Lepakshi is a small village in the Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh, India. It is about 9 miles (15 km) east of Hindupur and about 75 miles (120 km) north of Bangalore.
This village is historically and archaeologically significant. It has three shrines dedicated to the Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Veerabhadra built during the period of Vijayanagara Kings (1336–1646).
The famous 16th-century Veerabhadra stone temple constructed in Vijayanagar style has about 70 pillars, but only one of these pillars is best known as the Aakaasa Sthambha (Hanging Column). It is a tribute to the engineering genius of the temple builders of medieval India. The pillar does not rest on the ground fully.
A cloth can slide smoothly underneath this Hanging pillar.
During the British era, a British engineer tried to move it to uncover the secret of its support. His attempt was unsuccessful and the pillar got slightly dislodged from its original position.
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.
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.
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 Discoveryto 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Many ousted Gothic princes and nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there, they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors. This war is known as the Reconquista, the Spanish and Portuguese word for Reconquest.
Many ousted Gothic princes and nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there, they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors. This war is known as the Reconquista, the Spanish and Portuguese word for Reconquest.
Co-existence and alliances between Muslims and Christians were prevalent, so also were the frontier skirmishes and raids.
At the end of the 9th century, the ideology of a Christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsula started to take shape. The Christian Chronica Prophetica (883-884), a document stressing the Christian and Muslim cultural and religious divide in Iberia set a landmark by stressing the necessity to drive the Muslims out of the Iberian Peninsula. Even then, it was common for the Christian and Muslim rulers to become divided and to fight amongst themselves. Also, the mercenaries from both sides fought for whoever paid the most.
As time wore on, the idea of the Reconquista seems to have faded in the minds of the Christians. The 10th and 11th-century documents are silent on any idea of a reconquest.
By 1172, all Islamic Iberia was part of the Moroccan Berber Muslim Almohad Caliphate. Between 1146 and 1173, the Almohads wrested control of the Moorish principalities from the Almoravids and transferred the capital from Cordoba to Seville.
In the late 11th century, when staunch Muslim Jihad ideology in Al-Andalus confronted the Christians, the religious ideology of a Christian reconquest sprouted once again in the minds of the Christians and they started the Crusades. Later, military orders like the Order of Santiago, Montesa, Order of Calatrava and the Knights Templar fought in Iberia.
The Almohad Caliphate dominated Iberia until 1212. At that time, the Christian princes of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal formed an alliance and defeated Muhammad III, “al-Nasir” (1199–1214) at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena. Soon after, the Almohad Caliphate lost all their Moorish dominions in Iberia. In 1236, the great Moorish city of Cordova fell to the Christians. In 1248, the Christians conquered the city of Seville.
Gradually, the Christian kingdoms to the north retook control of the Iberian peninsula, and by 1300, the Moors controlled only Granada, a small region in the south of present-day Spain.
The Catholic Monarchs
“The Catholic Monarchs” (Spanish: Reyes Católicos) is the joint title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were second cousins from the House of Trastámara. Since both descended from John I of Castile, Pope Sixtus IV gave a papal dispensation for their marriage to deal with consanguinity.
The marriage of 18-year-old Isabella and 17-year-old Ferdinand took place on October 19, 1469, in the city of Valladolid. This marriage helped to unite the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon under the same crown. Isabella became the Queen of Castile in 1474 and Ferdinand became the King of Aragon in 1479. Though their marriage united the two kingdoms, what later became Spain, it was still a union of two crowns rather than a unitary state. They ruled independently and their kingdoms retained part of their own regional laws and governments for the next few decades.
The Spanish Inquisition
In the twelfth century, Pope Lucius III created the Inquisition to fight heresy in the south of what is now France and constituted it in some European kingdoms. In 1478, the Catholic Monarchs requested the assent of Pope Sixtus IV to introduce the Inquisition to Castile. On November 1, 1478, the Pope published the Papal bull ExigitSincerasDevotionisAffectus, to establish the Inquisition in the Kingdom of Castile. It was later extended to all Spain.
The Spanish Inquisition targeted forced converts from Islam (Moriscos, Conversos and secret Moors) and from Judaism (Marranos, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews) who came under suspicion of either continuing to adhere to their old religion or of having fallen back into it. Thus, Spain modeled its national aspirations as the guardian of Christianity and Catholicism.
The Granada War
The Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand set a goal to complete the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by conquering the Moorish Sultanate and Kingdom of Granada. They launched a series of campaigns known as the Granada War. Pope Sixtus IV helped the Granada War by granting a tithe and implementing a crusade tax to invest in the war.
Two Andalusian nobles, Rodrigo Ponce de León and Diego de Merlo led the Castilian forces. The Granada War began in 1482 with the seizure on the strategic town of Alhama de Granada, in the province of Granada, about 50 km from the city of Granada.
The war proved to be a long, drawn-out campaign. The 10-year Granada War was not a continuous effort, but a series of seasonal campaigns launched in spring and broken off in winter.
In 1491, the Catholic Monarchs summoned Abu Abdallah Muhammad XII, the twenty-second and last Nasrid ruler of Granada to surrender the city of Granada, besieged by the Castilians.
After 10 years of fighting, the Granada War ended on January 2, 1492. Muhammad XII surrendered the Emirate of Granada, the city of Granada, and the Alhambra palace to the Castilian forces.
Six days after the event, an eyewitness wrote a private letter to the bishop of León:
The Moorish sultan with about eighty or a hundred on horseback very well dressed went forth to kiss the hand of their Highnesses. According to the final capitulation agreement both Isabel and Ferdinand will decline the offer and the key to Granada will pass into Spanish hands without Muhammad XII having to kiss the hands of Los Reyes, as the Spanish royal couple became known. The indomitable mother of Muhammad XII insisted on sparing her son this final humiliation.
Though the Granada war was a joint project between Isabella’s Crown of Castile and Ferdinand’s Crown of Aragon, the bulk of the troops and funds came from Castile. So, Castile annexed Granada. Apart from the presence of King Ferdinand himself, the Crown of Aragon provided naval collaboration, guns, and some financial loans.
The traditional Spanish historiography considers the Granada War as the final war of the “Reconquista“.
The aftermath of the Granada War saw the end of “convivencia” (“live and let live”) between religions.
Between 1480 and 1492, the Christian Monarchs forced all Muslims and Jews to convert to Christianity or face expulsion. Many Jews and Muslims fled to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.
The Alhambra Decree issued in January 1492 forced the Jews in the Iberian peninsula to convert to Christianity or be exiled. In 1501, all of Granada’s Muslims were obliged to either convert to Christianity, become slaves or be exiled. By 1526, this prohibition spread to the rest of Spain and the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula was complete.
Greek geographers used the ancient Greek word Ιβηρία (Ibēría) to refer to the land mass known today as the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal). Hecataeus of Miletus (c. 550 BC – c. 476 BC), an early Greek historian was the first to use this term during the time of the first Persian invasion of Greece which began in 492 BC.
In Europe, after the Scandinavian and Balkan peninsulas, Iberia is the third-largest peninsula, located in the southwest corner of Europe.
Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula. The modern name España derives from Hispania.
Roderic, the last king of the Goths
In 711, an army of Muslim Moors composed of North African Berber soldiers with some Arabs, under Tariq ibn-Ziyad and other Muslim generals, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed at Gibraltar. The Islamic army began its conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania ruled by King Roderic, known in the legends as “the last king of the Goths“.
According to the Chronicle of 754, a Latin-language history in 95 sections composed in 754 in a part of Spain under Arab occupation, Roderic immediately upon securing his throne gathered a force to oppose the Moors raiding in the south of the Iberian peninsula.
Since there were just a few freemen among the Goths, Roderic gathered together an army of unwilling slave conscripts. He made several expeditions against the invaders led by the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad.
The early modern historian al-Maqqari, in his “The Breath of Perfume,” places the following long sermon to the troops in Tariq ibn-Ziyad’s mouth before the Battle of Guadalete:
“Oh my warriors, whither would you flee? Behind you is the sea, before you, the enemy. You have left now only the hope of your courage and your constancy. Remember that in this country you are more unfortunate than the orphan seated at the table of the avaricious master. Your enemy is before you, protected by an innumerable army; he has men in abundance, but you, as your only aid, have your own swords, and, as your only chance for life, such chance as you can snatch from the hands of your enemy.
If the absolute want to which you are reduced is prolonged ever so little, if you delay to seize immediate success, your good fortune will vanish, and your enemies, whom your very presence has filled with fear, will take courage. Put far from you the disgrace from which you flee in dreams and attack this monarch who has left his strongly fortified city to meet you. Here is a splendid opportunity to defeat him, if you will consent to expose yourselves freely to death.
Do not believe that I desire to incite you to face dangers which I shall refuse to share with you. During the attack, I myself will be in the fore, where the chance of life is always least. Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you.
You have heard that in this country, there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings.
The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves.
Remember that I place myself in the front of this glorious charge which I exhort you to make. At the moment when the two armies meet hand to hand, you will see me, never doubt it, seeking out this Roderick, tyrant of his people, challenging him to combat, if God is willing. If I perish after this, I will have had at least the satisfaction of delivering you, and you will easily find among you an experienced hero, to whom you can confidently give the task of directing you. But should I fall before I reach to Roderick, redouble your ardor, force yourselves to the attack and achieve the conquest of this country, in depriving him of life. With him dead, his soldiers will no longer defy you.“
On July 19, 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad defeated Roderic at the Battle of Guadalete / Río Barbate. Roderic and much of the Visigothic nobility were killed in the battle and aftermath.
Facing no further strong resistance, Tariq swept north toward Toledo, the Visigothic capital.
Al-ʾAndalūs, the Islamic Iberia
In an eight-year campaign, the Moors brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic control. In 719, they crossed the Pyrenees and took control of Septimania, the last province of the Visigothic kingdom. In 721, the Moors tried to conquer Aquitaine from their stronghold of Narbonne, but suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Toulouse.
At no point did the invading Islamic armies exceed 60,000 men.
The invading Moors gave the Arabic name Al-ʾAndalūs (الإندلس) to the region under their control, maybe to mean “Land of the Vandals“. The Islamic rule lasted 300 years in much of the Iberian Peninsula and 781 years in Granada.
From their stronghold of Narbonne, the Moors launched raids into the Duchy of Aquitaine, a fiefdom in western, central and southern areas of present-day France to the south of the Loire River.
After establishing a local Emirate, Caliph Al-Walid I, ruler of the Umayyad caliphate, recalled many of the successful Muslim commanders to Damascus including Tariq ibn Ziyad, the first governor of the newly conquered province of Al-Andalus. Musa bin Nusair, his former superior replaced him.
Governor Musa’s son, Abd al-Aziz ibn Musa, married Egilona, Roderic’s widow. He established his regional government in Seville. Under the influence of his wife, Egilona, he wanted to convert to Christianity. He was then accused of planning a secessionist rebellion, and Caliph Al-Walid I ordered his assassination.
By the year 1100, local Iberian converts to Islam, the so-called Muladi formed the majority of the Iberian population. The term ‘Moor’ was the generic term used to refer to the Islamists that composed the initial Arabs and Berbers and the converted Muladi. The Iberian Peninsula transformed from a Romance-speaking Christian land into an Arabic-speaking Muslim land. However, pockets of Arabic and Romance-speaking Christians called Mozarabs and a large minority of Arabic-speaking Jews survived throughout Al-ʾAndalūs.
In the chronicles and documents of the High Middle Ages the Christians used the terms Spania, España or Espanha derived from Hispania in reference to Muslim controlled areas. King Alfonso I of Aragon (1104–1134) says in his documents when in 1126 he made an expedition to Málaga he “went to the lands of España.“
During the Middle Ages, the Iberian peninsula housed many small states, including Castile, Aragon, Navarre, León and Portugal.
Towards the end of the 12th century, the whole Muslim and Christian Iberian Peninsula became known as “Spain” (España, Espanya or Espanha). The term “the Five Kingdoms of Spain” referred to the Mussulman Kingdom of Granada and the Christian kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, Portugal and Navarre.
The Muslim caliphs competed with each other in the patronage of the arts. From the 8th to the 15th century, the Iberian Peninsula incorporated into the Islamic world became a center of culture and learning, especially during the Caliphate of Cordoba. It reached its height under the rule of Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III.
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. AnandaKumar, 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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“.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transcript of Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
A Sri Lankan Cricket Team Powered by Talent
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.
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.
Transcript of Kumar Sangakkara’s speech
In Lahore, Pakistan after the terrorist attack
Tilan is helped off the bus. In the dressing room, there is a mixture of emotions: anger, relief, joy.
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.
A few hours after the attack we were airlifted to the Lahore Air Force Base.
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
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..