Creative expressions of Otagaki Rengetsu. While I am preparing a more detailed account of early women artists of Japan, you have the opportunity of learning more about her here.
art, Bharatnatyam, Cheruthuruthy, Chidambaram, culture, dance, dance festival, drama, flute, history, India, journey, kathak, knowledge, music, musical instrument, natya shastra, performance art, skill, song, Tanjore, travel
Augmenting our knowledge in various fields is arguably one of the major benefits of travelling, near or far. However it is also true, during our trips to different parts of the world we limit ourselves to more passive forms of learnings. For example, we trust mainly on our power of observation to gain vital information about the culture, tradition, habits of people etc. The benefits of this form of learning cannot or should not be dismissed. It is a lifelong process that aids in developing the person we wish to become. But there could be another form of learning, a more active education, that we can indulge in during our journeys across the globe. Today I intend to discuss about the opportunities of learning that present itself in sphere of music and dance. For this article, I will focus more on India and opportunities available there, for it is a country which boasts of formulating the most ancient form of treatise in dramatic arts (natya shastra) and music. There are many forms and expressions of this beautiful art practiced all over the country even today. But before we delve into this, let me share with you a story from my own experience.
Lord Krishna Playing Flute
About a year and a half ago, I met Thibault E at a small restaurant in a very busy city. He came to enjoy a cosy dinner with his wife. A light drizzle that started since late afternoon turned into a heavy and incessant downpour. As we were all stuck inside we thought it better to strike up a conversation rather staring at each other from the corner of our eyes. He narrated his tale over a cup of simmering hot coffee. Thibault always found himself mesmerised by the tune of flute. Since his early childhood, he yearned to have a flute for himself and learn it to play. But his parents did share his fancy and thought this to be a rather idle dream. In the face of their overwhelming practical concerns for him, he was forced to put his dream somewhere in the deep recess of his mind.
Thibault was a good student and did not find it difficult to secure a place in one of the country’s premier technological universities. He similarly excelled in his career too. To cut a long story short, he, by the age of 42, was already in a possession of so much money that he could have afforded to retire then and there if he wanted to. His private life was equally fulfilling with a lovely wife, who was and still is a renowned name in her own sphere, and two healthy children. He had nothing to complain about, or so it seemed, because the inner dissatisfaction that was gnawing at his heart was not apparent to anyone but himself.
Sarod, Musical Instrument
Increasingly, Thibault found himself lonely at his own home. He simply did not know how to fill his “free” hours meaningfully. But there was no one else to blame for this than himself. He never cultivated a serious hobby to fill his empty hours. He was only allowed an hour’s play every day. His parents were strict disciplinarians and he did not wish to mess with them. If there was nothing else to do, he simply locked himself at his study room and dozed away the time. In later years too, he hardly made an attempt to acquire some skills beyond his regular studies.
Thibault frequently needed to stay away from home for short periods of time on business trips. One such occasion landed him on a distant coast to India, in Cochin (Kochi) to be specific. Since the business engagement got delayed for some unforeseen reason, he got some time to experience an exotic place and its culture. While aimlessly travelling here and there he landed himself in a small village named Cheruthuruthi, by the river Nila. In the afternoon when he was enjoying a walk a soulful tune of flute caught his attention. After some search he found the player, a boy in his early teens. Seated on the sandy river bank he was completely engrossed in his practice.
Flowing Water, Kerala
For sure, the tune was not familiar to Thibault, but that did not matter. He leaned against a coconut tree a little distance away and closed his eyes. He felt a deep sense of peace. He could have stood there that way for hours. But the performance was interrupted all of a sudden. A man’s voice was heard from behind. It seemed an elderly gentleman came calling for the boy and the two were preparing to leave the place. Seeing Thibault in the audience the man turned towards him smiling. In a very sweet voice he enquired about his whereabouts. Thibault briefly described his purpose. The conversation was helped by the boy who was clearly knew better English. After a brief discussion about the place and its history, the kind hearted gentleman asked Thibault to come to a local school dedicated to performance art and music. It transpired that some kind of celebration was to take place there later in the evening. With child’s glee in the heart, Thibault promptly accepted the invitation. For Thibault, the evening and the rest of the days in Cheruthuruthi were spent as if in a dream.
Performance in Kalamandalam, Cheruthuruthy
When Thibault narrated the story about his boyhood childhood wish, senior members of the school encouraged him to pick up at least the basics of playing flute. Someone also handed his flute over to him to let Thibault have a feel of it. Touching it with his fingers, for the first time in his life, he felt an immediate sense of bonding. After some pondering and lenghty discussion with his wife, Thibault took a sabbatical from his work. Following the advice of the gurus of Chethuruthy, he enrolled himself to a school some distance away from this village. His teacher there also helped him to find a mentor in his home country. With much enthusiasm, he devoted himself to his learning. He segregated his time between his actual and adopted home. With hard work he rapidly advanced.
Modest as he is, when I met him at the restaurant, he could not be drawn into describing his achievements even after 15 years of continuous practice. The best compliment, perhaps, came from his wife. “Thibault is a different man,” said Erika his wife, “he is more relaxed, more engaged with life than ever before.” Like a magic wand, the charm of flute transformed Thibault and Erika’s lives.
Pose in Poise, Bharatnatyam
Time has changed. You do not need to come all the way to India to learn music and dance native to this country. You may enrol yourself to an institution nearby. Online learning opportunities are all available. But if you are musically inclined and journeying across India you may consider taking up courses in any of the reputed institutions of Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore, Tanjore and beyond. All these places are also replete with schools teaching various dance disciplines including bharatnatyam, kuchipudi, kathak and so on.
It is also highly recommended that you set some time aside to visit Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore. The outer wall of the temple bears all the elegant poses of bharatnatyam, a dance form that is no less than 2500 years old. The temple is a part of UNESCO World Heritage. Many of these places also turn themselves into virtual auditoriums and relive the past glory by organising annual dance festivals. Khajuraho, Modhera, Mukteswar and Mahabalipuram are some of the most prominent ones. Besides, major auditoriums across the country organise dance and music recitals for the benefits of art connoisseurs year long.
Temple Sculptures Depicting Dance Poses, Chidambaram
I sincerely hope that in your next journey you will get ample opportunities of exploring your talent in these fields and beyond. Moreover, these activities will also help you to get a closer view of the cultural treasures of any place that you choose to visit on your next trip.
A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. ~ Albert Camus
Parallelly published in The Inked Expressions.
“To Big–Hearted, Big–Souled, Big–Bodied friend Conan Doyle” – these were the very words mentioned on the front page of the Novel Notes, penned by Jerome K Jerome. A name made famous by his character Mr Sherlock Holmes, and not the other way round, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life is a well documented one. Jerome K Jerome is no stranger to literature lovers either. Yet, I don’t think that too many people are aware of this enduring friendship between Conan Doyle and Jerome K Jerome.
It seems that the camaraderie between these two men existed for greater portion of their lives. Arthur Conan Doyle, an avid skier, travelled to Norway with Jerome K Jerome in the winter of 1892. The latter was one of the invitees present during Conan Doyle’s wedding with Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907. This small party also included such prominent names as J M Barrie and Bram Stoker. It is quite possible that Jerome K Jerome travelled to Switzerland at least once to meet his friend and be a part of his ski excursions.
Theirs were a friendship that aptly defines what Alfred Tennyson had to say on the matter,
So, friend, when I first looked upon your face, our thoughts gave answer each to each. Opposed mirrors each reflecting each, although I knew not in what time or place, methought that I had often met with you, and each had lived in other’s mind and speech.
Their companionship lasted during a particularly difficult phase of Conan Doyle’s life. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur Conan Doyle’s father and a talented illustrator himself, gave in to excessive drinking early in life. He soon succumbed to severe bouts of delusions which resulted in permanent insanity. More than a decade of his life was spent in an asylum. Charles Doyle passed away in the autumn of 1893. Arthur Conan Doyle’s first wife Louise was diagnosed with tuberculosis the same year. Conan Doyle planned a change of weather for his wife. This paved the way for his first visit to Switzerland. It does not come as a surprise, that Conan Doyle conceived The Final Problem, which indicated the assassination of Mr Sherlock Holmes much to the dismay of his fans, the same year.
Holmes & Watson, Illustration by Sydney Paget
Friendship between kindred spirits may not be that difficult to spot, but such alliance during hours of crisis is not something so common. Another example that darts into the mind is the concord between Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde. During one of his visits to London, Toulouse Lautrec, already an established artist by then, befriended Wilde. He painted Wilde’s portrait several times during their acquaintance. The most noteworthy of them all is certainly the one depicting a visibly exhausted but defiant Oscar Wilde during the final day of his trial. Toulouse Lautrec raised voice against Wilde’s imprisonment. The artist used his name and prominent position in the society to garner considerable support for Wilde from across the Channel. Though, Wilde escaped the execution he could not evade the sheer fatigue resulted from back to back trials. His health suffered breakdown and he eventually succumbed to a cerebral attack. Nonetheless, the friendship that existed between them stood the test of time.
Self-caricature & Portrait of Oscar Wilde by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
alternative healing, art, Australia, Australian opal, boulder opal, cantera, colour, Coober Pedy, Ethiopia, Gemstone, gemstone industry, investment, metaphysical, Mexican opal, opal, opal sculpture, Peruvian opal, precious stone, sculpture, semi precious stone, sparkle
The fiery play of colours, in black, blue or red backdrop, has a hypnotic effect enough to mesmerise even the most disinterested spectator. It is one of the very few gemstones which is coveted both in its faceted and cabochon form. The gemstone derived its name from Sanskrit word upala which means a precious stone. Like many other gemstones, it was first mined in India before being transported by seafarers and merchants worldwide. I am talking of opals and its many coloured spellbinding beauty, to describe which it is better to borrow George Eliot’s words,
These gems have life in them: their colours speak, say what words fail of.
Though known for ages for its radiant form, opals only received recognition as a gemstone of worth since 19th century. Its relatively wider availability (opal deposits have even been discovered even on mars) may have an impediment in appreciating its exquisiteness.
Availability of Opals
Australia mines world’s 95% gem quality opals. Opal is also the country’s national gemstone. Since its establishment in 1915, some of the biggest and most gorgeous opals were mined in Coober Pedy. The 17,000 carat sized Olympic Australis is one of the many famous opals that originated from here. It is indeed ironic to consider the amount wealth that lay hidden under Outback’s arid surface. Though not as glamorous as Coober Pedy, but Andamoka, Yowah and Koroit too are well known for mining quality opals, particularly the highly treasured black ones.
Miners and fossickers join hands to organise many opal exhibitions every year in this part of the world. One of most notable such exhibition is the Lightning Ridge Opal Festival. Besides rough gemstones and a variety of opals mined in the region, the show also displays stunning pieces of opals jewellery. This year it is going to be organised in late July – August. Yowah Opal Festival is scheduled to be held mid – July. Coober Pedy’s centenary celebration has already begun over the weekend. So if you happen to be in the region do drop in. And, don’t forget visiting The Underground Art Gallery and Umoona Opal Mine & Museum.
While Outback has proved to be a rich bed for opals, Andes harnessed very few yet unique variety of this beautiful gemstone. Such is the charm of Peruvian opals, that early inhabitants of the area believed, and not unjustifiably, these to be gifts from Mother Earth, Pachamama. Peruvian opals come in rich blue, turquoise or rubicund hues – pastel shades characteristic to the region. Due to their softness, these opals are cut into cabochons.
Peruvian opals are also highly valued by alternative healers. These stones are often used to address restlessness, sleep depravity and other mental and physical ailments.
Mexican fire opals are highly valued by gemstone connoisseurs and jewellers alike. The bright red flash that gives Mexican fire opals such fine lustre is the primary reason behind its popularity. Being a rare variety, these fire opals are sold at a higher price than usual. However, fire opals are not the only variety that is mined in Mexico. Cantera opal, nestled into the matrix itself, is another one of the Mexican specialties.
Rest of the World
Opal deposits in Ethiopia have only been discovered in early 1990s. Within this short period of time, Ethiopian opals earned considerable repute. Opal mines along Yita Ridge in Mezezo are renowned for producing opals of significant amount and sometimes of most brilliant quality. When it comes to opals, every region seems to be having its own peculiarities and Ethiopia is no exception. The famous prase opal, otherwise known as African Jade, is Ethiopia’s gift to the world’s treasure chest. The dark red to brown variety is also highly adored by the jewellery and gemstone industry.
Tanzania is another African nation known for producing opals. Besides, opals are mined in Brazil, Honduras, USA, Czech Republic and Slovakia in varying quantities.
Play of Colour
This hydrated amorphous silica is often valued due to its unusual play of colours. Depending on this characteristic, opals can be divided in the following four categories:
- Rolling Flash – In this type, the play of colour seems to shift along the axis if the gemstone is turned.
- Pinfire – This indicates small of patches of set pattern.
- Flame – As the name suggests, this signifies the presence of sweeping dazzling red tone across the gemstone.
- Harlequin – Often the most expensive variety, harlequins showcase a checkerboard of gleaming patches of many hues.
Opals for Gemstone Aficionados & General Buyers
Gemstone and jewellery lovers collect opal attracted by its splendour and quality. But like purchasing any other precious or semi–precious gemstones, buying opals require a considerable amount of research and care from the buyer’s side. For the beginners here are my suggestions,
- Do decide on a budget and stick with it. But do not fall for gemstones that are extra cheap.
- Always insist on a certificate of authenticity provided by reputed international gemmological research units like GIA, AGI, EGL or AGS. For more detailed information on this please refer to my article here.
- Never opt for synthetic opals, available aplenty in Japanese and Chinese markets, unless you have specifically decided to own those.
Whether you are buying a cabochon or faceted stone, don’t opt for lustreless ones. Avoid opals with ugly black patches or other kinds of marks that obstruct its beauty.
- It is preferable to buy loose opals and have them set in a piece of jewellery. It gives you a greater chance of evaluating the gemstone.
- It is highly recommended that you shop for your gemstones using traditional methods, instead of buying online. It helps in having a greater clarity of the quality of your gemstone. Besides, colours seen on screen sometimes differ from the actual tone due to limitation of screen resolution, availability of light while capturing the photograph etc. But I must admit, I have bought gemstones from reputed dealers online and never found myself dissatisfied with my purchases.
If handled with care, opals are reasonably tough to withstand general wear and tear. A piece of precious opal can be an asset for your family for generations and it won’t lose its lustre along the way.
Opals for Collectors & Investors
It is not surprising that what buyers find so attractive, investors would find lucrative too. Investment in Australian opal mines have slowed down due to stringent government regulations. This was also fuelled by some misleading information possibly spread by competing miners of the same area. But at the same time newer markets like Ethiopia opened up. Collectors collect rough opalites and investment quality opals to exhibit for sometime before selling off at a higher price, often succumbing to a newer fancy.
Opal in Art
Even artists find themselves deeply influenced by the charm of opals. Beautiful sculptures are made using rough opalites. Small gemstones are set together into intricately designed mosaics. Few years ago, artisans of Kashmir created a carpet studding painstakingly detailed floral motifs with 400 black opals. Though not for sale, this stunning piece of craftsmanship was valued at USD 100,000.
Opal has been a centre of much devotion and superstition for ages. Earliest civilisations worshipped its beauty as well as its talismanic quality. In recent times, superstitions stemmed from misleading information spread by competitors willing to have commercial gain based on this. While opal’s metaphysical benefits are still hotly debated and will continue to be so for some time to come, don’t become a victim of such advertising gimmicks as opals are only fit for people born in a certain month or zodiac sign. As we have seen, opals are available in many colours. So select the one that suits you most aesthetically, astrologically or metaphysically and adorn yourself. Alternatively, you may consider gifting this beautiful gemstone to someone you love. Remember, Romans considered this gemstone fit for offering to God.
Ananda Coomaraswamy, architecture, art, Art history, art village, artisan, Bharatnatyam, Chola, culture, dance, drama, India, music, musical instrument, painting, sculpture, shtapatya veda, Tamil Nadu, Tanjore, temple, Thanjavur, vastu, veena
This is not a travelogue. My trip to Tanjore (also known as Thanjavur) was taken too long ago to write a reliable travel diary on the same. I only had a brief rendezvous with the city and its surrounding. But even during that brief visit, what impressed me most about Tanjore remains to this date its greatest asset. Tanjore was one of the cultural hubs of India. Though much has changed during its millennia old history, Tanjore continues to latch on its artistic legacy. Surprisingly, even with being a UNESCO World Heritage site, Tanjore remains somewhat inconspicuous in international tourist map.
Architectural Marvel’s of Tanjore
The city experienced its biggest flourish during the Chola period, more than a thousand years ago. Its greatest architectural marvel is visible from far away, even before you set a foot on its ground. Brihadeshwara Temple celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2010. From a distance it may look like just other massive temple structures of the region, particularly to the unfamiliar eyes, but look closer. Its shikhara or vimana (roof), which almost seems to embrace the sky, is decorated with most intricate examples of reliefs and sculptures. The pyramidal shikhara sits on a square base, a uniqueness observable in Chola architecture. It is topped with a giant kalash (pot) located on a lotus equally massive. Lotus symbolises the universe while kalash harnesses the universal energy. The kalash was moulded from a special mixture of metal, including gold and copper, filled with holy water and other consecrated materials. Step in the walled temple complex through any of the gopurams (gateways). The gopurams are made with as much care as the main building and carry beautiful carving depicting age old tales of wisdom. The interior of the temple was embellished with rich murals many of which are hardly discernible now. But the patches of paints and motifs that remain, give us a vivid example of the skilful craftsmanship of the time.
Every inch of the vast temple complex was constructed following the ancient principles Vastu Shastra and Sthapatya Veda (studies of architecture). Don’t for a moment consider these to be the current phoney version of Vastu Shastra spun out for commercial profit. This knowledge of constructing sacred or civilian buildings, landscaping and planning for an entire town or village is older than 5000 years. Otherwise, these buildings would not have had the capability of withstanding the ravages of time for so long.
Brihadeshwara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. He is accompanied by his two consorts – Nandi (the bull, disciple of Shiva) and Mahakala (time). Ancient literature and art often spoke in allegories. Comprehending the underlying significance of the imagery helps greatly in the appreciation of the work. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Indian subcontinents pioneering art historian and curator of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, authored numerous books in this regard. To understand Lord Shiva or Nataraja, as depicted in Indian art, I would suggest a reading of The Dance of Shiva. Shiva paves the way for the new (regeneration) removing the outmoded elements of life (destruction). He pervades time and uproots the bondage of illusion and ignorance. It is here where his association with Mahakala and Nandi begins, the former being Father Time incarnate and the latter an example of supreme devotion and strength. The temple is replete with such remarkable examples of symbolism in art, architecture and literature.
The second exquisite example of Chola architecture lies somewhat in negligence slightly away from the city, in Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Though comparatively smaller in size, its value in the world of engineering, art and architecture is no less important than Brihadeshwara Temple. The main temple is so constructed that its shadow never falls on the ground the entire year. Innumerable pieces of sculpture decorate the entire premises. Even the water well is covered with a giant statue of lion. Those having a flair for designing dresses and jewelleries will find numerous inspirations here to borrow from.
Airavatesvara Temple is situated 35 km away from the city in Darasuram. Even though it is created during the same period, the structure of the temple differs widely from the other two sacred sites mentioned already. It speaks volumes about the versatility of the artists of the then Tanjore. The mandapam (main temple) is formed as a gigantic horse drawn carriage. Its shikhara, though not taller than Brihadeshwara, thrives on its unique barrel shape. Like the other two, the entire body of the building is decorated with ornate sculptures. The meditation hall boasts of pillars each unique in its design. Interestingly, close observation of the reliefs on the pillars reveal a lot about the socio-economic condition of the time. The inside walls of the buildings are covered with murals. Even the pipelines and water openings are carved with great care and beauty. One of the smaller shrines of the temple has three steps that produce varied musical notes on setting a foot on each of them, such was the ingenuity of creator architect. This is not an isolated phenomenon. Many temple pillars of the region produce sounds resembling the musical notes of various stringed instruments, mridangam, dholak (a kind of drum) and so on.
A visit to Tanjore’s Art Gallery will afford further knowledge of the city’s sculptural masterpieces, particularly bronze figures. There are other palaces and civilian buildings that, though built on a later date, arouse everyone’s admiration. But like renaissance art found greatest expression in sacred paintings and sculptures, here too the finest examples of art lie in the region’s oldest edifices – the temples.
Broadening of Horizon – Influence on Dance, Music & Drama
Tanjore’s artistic majesty did not limit itself to the city’s temples, palaces or other prominent landmarks. Instead, its influence reached every corner of Tanjore. Local artists and artisans found financial backing from the monarchs. The artistic supremacy of the master figures powered the evolution as well. All four forms of art – painting, sculpture, music and dancing – started observing rapid changes and introduction of new ideas. Classical Tanjore painting (not the Tanjore miniatures as it is seen today, these came into being in late 16th century) received a huge boost. Elaborate panel paintings and murals became more developed. Owing to the superior economic condition of the time, metal craft also saw amazing advancement. The paintings were encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones, gold and silver leaves.
Bharathanatyam (a dance drama form that is based on the two thousand year old principles of Natya Shastra, i.e., Theory of Drama) too could not escape this artistic resurgence. This dance form thrives on the playfulness of expression (bhava), sentiment (rasa), action (kriya) and music (ragam). Elaborate sculptures depicting various Bharatnatyam postures can still be seen on the Brihadeshwara Temple’s walls. The temples regularly arranged devotional music and dance festivals. Brihadeshwara Temple hosts annual music and dance events even today.
In this atmosphere, vocal and instrumental music could not have remained in lurking in desolation. It duly began its exploration for supremacy. Besides other musical instruments, Tanjore contributed in the further development of Saraswati Veena, a stringed instrument indispensable in Carnatic music.
Following the tradition of the region, the knowledge of painting, sculpting or playing music are still handed down by the gurus (masters) to their devoted shishyas (pupils). Many families of artisans carry these knowledge and skills as a legacy for generations.
Though greatly fallen from its former glory days, Tanjore and its surrounding still strive on to create that perfect work of art in a much smaller scale. The narrow streets of Tanjore’s Art Village, Swamimalai and other places nearby still produce brass sculptures, miniature paintings and musical instruments all the while fighting the ignominy of modern time.
The Arts & Crafts of India & Ceylon by Ananda Coomaraswamy
Early Architecture by S Kak
Modern time has brought for us many blessings and almost equal amount of perils. Unemployment, sickness and hopelessness threaten to overpower us every moment of our existence. Increasingly, it feels to make a little money we need to start with a lot of money. But there are ways to lead a fulfilling life. A men and women have proven this and shared their recipes for success more than half a century or so ago. Let us revisit those modern messiah with their prescriptions for success.
La victoire by Rene Magritte
What All the World’s A-Seeking by Ralph Waldo Trine
Ralph Waldo Trine was one of the earliest of authors to recommend the usage of ‘thought power’ and introduce positive changes in our lives. The book, What All the World’s A-Seeking was published in 1896 and sold two million copies. About 200 pages of this inspirational book are segregated neatly into six parts, each dealing with one specific point. It starts with asking such pointed questions as, ‘how can I attain to a true and lasting greatness?’ and ends with a thorough analysis of ‘Character-Building Thought Power.’
The author, Ralph Waldo Trine (1866 – 1958) started his career as a special correspondent for The Boston Daily Evening Transcript. His wife Grace Hyde Trine, a talented writer herself, shared his passion for writing. For many years they lived at Mt Airy, New York. Trine went on to write many such books and lectured extensively on the subject. Another one of his well–known books that stands the test of time is, In Tune with the Infinite (1910).
Your Forces and How to Use Them by Christian D Larson
Your Forces and How to Use Them was published in 1912. The 350 pages of this book speak extensively on Training the Subconscious for Special Results and The Art of Changing for the Better among other topics. From the very beginning, the author makes his intentions clear declaring, ‘we are here to become great men and women, and with that purpose in view, we must eliminate everything in our religion and philosophy that tends to make the human mind a dependent weakling.’
Christian D Larson (1874 – 1954) is considered to be the father of the American New Thought movement. He even set up a New Thought Temple at his residence in Cincinnati, Ohio! Like Trine, Larson too authored a number of books many of which remain in print to this date. Another one of his famous essays is, Nothing Succeeds Like Success.
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Delois Wattles
Published in 1910, The Science of Getting Rich is a book that instructs readers on how to overcome the mental barriers and attract a life of prosperity for themselves. Rhonda Byrne, the author of The Secret (2007), credits this book as one of the major sources of her inspiration. The book talks on the subject of creating ‘wealth’ in one’s life in a straight–forward manner. The book continues to be in print owing to its huge popularity.
Wallace Delois Wattles’s (1860 – 1911) had a rather humble beginning to his life. A self–made man, he climbed the ladder of success through his hard work and power of positive thinking. He had written other books covering various topics apart from The Science of Getting Rich.
Creative Mind and Success by Ernest Holmes
Teacher and spiritual writer Ernest Holmes published Creative Mind and Success in 1919. The two–part book deals with a number of important topics which are essential for all–round well being of a human being. It guides the readers on how to control thought, make the right choices, create conducive atmosphere, attract friends and demonstrate success in business. He asserts that ‘money’ is ‘a spiritual idea’ and insists on abolishing negativity that tends to cloud our judgment. By going through this book, aspirants will also learn how to enlarge thought and develop intuition.
Ernest Holmes (1887 – 1960) started a spiritual movement known as Religious Science. He greatly appreciated the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Walker Atkinson.
The Master Key System by Charles F Haanel
The Master Key System (1919) is a book based on Charles F Haanel’s 24-week correspondent course on self-empowerment (1912). It starts with a mini psychological test intended to make students understand how much of ‘mental power’ they are actually using in their daily lives. The final chapter is dedicated to a set of questions and answers on a wide range of topics.
Charles F Haanel (1866 – 1949) was a prosperous businessman, business advisor and author. Post publication of his book, Napoleon Hill wrote a letter to Haanel. Hill stated, ‘My present success and the success which has followed my work as President of the Napoleon Hill Institute is due largely to the principles laid down in The Master-Key System.’
Dynamic Thought by Henry Thomas Hamblin
Dynamic Thought (1923) urges the readers to start walking on the path leading to success, happiness and satisfaction merely by altering the attitude. Twelve chapters of this book center around the fact that, ‘to man, life and the world are reflexes of inward mental states.’
Henry Thomas Hamblin (1873 – 1958) was an author and mystic from England. His own life is somewhat shrouded in obscurity though his books and thought are still preserved, courtesy, the initiative of Hamblin Trust established in 1921.
The Secret of the Ages by Robert Collier
In The Secret of the Ages, Robert Collier asks if it is possible to acquire perfect health, wealth and happiness. He then sets about providing the prescription himself. He frees the bottled up ‘genie’ which is nothing but methods of creating our own world, as desired, by using the latent power of subconscious mind. The book was published in 1926.
Robert Collier (1885 – 1950) was a prolific writer on the subject. Robert Collier Publications, Inc still exists preserving his valuable legacy. More than 300,000 copies of The Secret of the Ages were sold during his lifetime and many more afterwards.
The Twelve Powers of Man by Charles Fillmore
Published in 1930, this book is Charles Fillmore’s attempt of making the readers aware of their God-given qualities. Every chapter quotes extensively from the scriptures. It attempts to reveal our divine selves to us. The book also begs to have faith in the power of the ‘spoken word’. It ends with a detailed questionnaire for serious students and followers of the New Thought movement.
Charles Fillmore (1854 – 1948) established Unity, a church dedicated to the ‘higher thought’ and spiritual interpretations of biblical scriptures.
The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn
The Game of Life and How to Play It was published in 1925. The book’s earthly recipes of learning to play the ‘game of life’ well attracted everyone. The examples were all taken from everyday life and Florence Scovel Shinn’s friendly way of approaching the subject made added impression on the minds of the readers. Her book continues inspiring people from every walk of life to this date.
Florence Scovel Shinn (1871 – 1940) was an artist, author and teacher. She wrote other books equally forceful in nature, such as, Your Word Is Your Wand and The Secret Door to Success.
Illustration by Florence Scovel Shinn
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill published Think and Grow Rich in 1937. Since then it became one of the most widely read and recommended books on using the power of mind to extract benefits from the universe. Napoleon Hill’s inspiring words, ‘What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve’ went on to become a perfect mantra for everyone and is closely followed even today.
The author was deeply influenced by the life of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The most striking example of the so called law of attraction was present in front of his eyes. Persuaded by Carnegie himself, Napoleon Hill (1883 – 1970) set about decoding the ‘golden rule’ of having a fulfilling life. In the process he wrote many memorable books including this one.
From joy does spring all this creation, by joy is it maintained, towards joy does it progress, and in joy does it permeate.
Ah! were it worse- who knows?- to be
Victor or vanquished here,
When those confront us angrily
Whose death leaves living drear?
In pity lost, by doubtings tossed,
My thoughts- distracted- turn
To Thee, the Guide I reverence most,
That I may counsel learn:
I know not what would heal the grief
Burned into soul and sense,
If I were earth’s unchallenged chief-
A god- and these gone thence!
Bhagavad Gita (Translation by Edwin Arnold)
…the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die.
Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,
Ever was not, nor ever will not be,
For ever and for ever afterwards.
All, that doth live, lives always! To man’s frame
As there come infancy and youth and age,
So come there raisings-up and layings-down
Of other and of other life-abodes,
Which the wise know, and fear not. This that irks-
Thy sense-life, thrilling to the elements-
Bringing thee heat and cold, sorrows and joys,
’Tis brief and mutable! Bear with it, Prince!
As the wise bear. The soul which is not moved,
The soul that with a strong and constant calm
Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,
Lives in the life undying! That which is
Can never cease to be; that which is not
Will not exist. To see this truth of both
Is theirs who part essence from accident,
Substance from shadow. Indestructible,
Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!
He who shall say, ‘Lo! I have slain a man!’
He who shall think, ‘Lo! I am slain!’ those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for
ever; Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it
Bhagavag Gita (Translation by Edwin Arnold)
I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;
Flame burns it not, waters cannot o’erwhelm,
Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,
Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,
Immortal, all-arriving, stable, sure,
Invisible, ineffable, by word
And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,
Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then,-
Knowing it so,- grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?
Bhagavad Gita (Translation by Edwin Arnold)
He that abstains
To help the rolling wheels of this great world,
Glutting his idle sense, lives a lost life,
Shameful and vain. Existing for himself,
Self-concentrated, serving self alone,
No part hath he in aught; nothing achieved,
Nought wrought or unwrought toucheth him; no hope
Of help for all the living things of earth
Depends from him. Therefore, thy task prescribed
With spirit unattached gladly perform,
Since in performance of plain duty man
Mounts to his highest bliss.
Bhagavad Gita (Translation by Edwin Arnold)
If you are of opinion that dollhouses are for child’s play, then you need to think again. A dollhouse could be an elaborate work of art, a sign of both passion and prestige, a showpiece containing many antique items, a combination of all of these and more. The history of dollhouses dates back to the 16th century. In 1557, Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria commissioned a miniature version of his royal residence. Since then, dollhouses have become one of the most coveted items for aristocratic families to own. Many wealthy families in past spared no expense to have their dollhouses designed and decorated. The costs borne to manufacture some of the following dollhouses equalled or exceeded the prices of real houses considering the prevailing market rate of the time.
The Nuremberg House
The Nuremberg House was crafted in 1673. It was one of the earliest dollhouses still in preservation. Though much smaller in size compared to the other German dollhouses of later date, the excellent craftsmanship of this toy house continues to captivate everyone. The name of the original owner of the dollhouse was lost in time. Several suggestions have been made over his business or occupation after reviewing the interior of the house. The inside of the house is skillfully decorated. Several leather bound books, a closet full of costly linen and a kitchen complete with modern amenities according to the standards of the time speak highly of the owner’s taste and financial status.
Queen Mary’s Dollhouse
Queen Mary’s miniature house is one of the largest and most celebrated examples of dollhouses. Leading architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the miniature house for Queen Mary in 1924. He employed the services of approximately 1500 artists and craftsmen to embellish the 16 rooms of the house meticulously. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling contributed miniature books for Queen Mary’s mini house.
George and Joseph Lines were prominent toy makers of 19th century England. They made several toy houses resembling sprawling mansions and town houses during their lifetime. Their children continued the tradition producing doll houses under the trademark of Tri-ang well into the 20th century. However, the miniature Tudor houses, made by George and Joseph Lines, remained the most popular dollhouses produced by the family. Even the wallpapers of these beautifully crafted dollhouses were custom made to suit the ambience of the rooms.
Bettiscombe dollhouse was originally constructed sometime around 1870. Betty Pinney received this from a friend in the first quarter of the 20th century. She was a designer herself. From book covers and wallpapers to textile she designed many an item in her life. She utilized her skills to meticulously decorate her own dollhouse. She even crafted the furniture of the house herself. Betty Pinney used this miniature house as an ode to her own childhood.
Petronella Oortman’s Dollhouse
It is often conjectured that the amount Petronella Oortman spent on procuring her dollhouse was sufficient to buy a spacious house in one of Amsterdam’s prime locations in the 17th century. Each room of her dollhouse is extremely realistic. She specifically ordered miniature porcelain from China, silverware and glassware from local artisans to decorate her toy house.
The Killer Cabinet Dollhouse
Unlike many other famous dollhouses, this dollhouse is set in an ebony cabinet complete with elaborate panel paintings. John Egerton Killer, a physician of Manchester, commissioned the piece for the ladies of her family. The cabinet is divided into four rooms, representing a bedroom, kitchen, drawing and morning room. Though it was designed in the early part of the 18th century, it retained the flavors of Dutch dollhouses of a previous era.
Tate Baby House
Tate Baby House was made in circa 1760. It was modeled after a fine house in Dorset. It is possible to dismantle the complex structure of this dollhouse before assembling once again into its complete form. This was done to enable Mrs Tate, the owner, carry the dollhouse with her during her many trips inland or overseas. Her guests used to carry small presents for her dollhouse during their visits to the owner’s residence. A tiny silver kettle still bears the sign of the presenter’s gratitude for the hospitality of the Tates.
Miss Miles’ Dollhouse
Made in 1890, Miss Miles’ dollhouse is stuffed with latest technologies that were fashionable at the time. This includes such items as a telephone, carpet sweeper, knife cleaner and a geyser in the bathroom for a hot water bath. The large house features separate billiard room, children’s nursery and schoolroom among other more common spaces for a residence of such quality.
The Denton Welch Dollhouse
Denton Welch was a talented artist and writer. A severe road accident in 1935 left him almost crippled for life. During one of those days when he was forced to be confined indoors, Welch pulled out this dollhouse from the basement of his family home and set out to renovate it. This became one of his favorite pastimes. The miniature house was originally built in 1783. Welch decorated the Georgian manor with great detail till his own life was tragically cut short in 1948.
Stettheimer Dollhouse boasts of miniature artworks created by artists like Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Archipenko, Marguerite Zorach and George Bellows. Duchamp painted a miniature version of his ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’ for this dollhouse. The dollhouse itself is the brainchild of Carrie Walter Stettheimer. It was constructed in New York between 1916 and 1935. Carrie Walter Stettheimer stopped working on the dollhouse after her mother’s death. Few rooms were left unfinished which were later completed by her sister Ettie.
Astolat Dollhouse Castle
Alfred Tennyson’s poetry ‘Idylls of the King’, based on the Lady of the Lake, provided inspiration for the creation of Astolat Dollhouse Castle. It was designed by Elaine Diehl between 1974 and 1987. It was appraised for USD 1.1 million in 2005. The 29 rooms of this fairy dollhouse are adorned with finest of novelty items collected from across the globe. From grand ballroom, musician’s alcove, bar area to a well stocked up library, nothing is amiss in the Astolat Castle’s five levels. The parquet floor, gold chandelier and miniature oil paintings create an opulent atmosphere suitable for such piece of art.
When little Gwendolen asked for a dollhouse from her father as a home for her fairy friends Sir Nevile Wilkinson could not refuse. He set about working on Titania’s Palace little imagining that it would take 15 years for him to have the dollhouse completed. It was built by Irish cabinet makers James Hicks & Sons. The palace was modeled after Egeskov Castle located in Funen, Denmark. Thousands of miniature antique items collected from all over the world were used to decorate the interior of Titania’s Palace.
Sara Rothé Dollhouse
In the first half of the 18th century, Sara Rothé commissioned not one but two dollhouses for herself. The two toy houses were modeled after her residences located in Amsterdam and Haarlem. Visitors would flock her house to see the beautifully decorated dollhouses. She herself was a skilled embroiderer and seamstress. In the elaborately embroidered draperies, furnishings and linens of the dollhouse we find signs of her expertise. In 1855, Sara Rothé died in an accident when her coach fell into a canal. She was commuting between Haarlem and Amsterdam. Her actual residences also perished with time. But her dollhouses continue to provide glimpses of her life and one of its obsessions to this date.
Indians have a historical fondness for jewelleries, or more specifically gold jewelleries. The plethora of choices available to bedeck oneself is overwhelming. The intricacy of the craftsmanship speaks volume about the dedication of the goldsmiths towards their craft. Owing to gold’s perceived asset value ornaments made of this precious metal are highly coveted but Indians do appreciate other less expensive and equally painstakingly crafted jewelleries made of copper, cotton thread, shells, lac, glass beads studded with precious and semi–precious stones. Even fresh flowers and green leaves are also used to embellish hair, neck, arms and waistline.
Elaborate jewelleries in the sculptures – Somnath Temple:
Though changing socio–economic condition and increasing exposure to different cultures have resulted in changing tastes in jewelleries yet one piece of jewellery almost universally worn by Indian women (and sometimes men) remained to be ear ornaments. There again each region has its own specialty and borrows heavily from the culture and history of the place.
Jhumkas or chandelier earrings are prized possession for any Indian girl with the more elaborate ones reserved for her marriage ceremonies. Jhumkas are could be multi–layered, studded with gemstones, peals and crystals resembling various floral and avian (peacocks are the favourite ones) motifs. While Jhumkas with Meenakari (sophisticated decoration with enamel dust) is the hallmark of Rajastan, their South Indian counterparts almost always come with kaan (ornate ear shaped support to hold up the weight of the metal).
Painting of Raja Ravi Varma of woman wearing Jhumka and Karwari Nath:
For daily uses stud or bangle earrings are preferred. These also merge easily with office attire and if stylised properly enhances the look with subtlety. Both of these though have more illustrious varieties fit for wearing in various social dos. Kaan Bala (bangle for ears), made of circles of varying radii and decoration, are favourite pieces of ear ornaments among the Bengalis. Kaan Pasha on the other hand is a ornate form of stud earrings.
Jadau and Kundan earrings are dependent on uncut gemstones, including diamonds, rubies and emeralds, to accentuate its beauty. Skilled craftsmen of Rajasthan and Hyderabad boast of making these fine pieces. The process of making Jadau and Kundan is considered to have originated in Varanasi centuries ago and before becoming a featured item in the jewellery boxes of Mughal emperors and empresses.
Temple Jewelleries are inspired by sculptures and carvings of temples across India and ear rings made following this philosophy often feature Hindu deities. Apart from precious metal and gemstones holy beads of rudraksha are also used in crafting these pieces.
Examples of Temple Jewellery – a necklace made of precious metal and rudraksha beads and bangles:
Geometric shapes are seen in Thewa earrings belonging western part of the country. These jewelleries are often crafted with silver, terracotta and / or crystals making them more affordable. Traditional Kolhapuri designs include the intricacies of sun’s rays and the tenderness of flower buds into their designs.
Exquisitely crafted jewelleries such as these are genuine ode to true beauty even if you contradict saying a truly graceful face does not require any further embellishments. Moreover, by opting for a piece of ornament as these, today’s women unconsciously become beads in time’s Mohan Mala (necklace) that it started stringing no less than five millennia ago.