and conflicts until the Mongols left their lands.

The myth of Prester John

The early missionaries to the East and Far East countries were inspired by the myth of Prester John (Latin: Presbyter Johannes). The popular European chronicles and traditions from the 12th through the 17th century abound with various accounts about this mythical personage.

One such account depicts him as a Christian patriarch, a descendant of the Three Magi, ruling a kingdom full of riches, marvels, and strange creatures.

According to some early chronicles, Prester John, a Patriarch of the Saint Thomas Christians, resided in India. But after the Mongol invasion of eastern Europe, some accounts said he ruled a “Nestorian (Church of the East) Christian nation somewhere amid the Muslims and pagans of the Orient in Central Asia. The authors of these chronicles must have assumed so from works like the Acts of Thomas, one of the apocrypha of The New Testament. This apocryphal work has documented the tales about Thomas the Apostle’s subcontinental travels and the evangelistic success of the Nestorian Christians. The Acts of Thomas inculcated in the minds of the Europeans an image of India as an exotic country. It described the earliest account of Saint Thomas establishing a Christian sect called the “Saint Thomas Christians“. These motifs were instrumental for the later accounts of Prester John.

It was a time when ethnic and inter-religious tension prevailed. The European Christians saw Prester John as a symbol of the Church’s universality, transcending culture and geographical bounds to encompass all humanity.

Thus, the kingdom of Prester John fired the imagination of generations of adventurers and became the object of a quest that remained out of reach.

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"Preste" as the Emperor of Ethiopia, enthroned on a map of East Africa in an atlas prepared by the Portuguese for Queen Mary, 1558. (British Library)
“Preste” as the Emperor of Ethiopia, enthroned on a map of East Africa in an atlas prepared by the Portuguese for Queen Mary, 1558. (British Library)

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Portuguese explorers of the time thought that they had found the king in Ethiopia, which had been a Christian kingdom since the 4th century.

Alberic de Trois-Fontaines, a 13th-century chronicler, recorded that in 1165 several European rulers, such as Manuel I Comnenus (1143 – 1180), the Byzantine emperor, and Frederick I Barbarossa (1122 –  1190), the Holy Roman emperor received a letter sent by Prester John.

The Letter had a tale of wonder about the richness of the Nestorian Kingdom. The contents of the letter suggest that the author was aware of the Romance of Alexander and the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. The many marvels of the richness of the Nestorian kingdom captured the imagination of Europeans.

For centuries, the letter translated into many languages circulated accruing more embellishments with each copy. Today, more than a hundred examples of the letter still exist. The invention of printing perpetuated the letter’s popularity during the Age of Discovery. The essence of the letter was that a lost kingdom of Nestorian Christians still existed somewhere in Central Asia. It is presumed the author of the Letter was a European though the purpose served by the letter remains unclear.

The credence given to the reports about Prester John  was such that on September 27, 1177, Pope Alexander III sent his physician Philip to Prester John with a letter. The physician never returned with a reply from the mythical Prester John, who never existed!

Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine

While some scholars argue the Age of Discovery began in 1492, others point toward earlier dates. I would place the Age of Discovery to the mid 13th century, when the  65-year-old Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine led the  first formal Papal mission to the Mongols in April 1245 after the Mongol invasion of eastern Europe took place

With the dread of the Mongols still on the mind of the people in eastern Europe, Pope Innocent IV, sent the first formal Papal mission to the Mongols. The Pope chose 65-year-old Friar Giovanni da Pian del Carpine to head this mission. The aim of this mission was in part to protest against the invasion of the Christian lands by the Mongols, and also to gather trustworthy information about Mongol armies and their future intentions.

The mission left Lyon on Easter day April 16, 1245. Friar Giovanni bore a letter “Cum non solum” dated March 13, 1245, from the Pope to Ögedei Khan, the Mongol Emperor. Another friar, Stephen of Bohemia, accompanied Giovanni, broke down at Kaniv near Kiev. Another Minorite, Benedykt Polak, appointed to act as interpreter joined Giovanni at Wrocław.

After their perilous journey the Papal legate wrote that they were, “so ill that we could scarcely sit a horse; and throughout all that Lent our food had been nought but millet with salt and water, and with only snow melted in a kettle for drink.

Friar Giovanni and his companions rode an estimated 3000 miles in 106 days. Only when they reached their destination, they came to know that Emperor Ögedei Khan had died nearly four years before they undertook their journey.

On August 24, 1246, Friar Giovanni and his companions witnessed the formal enthronement of Güyük Khan as the Third Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The new emperor refused the invitation to become a Christian, but demanded that the Pope and rulers of Europe should come to him and swear  their allegiance to him.

When Güyük Khan dismissed the expedition in November 1246, he gave them a letter to the Pope, written in Mongol, Arabic, and Latin. It was a brief imperious assertion of the Mongol emperor’s office as the “scourge of God.”

Later on, other Catholic emissaries followed. In the 1250s, William of Rubruck, traveled east on a quest to convert the Mongols to Christianity.

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The Silk Road


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A 15th-century copy of Ptolemy's Map of the "Old World" by Jacob d'Angelo.
A 15th-century copy of Ptolemy’s Map of the “Old World” by Jacob d’Angelo.d’Angelo.d’Angelo.d’Angelo.

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Archeologists and Historians use the term “Old World” in the context of, and to contrast with, the “New World” (North and South America). The Old World, also known as Afro-Eurasia, consists of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Most countries of the Old World in the area of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Persian plateau, India, and China are in the temperate zone, roughly between the 45th and 25th parallels.

Herein emerged the cultural, philosophical and religious developments that produced the Western (Hellenism, “classical”), Eastern (Zoroastrian and Abrahamic) and Far Eastern (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism) religious and cultural spheres.

The Qin Empire

Qin was an ancient state in China during the Zhou dynasty. On May 7, 247 BC, Ying Zheng assumed the throne of the Qin state at age 9. Upon his ascension, Zheng became known as the King of Qin or King Zheng of Qin.

The Qin state had a large, efficient army and capable generals. They utilized the newest developments in weaponry and transportation and had a superior military power than the other six warring states. By the 3rd century BC,  the Qin state under King Zheng of Qin emerged as one of the dominant powers of the Seven Warring States.

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.

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Instead of maintaining the title of king borne by the Shang and Zhou rulers, Ying Zheng created a new title of “huángdì” (emperor) for himself. This new title combined two titles – huáng of the mythical Three Sovereigns (三皇, Sān Huáng) and the dì of the legendary Five Emperors (五帝, Wŭ Dì) of Chinese prehistory.

Ying Zheng ruled from 220 to 210 BC as the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty bearing the name Qin Shi Huangdi.

After the death of Qin Shi Huang in 210 BC, the Qin empire became unstable. Though the Qin empire was short-lived, it had a great influence over Chinese history.

The Han dynasty

Within four years after the death of Qin Shi Huangdi, the Qin dynasty’s authority collapsed. In the face of rebellion, the empire fissured into 18 kingdoms. Two rebel leaders, Xiang Yu of Chu and Liu Bang of Han, engaged in a war to decide who would become the next person to exercise hegemony in China. Each of the 18 fissured kingdoms claimed allegiance to either Xiang Yu or Liu Bang. In 202 BC, Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu at the Battle of Gaixia.

Liu Bang assumed the title “emperor” (Huangdi), known as Emperor Gaozu after his death. Thus, Emperor Gaozu found the Han dynasty, the second imperial dynasty of China. He chose Chang’an as the new capital of the reunified empire under Han.

Spanning over four centuries, the Han period was a golden age in Chinese history. To this day, China’s majority ethnic group refers to itself as the “Han people” and the Chinese script as “Han characters”.

To the north of China, the nomadic Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu conquered various tribes inhabiting the eastern part of the Eurasian Steppe. Towards the end of his reign, the Xiongnu chieftain controlled Manchuria, Mongolia, and the Tarim Basin, subjugating over twenty states east of Samarkand.

Chinese merchants sold iron weapons to the Xiongnu along the northern borders. Emperor Gaozu imposed a trade embargo to stop the illicit sale of arms. Although the embargo was in place, the Xiongnu found Chinese traders willing to supply their needs. Chinese forces then mounted surprise attacks against the Xiongnu who traded at the border markets. The Xiongnu retaliated by invading what is now Shanxi province and defeated the Han forces at Baideng in 200 BC. After negotiations, the heqin (“peace marriage”) agreement in 198 BC held the leaders of the Xiongnu and the Han as equal partners in a royal marriage alliance. Yet, the Han was forced to send large amounts of items such as silk clothes, food, and wine as a tribute to the Xiongnu.

Emperor Wu of Han

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Traditional portrait of Emperor Wu of Han of the Western Han dynasty from an ancient Chinese book.
Traditional portrait of Emperor Wu of Han of the Western Han dynasty from an ancient Chinese book.

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Emperor Wu of Han (June 30, 156 BC – March 29, 87 BC), born Liu Che, was the seventh emperor of the Han dynasty of China. He reigned 54 years from 141 BC to 87 BC. His reign resulted in the vast territorial expansion. By reorganizing the  government, he developed a strong and centralized state.  He promoted Confucian doctrines. Emperor Wu, known for his religious innovations was a patron of poetic and musical arts. During his reign, cultural contact with western Eurasia increased.

As a military campaigner, Emperor Wu led Han China through its greatest expansion.  At its height, the Empire’s borders spanned from modern Kyrgyzstan in the west to Korea in the east, and to northern Vietnam in the south.

In 133 BC, Emperor Wu launched a series of massive military invasions into Xiongnu territory and captured one stronghold after another. The Chinese assault ended in 119 BC at the Battle of Mobei. The Han commanders Wei Qing (the half-brother of Emperor Wu’s favorite concubine) and Wei’s nephew, Huo Qubing expelled the Xiongnu from the Ordos Desert and Qilian Mountains and forced them to flee north of the Gobi Desert and then out of the Gobi Desert.

The Silk Road.

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Statue of Zhang Qian in Shaanxi History Museum in Xi'an.
Statue of Zhang Qian in Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an.

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Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside China under Emperor Wu of Han. He played an important pioneering role in the Chinese colonization and conquest of the region now known as Xinjiang. He was the first official diplomat to bring back reliable information to the Chinese imperial court about Central Asia. This helped the Han sovereignty in territorial acquisitions and expansion into the Tarim basin of Central Asia. Today, the Chinese revered and consider Zhang Qian as a national hero for the key role he played in opening China to the world of commercial trade.

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Main routes of the Silk Road/Silk Route. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route. (Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)
Main routes of the Silk Road/Silk Route. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route. (Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

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The Han sovereignty established the vast trade network known as the Silk Road or Silk Route, which reached as far as the Mediterranean Sea. The Silk Road or connected the various regions of the Old World. Extending 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers), the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk carried out by Chinese merchants along its routes during the rule of the Han dynasty.

Around 114 BC, the Central Asian sections of the Silk Road routes were expanded. The Chinese took great interest in the safety of their merchants and their products. To ensure the protection of the trade route, Emperor Wu reinforced this strategic asset by establishing five commanderies and constructing a length of fortified wall along the border of the Hexi Corridor, colonizing the area with 700,000 Chinese soldier-settlers.

The Silk Road helped  establish political and economic relations between the various nations. Besides economic trade, the Silk Road served as a major factor in the development of the civilizations of China, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Arabia, the Horn of Africa, and Europe and carrying out cultural exchanges among the nations along its network.

The main traders during antiquity were the Chinese, Persians, Somalis, Greeks, Syrians, Romans, Armenians, Indians, and Bactrians. From the 5th to the 8th century the Sogdians joined the bandwagon. After the emergence of Islam, Arab traders became prominent users of the Silk Routes.

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The Japanese Sendai Nuclear Plant Threatened by the Sakurajima Volcano


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The lithosphere is the rigid, outermost shell on Earth. It comprises the crust and the part of the upper mantle that has an elastic behavior on, timescales of thousands of years or greater.

The scientific theory of plate tectonics describes the large-scale motion of Earth’s lithosphere. The geoscientific community accepted the theoretical model of plate tectonics developed during the first few decades of the 20th century based on the concept of continental drift. The concepts of seafloor spreading developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.
The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century.

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The Earth’s lithosphere, the rigid outermost crust and upper mantle, is broken up into seven or eight major tectonic plates and many minor plates.

These massive slabs of the earth’s crust forever creep, slip, lock up and then jolt again. The typical annual lateral relative movement of the plates varies from zero to 100 mm.

Almost all creation of mountains, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and the formation of oceanic trenches occurs along these tectonic plate boundaries.

The islands that compose the Japanese nation sit on or near the boundary of four tectonic plates: the Pacific, North American, Eurasian and Filipino plates.

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The Pacific Ring of Fire
The Pacific Ring of Fire

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Also, Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” also known as the circum-Pacific belt.  –  The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, associated with a continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and  tectonic plate movements.  It has 452 volcanoes and has over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. A large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in this region.

Sendai Nuclear Power Plant

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)
The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (Source: power-eng.com)

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The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by the Kyūshū Electric Power Company, is in the city of Satsumasendai in the Kagoshima Prefecture.  It is located near five giant calderas, a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption, with the closest one about 40 km away from the plant.

Before the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and the nuclear disasters that resulted from it, Japan had generated 30% of its electrical power from nuclear reactors. It had planned to increase electrical power production to 40%.

Nuclear energy was a national strategic priority in Japan, but there had been concern about the ability of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity.

The earthquake and tsunami of on March 11, 2011, caused the failure of the cooling systems at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.  Japan then declared its first-ever nuclear emergency. This caused the evacuation of around 140,000 residents within 12 miles (20 km) of the plant.

On May 6, 2011, Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the shutdown of the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant as an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher is likely to hit the area within the next 30 years.

Also, many other nuclear power plants, including the Sendai plant stopped  generating electricity.

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan set new safety standards for its nuclear reactor plants.

On September 10, 2014, the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) declared the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant safe for operation.

On August 11, 2015, Kyushu Electric Power Co., restarted its operation by bringing online the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai power station according to the new safety standards. Now it is providing power to the nearby towns again. Sendai is the first of Japan’s nuclear power plants to be restarted.

The Sakurajima Volcano

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View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009
View of Sakurajima from mainland Kagoshima in 2009

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Sakurajima is an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) 990 km southwest of Tokyo. It is a former island in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. It is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts all the time. The lava flows of the 1914 eruption caused the former island to be connected to the Osumi Peninsula. The volcanic activity still continues, dropping large amounts of volcanic ash on the surroundings. Earlier eruptions built the white sands highlands in the region.

The Japan Meteorological Agency  on its website said that it believes that a larger than the usual eruption could be in the offing since it detected multiple earthquakes in the area on Saturday morning.  So, on Saturday, August 15, 2015, the agency raised the warning level for the volcanic island of Sakurajima from Level 3 to an unprecedented Level 4 (red). It has warned the residents in the villages on Sakurajima and has advised them to evacuate since stones could rain down on areas near the mountain’s base.

The Kagoshima prefectural government has formed an emergency response team.

The Kyushu Electric Power Company says a possible eruption on Mount Sakurajima will not affect the operation of its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. The company made the comment after raising the alert level to 4. They said that they will collect the relevant data while proceeding with work to increase output as planned.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) also says any possible eruption of the Sakurajima volcano will not affect the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant.

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Miracles Do Happen Even in This Kaliyug.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)
A Mother and daughter in Chennai (This picture was posted on Facebook)

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In  the early hours of August 8, 2015, around 6:30 am,  a  walking group called “Twalkers” saw a mother and her daughter carrying a travelling bag at the Anna University Campus in Chennai,

The Twalkers saw them still standing in the same spot when they came around the second time. They inquired why they were standing there in the early hours.

Thangaponnu, the mother told them that she was a shepherdess from Musiri, a Panchayat town in the Tiruchirapalli district. Her daughter R. Swathi had scored 1017/1200 marks in her Plus Two examinations. After applying for entrance to B.Sc. Agriculture course, her daughter had been asked to come to Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, to attend the counseling session ahead of the admissions process to B. Sc. Agriculture, scheduled to start at 8:30 am. She showed the letter received by her daughter from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

On scrutinizing that letter,  the Twalkers saw the mistake. TNAU had directed Swathi to present herself at The Anna Arangam, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, in Coimbatore, but some people had  inadvertently misdirected them to Anna University, Chennai.

When the mother and daughter realized their mistake, they lost hope of reaching Coimbatore in time because the distance between Chennai and Coimbatore by road is 533 km (331 miles) and would take around 8 hours to travel.When the mother and daughter realized the mistake, they lost hope.

Since the counseling was to start at 8.30 a.m. in Coimbatore, the Twalkers decided to help the girl and her mother reach Coimbatore by air flight. The Twalkers decided to share the flight cost of ₹10,500.

Some Twalkers teaching at the Anna University, spoke to TNAU registrar C.R. Ananda Kumar, and explained to him the situation and asked for extra time for the girl candidate.

The Twalkers brought breakfast for the girl and her mother.

Once the flight tickets were booked and confirmed, the Twalkers took Swathi and her mother to the Chennai airport to board the 10:05 am Coimbatore flight.

The flight Swathi and her mother were on landed at 11:28 am in Coimbatore. Arrangements were made to pick them at the Coimbatore airport. They reached the TNAU counseling venue by 12:15 pm.

Around 2:00 pm Swathi got admitted to B.Tech. (Biotechnology).

Swathi and her mother are now planning to visit Chennai again soon to meet the Twalkers who had spontaneously helped and thank them. The mother said that they would return the money the Twalkers had spent to buy their flight tickets.

Isn’t this incidence a miracle in this Kaliyug.

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The Awesome Monolithic Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora, India.


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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The village of Ellora lies 18 miles (30 km) northwest of Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra in India. It is an archaeological site well-known for its monumental caves that are epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture.

Historians and archaeologists conjecture that the Rashtrakuta dynasty built the temples found there. Ellora is also known as Elapura in the Rashtrakuta Kannada literature.

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Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)
Map of the 34 Ellora Caves (Source: wondermondo.com)

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There are 34 caves at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills, extending more than two kilometers. There are 12 Buddhist caves (1–12), 17 Hindu caves (13–29), and five Jain caves (30–34). All the caves are in proximity revealing the religious harmony that prevailed in the region during this period. Now, the Ellora cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India and is a World Heritage Site.

From written records, we learn that travelers from outside India, often visited the Ellora caves. The 10th-century Arab historian and geographer Al-Mas‘udi was one of the early visitors. In 1352, Sultan Hasan Gangu Bahmani visited the caves. The other historical visitors were: Persian historian Firishta (1560 – 1620),  French traveler Jean de Thévenot (1633 – 1667), Italian writer and traveler Niccolao Manucci (1639 – 1717), and Sir Charles Warre Malet (1752 – 1815), the British East India Company’s Resident at the court of the Peshwa Mahrattas.

The Kailasanatha temple

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The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)
The Kailasnatha Temple, Ellora (Source: rediff.com)

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Among all the cave temples at Ellora, the unrivaled centerpiece is Cave 16 – the Kailasanatha temple, designed to recall Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It is also known as Kailasa temple. It is an unrivaled work of rock architecture, a monument that has always excited and astonished travelers.

Some historians and archaeologists presume that the majestic Kailasanatha temple was created before any other temple in the Ellora cave complex.

Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the Archæological Survey of India, Volume 6).
Fragment of Old Kannada inscription (765 AD) from Hattimattur village of Rashtrakuta King Krishna I (Source: Epigraphia Indica and Record of the archeological Survey of India, Volume 6)..

 

As attested in Kannada inscriptions of 775, King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty who ruled from 756 –774, responsible for building 18 Shiva temples, commissioned the building of  the Kailasanatha temple.

The temple encompasses Dravidian architecture. It does not contain any of the Shikharas common to the Nagara style. It was built similar to the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka. King Krishna I employed architects from the Pallava kingdom in South India. The walls of the temple have marvelous sculptures from Hindu mythology, including Ravana, Shiva, and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings. At first, white plaster covered the walls of the Kailasanatha temple to simulate the snow-covered Mount Kailas in Tibet.

Though the Kailasanatha temple looks like a freestanding, multi-storied temple complex, it is, in fact, a monolithic structure carved out of one single rock.  It is the largest monolithic human-created structure in the world. It covers an area of over 42,500 square feet (3,948 square metres). The Kailasanatha Temple  is 276 by 154 feet (84 by 47 metres) wide. It has a larger area than the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis, in Greece. Measured at the stylobate, the dimensions of the base of the Parthenon are 228 by 101 feet  (69.5 by 30.9 metres) or 23,030 square feet (2,140 square metres).

The Kailasanatha temple is notable for its vertical excavation. Carvers started at the top of the rock and excavated downwards. In all the other temples and caves in the rest of the world and even in Ellora, the carvers hewed out rock from the front and carved as they went along using the rock cutting technique called “cut-in monolith“.

It was only at Kailasanatha temple the architects used the exact opposite technique called “cut-out monolith“. They  worked downwards and hewed out all the unnecessary rock. After that, the sculptors chiseled the sculptures and intricate designs. This work would have required extreme planning and precision work to avoid damage to the completed work. Just imagine the colossal amount of rock removed to create this pillar.

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Ground plan of Kailashnatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From "A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon."  Author John Murray (Firm)
Ground plan of Kailasanatha Temple at Ellora Caves, India. From “A handbook for travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon.” Author John Murray (Firm)

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All the carvings on the Kailasanatha temple are on more than one level.

The temple structure begins with a two-storied gopuram or gateway. It serves to screen the sacred temple from the outside world.

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Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)
Columned arcade at the Kailasanatha Temple carved out of the surrounding cliff face punctuated by sculpted panels, and alcoves. (Source: campoamor-photography.com)

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On entering the temple premises, we come to a U-shaped courtyard edged by a columned arcade three stories high, punctuated by huge sculpted panels, and alcoves with enormous sculptures of deities.

In the middle of this courtyard are two hewn out two-storied monolithic temple structures, each about 23 feet (7 metres) high.

The first structure is the Nandi Mandapa – the traditional Dravidian Shivaite shrine housing the bull “Nandi“.

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One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
One of the dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillar at Kailash temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Two 50-feet-high dhwajasthambhas, obelisk-like monolithic carved pillars that dwarf the humans standing beside them, flank the Nandi Mandapa. Decorated with frieze carvings, it would have taken years of work to create such huge structures.

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Shiva lingam at Kailash temple - (Source - Sanjay Acharya - Wikimedia Commons)
Shiva lingam at Kailash temple – (Source – Sanjay Acharya – Wikimedia Commons)

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Then comes the central main Shiva temple housing the lingam, a symbol of the energy and potential of the Hindu god Shiva.

The vimanam (steeple), that crowns  the Garbhagriha, the Sanctum sanctorum of the temple rises to a height of about 90 feet., and about 120 feet (36.6 metres) high.

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Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)
Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple (Source: wondermondo.com)

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Elaborate illustrative carvings decorate the lower storeys of both the Nandi Mandapa and the Shiva temple. Life-size elephants carved on the base of the Shiva temple give us the impression that the elephants are holding the structure aloft.

In the early days of construction, stone flying bridges connected these galleries to the central buildings, perhaps to remove the debris chiseled out from the columned arcades, galleries, the central buildings, etc. Those flying bridges must have collapsed or removed after constructing the temple.

There are no records of the monstrous task of constructing the Kailasanatha temple. Most historians and archaeologists presume it took 26 years between 757 and 783 to build the temple, during the reign of King Krishna I and nine years after his death.

To find out if historians could be right about the 26 years of construction of the temple, let us do a simple arithmetic calculation. A colossal amount of rock, about 400,000 tons was hewed out. Some writers state the amount of rocked hewed out as 200,000 tons.

Let us just focus only on the removal of rock from the site. We will assume the workers toiled 12 hours per day, for 26 years to remove 400,000 tons of rock as the historians claim. So, 15,384 tons of rock had to be removed every year. This means that 42 tons of rock were removed every day, which gives us 1.75 tons of rock removed every hour. An impossible task which no groups of humans could have done at that time.

From the chisel marks found on walls of this temple, archaeologists assume that the carvers used three types of chisels pointing to three different periods of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.

Inscriptions on the Kailasanatha temple itself range from 9th to 15th century. So, we can conclude that it would have taken not 26 years, but centuries of human labor to create the Kailasanatha temple.

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 7 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. - 2
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. – 2

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 7 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech

 

A Sri Lankan Cricket Team Powered by Talent

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Our Lions, our pride (Source: lankaonglobe.wordpress.com)
Our Lions, our pride (Source: lankaonglobe.wordpress.com)

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But as a Sri Lankan I hope we have the strength to find the answers ourselves.

While the team structure and culture itself was slowly evolving, our on-field success was primarily driven by the sheer talent and spirit of the uniquely talented players unearthed in recent times, players like Murali, Sanath, Aravinda, Mahela and Lasith Malinga.

Although our school cricket structure is extremely strong, our club structure remains archaic. With players diluted among 20 clubs it does not enable the national coaching staff to easily identify and funnel talented players through for further development. The lack of competitiveness of the club tournament does not lend itself to producing hardened first-class professionals.

Various attempts to change this structure to condense and improve have been resisted by the administration and the clubs concerned. The main reason for this being that any elected cricket board that offended these clubs runs the risk of losing their votes come election time. At the same time, the instability of our administration is a huge stumbling block to the rapid face change that we need. Indeed, it is amazing that that despite this system we are able to produce so many world-class cricketers.

The Challenge Ahead for Sri Lankan Cricket

Nevertheless, despite abundant natural talent, we need to change our cricketing structure, we need to be more Sri Lankan rather than selfish, we need to condense our cricketing structure and ensure the that the best players are playing against each other at all times. We need to do this with an open mind, allowing both innovative thinking and free expression. In some respects we are doing that already, especially our coaching department is actively searching for unorthodox talent.

We have recognised and learned that our cricket is stronger when it is free-spirited, and we, therefore, encourage players to express themselves and be open to innovation.

There was a recent case where the national coaches were tipped off. It was a case of a 6-foot tall volleyball player. He apparently when viewed by the district coach of the region ambled up to the wicket in four steps jumped four to five feet high in the air in a smash like leap and delivered the ball while in mid-air. His feet are within the two bowling creases, popping in the bowling crease, but after his delivery he lands quite away down the wicket.

Now the district coach found this very very interesting and unique. So he thought so well let’s have a trial. We’ll take the video camera along and get this volleyball player who had never bowled before for any lengthy period, to bowl for half-an-hour in the district nets. He does quite a good job, half-an-hour of jumping high and delivering a cricket ball, quite well with good direction. And the video sample he sent back to our cricket board.

The national coaches there also find it interesting … Let’s call him to Colombo for a trial. Four days later they make a call, and the volleyball player answers the phone call from a hospital bed. And when invited he said: “I am sorry. I can’t move. I have never bowled for 30 minutes, I strained my back.” So, the search for gold in that particular instance did not come to fruition.

There was another case where there was a letter postmarked from a distant village, where the writer claimed to be the fastest undiscovered bowler in Sri Lanka. Upon further inquiry, it was found that the letter was written by a teenage Buddhist monk who proceeded to give a bowling demonstration dressed in his flowing saffron robe. In Sri Lanka, cricket tempts even the most chaste and holy.

If we are able to seize the moment then the future of Sri Lanka’s cricket remains very bright. I pray we do because cricket has such an important role to play in our island’s future. Cricket played a crucial role during the dark days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, a period of enormous suffering for all communities, but the conduct and performance of the team will have even greater importance as we enter a crucial period of reconciliation and recovery, an exciting period where all Sri Lankans aspire to peace and unity. It is also an exciting period for cricket where the re-integration of isolated communities in the north and east open up new talent pools.

Cricket’s  importance heightened in Sri Lanka’s New Era

The spirit of cricket can and should remain and guiding force for good within our society, providing entertainment and fun, but also a shining example to all of how we should approach our lives.

The war is now over. Sri Lanka looks towards a new future of peace and prosperity. I am eternally grateful for this. It means that my children will grow up without war and violence being a daily part of their lives. They will learn of its horrors not first-hand, but perhaps in history class or through conversations for it is important that they understand and appreciate the great and terrible price our country and our people paid for the freedom and security they now enjoy.

In our cricket, we display a unique spirit, a spirit enriched by lessons learned from a history spanning over two-and-a-half millennia. In our cricket, you see the character of our people, our history, culture, tradition, our laughter, our joy, our tears, our regrets, and our hopes. It is rich in emotion and talent.

My responsibility as a Sri Lankan cricketer is to further enrich this beautiful sport, to add to it and enhance it and to leave a richer legacy for the cricketers to follow.

I will do that keeping paramount in my mind my Sri Lankan identity. Play the game hard and fair and be a voice with which Sri Lanka can speak proudly to the world. My loyalty will be to the ordinary Sri Lankan fan, their 20 million hearts beating collectively as one to our island rhythm, filled with an undying and ever-loyal love for this our game.

Fans of different races, castes, ethnicities and religions who together celebrate their diversity by uniting for cricket our common national cause. Those fans are my foundation. They are my family. I will play my cricket for them. Their spirit is the true spirit of cricket. With me are all my people.

I, am Tamil, I am Sinhalese, I am Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, I am a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. But, above all, today and always, I will be proudly Sri Lankan.

Thank you.

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On April 6, 2014, Kumar Sangakkara hit a memorable half-century to help Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory over India in the World Twenty20 final in Dhaka. (Source: np.gov.lk)
On April 6, 2014, Kumar Sangakkara hit a memorable half-century to help Sri Lanka to a six-wicket victory over India in the World Twenty20 final in Dhaka. (Source: np.gov.lk)

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Sri Lanka's victory over India in the World Twenty20 final in Dhaka. - 2 (Source - np.gov.lk)

 

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 6 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. - 2
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. – 2

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 6 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
In Lahore, Pakistan after the terrorist attack

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The injured Sri Lanka cricketers (from left) Ajantha Mendis, Tharanga Paranavitana, Thilan Samaraweera, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and assistant coach Paul Farbrace (Source: Getty Images/dailymail.co.uk)
The injured Sri Lanka cricketers (from left) Ajantha Mendis, Tharanga Paranavitana, Thilan Samaraweera, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and assistant coach Paul Farbrace (Source: Getty Images/dailymail.co.uk)

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Tilan is helped off the bus. In the dressing room, there is a mixture of emotions: anger, relief, joy.

Pakistan hospital staff carry Sri Lankan cricket player Tharanga Paranavitana (Source: abc.net.au)
Pakistan hospital staff carry Sri Lankan cricket player Tharanga Paranavitana (Source: abc.net.au)

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Players and coaching staff are being examined by paramedics. Tilan and Paranavithana are taken by ambulance to the hospital.

We all sit in the dressing room and talk. Talk about what happened. Within minutes, there is laughter and the jokes have started to flow. We have for the first time been a target of violence, and we had survived.

We all realized that what some of our fellow Sri Lankans, we all realized that what some of our fellow Sri Lankans experienced every day for nearly 30 years had just happened to us. There was a new respect and awe for their courage and selflessness. It is notable how quickly we got over that attack on us. Although we were physically injured, mentally we held strong.

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Sri Lankan cricket team officials and players prepare to board a helicopter at the Gaddafi stadium (Source: in.reuters.co
Sri Lankan cricket team officials and players prepare to board a helicopter at the Gaddafi stadium (Source: in.reuters.co

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A few hours after the attack we were airlifted to the Lahore Air Force Base.

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Ajantha Mendis, his head swathed in bandages after multiple shrapnel wounds, (Source - indusladies.com)
Ajantha Mendis, his head swathed in bandages after multiple shrapnel wounds, (Source – indusladies.com)

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Ajantha Mendis, his head swathed in bandages after multiple shrapnel wounds, suggests a game of Poker. Tilan has been brought back, sedated but fully conscious, to be with us and we make jokes at him and he smiles back.

We were shot, grenades were thrown at us, we were injured and yet we were not cowed. We were not down and out. “We are Sri Lankan,” we thought to ourselves, “and we are tough and we will get through hardship and we will overcome because our spirit is strong.”

This is what the world saw in our interviews immediately after the attack: we were calm, we were collected, and rational. Our emotions held true to our role as unofficial ambassadors.

Tears greet the Sri Lankan team on return to Paradise
Back in Paradise. Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara hugs his wife Yehali and Tillakaratne Dilshan holds his son upon their return to Colombo on March 4. (Source: cricbuzz.com)
Back in Paradise. Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara hugs his wife Yehali and Tillakaratne Dilshan holds his son upon their return to Colombo on March 4. (Source: cricbuzz.com)

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A week after our arrival in Colombo from Pakistan I was driving in Colombo and I was stopped at a checkpoint. A soldier politely inquired as to my health after the attack. I said I was fine and added that what they as soldiers experience every day we experienced only for a few minutes, but still managed to grab all the headlines. He looked me in the eye and he said: “It is OK if I die, because it is my job and I am ready for it. But you, are a hero and if you were to die it would be a great loss for our country.”

I was taken aback. How can this man value his life less than mine? His sincerity was overwhelming. I felt humbled. This is the passion that cricket and cricketers evoke in Sri Lankans. This is the love that I strive every day of my career to be worthy of.

Post 1996 Power Politics in Sri Lankan cricket

Coming back to our cricket, the World Cup also brought less welcome changes with the start of detrimental cricket board politics and the transformation of our cricket administration from a volunteer-led organisation run by well-meaning men of integrity into a multi-million dollar organisation that has been in turmoil ever since.

In Sri Lanka, cricket and politics have been synonymous. The efforts of Honorable Gamini Dissanayake were instrumental in getting Sri Lanka Test Status. He also was instrumental in building the Asgiriya International cricket stadium.

In the infancy of our cricket, it was impossible to sustain the game without state patronage and funding.

When Australia and West Indies refused to come to our country for the World Cup it was through government channels that the combined World Friendship XI came and played in Colombo to show the world that it was safe to play cricket there.

The importance of cricket to our society also meant that at all times it enjoys benevolent state patronage.

For Sri Lanka to be able to select a national team it must have the membership of the Sports Ministry. No team can be fielded without the final approval of the Sports Minister. It is indeed a unique system where the board-appointed selectors at any time can be overruled and asked to reselect a side already chosen.

The Sports Minister can also exercise his unique powers to dissolve the cricket board if investigations reveal corruption or financial irregularity. With the victory in 1996 came power and money to the board and players. Players from within the team itself became involved in power games. Officials elected to power in this way in turn manipulated player loyalty to achieve their own ends. At times, board politics would spill over into the team causing a rift, ill feeling and distrust. The only shining example to the contrary I can remember was the interim committee headed by Vijaya Malalasekara who is sitting here today in the audience.

Accountability and transparency in administration and credibility of conduct were lost in a mad power struggle that would leave Sri Lankan cricket with no consistent and clear administration. Presidents and elected executive committees would come and go; government-picked interim committees would be appointed and dissolved.

After 1996, the cricket board has been controlled and administered by a handful of well-meaning individuals either personally or by proxy rotated in and out depending on appointment or election. Unfortunately to consolidate and perpetuate their power they opened the door of the administration to partisan cronies that would lead to corruption and wanton waste of cricket board finances and resources.

It was and still is confusing. Accusations of vote buying and rigging, player interference due to lobbying from each side and even violence at the AGMs, including the brandishing of weapons and ugly fist fights, have characterized cricket board elections for as long as I can remember.

The team lost the buffer between itself and the cricket administration. Players had become used to approaching members in power directly trading favours for mutual benefits. And by 1999 all these changes in administration and player attitudes had transformed what was a close-knit unit in 1996 into a collection of individuals with no shared vision or sense of team. The World Cup that followed in England in 1999 was a debacle – a first round exit.

Fortunately, though, this proved to be the catalyst for further change within the dynamics of the Sri Lankan team. A new mix of players and a nice blend of youth and experience provided the context in which the old hierarchical system and structure within the team were dismantled in the decade that followed under the more consensual leadership of Sanath, Marvan and Mahela, the team continued to grow. In the new team culture forged since 1999, individuals were accepted. The only thing that matters is commitment and discipline to the team. Individuality and internal debate are welcome. Respect is not demanded but earned. There was a new commitment towards keeping the team safe from board turmoil. It has been difficult to fully exclude it from our team because there are constant efforts to drag us back in and in times of weakness and doubt players have crossed the line. Still we have managed to protect and motivate our collective efforts towards one goal: winning on the field.

Let us aspire to better administration. The administrators need to adopt the same values enshrined by the team over the years: integrity, transparency, commitment and discipline. Unless the administration is capable of becoming more professional, forward-thinking and transparent, then we risk alienating the common man. Indeed, this is already happening. Loyal fans are becoming increasingly disillusioned. This is very dangerous thing because it is not the administrators or players that sustain the game, it is the cricket-loving public. It is their passion that powers cricket, and if they turn their backs on cricket then the whole system will come crashing down.

The solution to this may be the ICC taking a stand to suspend member boards with any direct detrimental political interference and allegations of corruption and mismanagement. This will negate the ability of those boards to field representative teams or receive funding and other accompanying benefits from the ICC..

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 5 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. - 2
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011. – 2

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 5 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
The Tsunami of December 26, 2004 (continued)

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Tsunami in Sri Lanka

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We called home to check. “Is it true?” we asked. “How can the pictures be real?” we thought.

All we wanted to do was to go back home to be with our families and stand together with the people. I remember landing at the airport on 31st December, a night when the whole of Colombo is normally lit up for the festivities, a time of music, laughter, and revelry. But the town was empty and dark, the mood depressed and silent with sorrow. While we were thinking how we could help. Murali was quick to provide the inspiration.

Muttiah Muralitharan takes centre stage among the refugees in a camp in Kinniya, Sri Lanka, during the Sri Lankan cricket team's delivery of much-needed food supplies. (Photo: Jason South)
Muttiah Muralitharan takes centre stage among the refugees in a camp in Kinniya, Sri Lanka, during the Sri Lankan cricket team’s delivery of much-needed food supplies. (Photo: Jason South)

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Murali is a guy who has been pulled from all sides during his career, but he’s always stood only alongside his teammates and countrymen. Without any hesitation, he was on the phone to his contacts both local and foreign, and in a matter of days along with the World Food Program he had organized container loads of basic necessities of food, water and clothing to be distributed to the affected areas and people.

Amazingly, refusing to delegate the responsibility of distribution to the concerned authorities, he took it upon himself to accompany the convoys. It was my good fortune to be invited to join him.

The Sri Lankan Cricketers’ respond to the Tsunami of 26 December 2004 (Source: thuppahi.wordpress.com)
The Sri Lankan Cricketers’ respond to the Tsunami of 26 December 2004 (Source: thuppahi.wordpress.com)

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My wife and I along with Mahela, Ruchira Perera, our Physio CJ Clark and many other volunteers drove alongside the aid convoys towards an experience that changed me as a person.

We based ourselves in Polonnaruwa, just north of Dambulla, driving daily to visit tsunami-ravaged coastal towns like Trincomalee and Batticaloa, as well as southern towns like Galle and Hambantota on later visits.

We visited shelter camps run by the Army and the LTTE and even some administered in partnership between them. Two bitter warring factions brought together to help people in a time of need.

In each camp, we saw the effects of the tragedy written upon the faces of the young and old. Vacant and empty eyes filled with sorrow and longing for home, loved ones and for livelihoods lost to the terrible waves.

Yet for us, their cricketers, they managed a smile. In the Kinniya Camp just south of Trincomalee, the first response of the people who had lost so much was to ask us if our families were okay. They had heard that Sanath and Upul Chandana’s mothers were injured and they inquired about their health. They did not exaggerate their own plight nor did they wallow in it. Their concern was equal for all those around them.

This was true in all the camps we visited. Through their devastation shone the Sri Lankan spirit of indomitable resilience, compassion, generosity and hospitality and gentleness. This is the same spirit in which we play our cricket. In this, our darkest hour, the country stood together in support and love for each other, united and strong. I experienced all this and vowed to myself that never would I be tempted to abuse the privilege that these very people had afforded me. The honour and responsibility of representing them on the field, playing a game they loved and adored.

The role the cricketers played in their personal capacities for post-tsunami relief and rebuilding was worthy of the trust the people of a nation had in them. Murali again stands out. His Seenigama project with his manager Kushil Gunasekera, which I know the MCC has supported and still does with ongoing funding of over thirty thousand pounds a year, and which included the rebuilding of over one thousand homes, was amazing.

The terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan on  March 3, 2009

I was fortunate that during my life I never experienced violence in Sri Lanka first hand. There have been so many bomb explosions over the years, but I was never in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In Colombo, apart from these occasional bombs, life was relatively normal. People had the luxury of being physically detached from the war. Children went to school, people went to work, and I played my cricket.

In other parts of the country, though, people were putting their lives in harm’s way every day either in the defense of their motherland or just trying to survive the geographical circumstances that made them inhabit a war zone.

For them, avoiding bullets, shells, mines and grenades, was imperative for survival. This was an experience that I could not relate to. I had great sympathy and compassion for them, but had no real experience from which I could draw parallels. That was until we toured Pakistan in 2009. We set-off to play two Tests in Karachi and Lahore. The first Test played on a featherbed passed without great incident. The second Test was also meandering along with us piling up a big first innings when we departed for the ground on day three.

Having been asked to leave early instead of waiting for the Pakistan bus, we were anticipating a hard day of toil for the bowlers.

At the back of the bus, the fast bowlers were loud in their complaints. I remember Thilan Thushara being particularly vocal, complaining that his back was near breaking point. And he joked and I kid you not, that he wished a bomb would go off so we could all leave Lahore and go back home. Not thirty seconds had passed when we heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. Suddenly a shout came from the front: “Get down, they are shooting at the bus.

The reaction was immediate. Everyone dived for cover and took shelter on the aisle or behind the seats. With very little space, we were all lying on top of each other. Then the bullets started to hit. It was like rain on a tin roof. The bus was at a standstill, an easy target for the gunmen.

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Bullet holes in the windscreen of the Sri Lankan team coach (Photo: K.M. Chaudary/AP)
Bullet holes in the windscreen of the Sri Lankan team coach (Photo: K.M. Chaudary/AP)

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As bullets started bursting through the bus, all we could do was stay still, stay quiet, hoping and praying to avoid death or injury. Suddenly Mahela, who sits at the back of the bus, shouts saying he thinks he has been hit in the shin. I am lying next to Tilan. He groans in pain as a bullet hits him in the back of his thigh.

As I turn my head to look at him. I feel something whizz past my ear and a bullet thuds into the side of the seat, the exact spot where my head had was a second ago. I feel something hit my shoulder and it goes numb.

I know I had been hit, but I was just relieved and praying I was not going to be hit in the head.

Tharanga Paranvithana, on his debut tour, is also next to me. He stands up, bullets flying all around him, shouting, “I just got hit, ” as he holds his blood-soaked chest. He collapsed onto his seat, apparently unconscious.

Now this is a deadly tour and I see him and I am thinking: “Oh my God, you were out first ball, run out in the next innings and now you have been shot. What a  terrible  terrible first tour.

It is strange how clear your thinking is. I did not see my life flash by. There was no insane panic. There was absolute clarity and awareness of what was happening at that moment.

I heard the bus roar into life and start to move. Dilshan screaming at the driver: “Drive, drive“. We speed up, swerve and finally we were inside the safety of the stadium. There is a rush to get off the bus.

Tharanga Paranawithana stands up. He feels his back, feels his back and says, “Oh, there’s no hole there. I think I am ok.”

He is still bleeding. He has a bullet lodged lightly in his sternum, the body of the bus tempering its velocity, enough to be stopped by the bone..

The bodies of three Pakistani police officers lie on the road (Source: theguardian.com)
The bodies of three Pakistani police officers lie on the road (Source: theguardian.com)

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 4 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 4 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech

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Allan Border (Source: waytofamous.com)
Allan Border (Source: waytofamous.com)

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A story that I heard in the 1990s, Allan Border having faced him [Muthiah Muralitharan] walked back to the Australian dressing room and said, “He is a leg spinner, but he also bowls a lot of googly.”

Arjuna’s team was now in place and it was an impressive pool of talent, but they were not yet a team. Although winning the 1996 World Cup was a long-term goal, they needed to find a rallying point, a uniting factor that gave them a sense of a “team“, a cause to fight for, an event that not will not only bind the team together giving them a common focus but also rally the entire support of a nation for the team and its journey.

This came on Boxing Day at the MCG in 1995. Few realised it at the time, but the no balling of Murali for alleged chucking had far-reaching consequences. The issue raised the ire of the entire nation. Murali was no longer alone. His pain, embarrassment and anger were shared by all. No matter what critics say, the manner in which Arjuna and team stood behind Murali made an entire Sri Lankan nation proud. At that moment, Sri Lanka adopted the cricketers simply as “Ape Kollo” which means “our boys”.

Gone was the earlier detachment of the Sri Lankan cricket fan and in its place was a new found love for those 15 men. They became our sons, our brothers. Sri Lankans stood with them and shared their trials and tribulations.

The decision to no ball Murali in Melbourne was for all Sri Lankans, an insult that would not be allowed to pass unavenged. It was the catalyst that spurred the Sri Lankan team on, to do the unthinkable, become World Champions just 14 years after obtaining full ICC status. It is also important to mention here that prior to 1981 more than 80% of the national players came from elite English schools, but by 1996 the same schools did not contribute a single player to the 1996 World Cup squad.

The Unifying Impact of the 1996 World Cup

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Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga lifts the trophy in 1996 (Source: news.bbc.co.uk)
Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga lifts the trophy in 1996 (Source: news.bbc.co.uk)

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The impact of that World Cup victory was enormous, both broadening the game’s grassroots as well as connecting all Sri Lankans with one shared passion. For the first time, children from outstations and government schools were allowed to make cricket their own.

Cricket was opened up to the masses this unlocked the door for untapped talent to not only gain exposure but have a realistic chance of playing the game at the highest level.

These new grass root cricketers brought with them the attributes of normal Sri Lankans, playing the game with a passion, joy and intensity that had been hitherto missing. They had watched Sanath, Kalu, Murali and Aravinda play a brand of cricket that not only changed the concept of one day cricket but was also instantly identifiable as being truly Sri Lankan.

We were no longer timid or soft or minnows. We had played and beaten the best in the world. We had done that without pretence or shame in a manner that highlighted and celebrated our national values, our collective cultures and our habits. It was a brand of cricket we were proud to call our own, a style with local spirit and flair embodying all that was good in our heritage.

The World Cup win gave us a new strength to understand our place in our society as cricketers. In the World Cup, our country found a new beginning; a new inspiration upon which to build their dreams of a better future for Sri Lanka. Here were 15 individuals from different backgrounds, races, and religions, each fiercely proud of his own individuality and yet they united not just a team but as a family.

Fighting for a common national cause representing the entirety of our society, providing a shining example to every Sri Lankan showing them with obvious clarity what it was to be truly Sri Lankan.

The 1996 World Cup gave all Sri Lankans a commonality, one point of collective joy and ambition that gave a divided society true national identity and was to be the panacea that healed all social evils and would stand the country in good stead through terrible natural disasters and a tragic civil war.

The 1996 World Cup win inspired people to look at their country differently. The sport overwhelmed terrorism and political strife.

It provided something that everyone held dear to their hearts and helped normal people get through their lives.

The team also became a microcosm of how Sri Lankan society should be with players from different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions sharing their common joy, their passion and love for each other and their motherland.

Regardless of war, here we were playing together. The Sri Lanka team became a harmonising factor.

The Economic Impact of being World Champions

After the historic win, the entire game of cricket in Sri Lanka was revolutionized. Television money started to pour into the cricket board’s coffers. Large national and multinational corporations fought for sponsorship rights.

Cricketers started to earn real money both in the form of national contracts and endorsement deals. For the first time, cricketers were on billboards and television advertising products, advertising anything from sausages to cellular networks.

Cricket became a viable profession and cricketers were both icons and role models. Personally, the win was very important for me.

Until that time, I was playing cricket with no real passion or ambition. I never thought or dreamed of playing for my country. This changed when I watched Sri Lanka play Kenya at Asgiriya. It was my final year in school and the first seed of my vision to play for my country was planted in my brain and heart when I witnessed Sanath, Gurasinghe, and Aravinda produce a devastating display of batting. That seed of ambition spurred into life when a couple of weeks later I watched that glorious final in Lahore. Everyone in Sri Lanka remembers where they were during that night of the final. The cheering of a nation was a sound no bomb or exploding shell could drown. Cricket became an integral and all-important aspect of our national psyche.

Our cricket embodied everything in our lives, our laughter and tears, our hospitality, our generosity, our music, our food and drink. It was normality and hope and inspiration in a war-ravaged island. In it was our culture and heritage, enriched by our myriad ethnicities and religions. In it we were untouched, at least for a while, by petty politics and division. It is indeed a pity that life is not cricket. If it were, we would not have seen the festering wounds of an ignorant war.

The Tsunami of December 26, 2004

The emergence of cricket and the new role of cricket within Sri Lankan society also meant that cricketers had bigger responsibilities than merely playing on the field. We needed to live positive lifestyles off the field and we needed to give back.

The same people that applaud us every game need us to contribute positively back to their lives. We needed to inspire mostly now off the field.

The Tsunami was one such event. The death and destruction left in its wake was a blow our country could not afford. We were in New Zealand playing our first ODI. We had played badly like … and were sitting disappointed in the dressing room when, as usual,

Sanath’s phone started beeping. He read the SMS and told us a strange thing had just happened back home where “waves from the sea had flooded some areas“. Initially we were not too worried, assuming that it must have been a freak tide. It was only when we were back in the hotel watching the news coverage that we realized the magnitude of the devastation.

It was horrifying to watch footage of the waves sweeping through coastal towns and washing away in the blink of an eye the lives of thousands. We could not believe that it happened.

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Kumar Sangakkara’s Cowdrey Lecture: “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket” (Part 3 of 7)


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.
Kumar Sangakkara delivering the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s at the invitation of the MCC on July 4, 2011.

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On July 4, 2011, at the invitation of the MCC, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, delivered the Cowdrey Lecture  at Lord’s  titled “The Spirit of Sri Lanka’s Cricket – A Celebration of Our Uniqueness”.

This video is part 3 of Kumar Sangakkara’s hour-long speech. It is accompanied by its transcript.

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Transcript of  Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
Race Riots and Bloody Conflict (continued)

I did not realize the terrible consequences of my friends being discovered and my father reminded me the other day of how one day during that period I turned to him and in all innocence said: “I hope this happens every year for it is so much fun having my friends to play with every day.”

The JVP-led Communist insurgency rising out of our universities was equally horrific in the late 1980s. Shops, schools and universities were closed. People rarely stepped out of their homes in the evenings. The sight of charred bodies on the roadsides and floating corpses in the river was terrifyingly commonplace.

People who defied the JVP faced dire consequences. They even urged students of all schools to walk out and march in support of their aims. I was fortunate to be at Trinity College, one of the few schools that defied their dictates. Yet I was living just below Dharmaraja College in Kandy where the students who walked out of its gates were met with tear gas and I would see students running down the hill to wash their eyes out with water from our garden tap.

My first cricket coach, Mr D.H. De Silva, a wonderful human being who coached tennis and cricket to students free of charge, was shot on the tennis court by insurgents. Despite being hit in the abdomen twice, he miraculously survived when the gun held to his head jammed. Like many during and after that period, he fled overseas and started a new life in Australia. As the decade progressed, the fighting in the north and east had heightened to a full-scale war. The Sri Lankan government was fighting the terrorist LTTE in a war that would drag our country’s development back by decades.

This war affected the whole of our land in different ways. Families, usually from the lower economic classes, sacrificed their young women and men by the thousands in the service of Sri Lanka’s military.

Even Colombo, a commercial capital that seemed far removed from the war’s frontline, was under siege by the terrorists using powerful vehicle and suicide bombs. Bombs in public places targeting both civilians and political targets became an accepted risk of daily life in Sri Lanka. Parents travelling to work by bus would split up and travel separately so that if one of them died the other will return home to tend to the family. Each and every Sri Lankan was touched by the brutality of that conflict.

People were disillusioned with politics and power and war. They were fearful of an uncertain future. The cycle of violence seemed unending. Sri Lanka became famous internationally for its war and conflict.

It was a bleak time, where we as a nation looked for inspiration – a miracle that would lift the pallid gloom and show us what we as a country were capable of, if united as one, a beacon of hope to illuminate the potential of our people. That inspiration was to come in 1996.

An Identity Crisis

The pre-1995 era during which Sri Lanka produced many fine cricketers, but struggled to break free of the old colonial influences that had indoctrinated the way the game was played in Sri Lanka.

Even after gaining Test Status in 1981, Sri Lanka’s cricket suffered from an identity crisis and there was far too little “Sri Lankan” in the way we played our cricket.

Mahadevan Sathasivam (Source: sportskeeda.com)
Mahadevan Sathasivam (Source: sportskeeda.com)

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Although there were exceptions, one being the much-talked about Sathasivam, who was a flamboyant and colourful cricketer, both on and off the field. He was a cricketer in whose hand they say the bat was like a magic wand.

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Duleep Mendis (Source: sportstoday.lk)
Duleep Mendis (Source: sportstoday.lk)

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Another unique batsman was Duleep Mendis, now our chief selector, who batted with swashbuckling bravado.

Generally, though, we played cricket by the book, copying the orthodox and conservative styles of the traditional cricketing powerhouses. There was none of the live-for-the-moment and happy-go-lucky attitudes that underpin our own identity.

We had a competitive team, with able players, but we were timid, soft and did not yet fully believe in our own worth as individual players or as a team. I guess we were in many ways like the early West Indian teams: Calypso cricketers, who played the game as entertainers and lost more often than not albeit, gracefully.

Arjuna Ranatunga’s Leadership

What we needed at the time was a leader. A cricketer from the masses who had the character, the ability and above all the courage and gall to change the system, to stand in the face of unfavourable culture and tradition, unafraid to put himself on the line for the achievement for a greater cause.

Arjuna Ranatunga  (Source: espncricinfo.com)
Arjuna Ranatunga (Source: espncricinfo.com)

This, much-awaited messiah, arrived in the form of an immensely talented and slightly rotund Arjuna Ranatunga. He was to change the entire history of our cricketing heritage converting the game that we loved into a shared fanatical passion that over 20 million people embraced as their own personal dream.

The leadership of Arjuna during this period was critical to our emergence as a global force. It was Arjuna who understood most clearly why we needed to break free from the shackles of our colonial past and forge a new identity, an identity forged exclusively from Sri Lankan values, an identity that fed from the passion, vibrancy and emotion of normal Sri Lankans. Arjuna was a man hell-bent on making his own mark on the game in Sri Lanka, determined to break from foreign tradition and create a new national brand of cricket.

Coming from Ananda College to the SSC proved to be a culture shock for him. SSC or Sinhalese Sports Club was dominated by students from St. Thomas’ and Royal College, the two most elite schools in Colombo. The club’s committee, membership and even the composition of the team were dominated by these schools.

Arjuna himself has spoken about how alien the culture felt and how difficult it was for him to adjust to try and fit in. As a 15-year-old kid practising in the nets at the club, a senior stalwart of the club inquired about him. When told he was from the unfashionable Ananda College, he dismissed his talents immediately: “We don’t want any “Sarong Johnnie’s” in this club.”

As it turned out, Arjuna not only went on to captain SSC for many years, he also went on to break the stranglehold the elite schools had on the game. His goal was to impart in the team self-belief, to give us a backbone and a sense of self-worth that would inspire the team to look the opposition in the eye and stand equal, to compete without self-doubt or fear, to defy unhealthy traditions and to embrace our own Sri Lankan identity. He led fearlessly with unquestioned authority, but in a calm and collected manner that earned him the tag “Captain Cool”.

The first and most important foundation for our charge towards 1996 was laid. In this slightly overweight and unfit southpaw, Sri Lanka had a brilliant general who for the first time looked to all available corners of our country to pick and choose his troops.

The Search for Unique Players

Arjuna better than anyone at the time realised that we needed an edge and in that regard he searched for players whose talents were so unique that when refined they would mystify and destroy the opposition.

In cricket, timing is everything. This proved to be true for the Sri Lankan team as well. We as a nation must be ever so thankful to the parents of Sanath Jayasuriya and Muthiah Muralitharan for having sired these two legends to serve our cricket at its greatest time of need.

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Sanath Jayasuriya (Source: itmes.com)
Sanath Jayasuriya (Source: itmes.com)

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From Matara came Sanath, a man from a humble background with an immense talent that was raw and without direction or refinement, a talent under the guidance of Arjuna that was to be harnessed to become one of the most destructive batting forces the game has ever known. It was talent never seen before and now with his retirement never to be seen again.

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Muthiah Muralitharan (Source: theguardian.com)
Muthiah Muralitharan (Source: theguardian.com)

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Murali came from the hills of Kandy from a more affluent background. Starting off as a fast bowler and later changing to spin, he was blessed with a natural deformity in his bowling arm allowing him to impart so much spin on the ball that it spun at unthinkable angles. He brought wrist spin to off spin.

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