Archive for the ‘Interesting facts’ Category

Water Divination

November 23, 2013

I joined a cousin in inspecting a land to be purchased. Well…not inspection but just to see that the land is physically present and not just on paper. A friend’s acquaintance owned the land. He knew the place and was taking us there in his jeep. We crossed the city limits and were on the highway for nearly 2 hrs when we took a diversion. The road was bumpy and so time slowed.  After an hour or so we were on a narrow road that went between fields and land that was not cultivated.  Our friend spotted a stone and a barren tract along side the road and identified that as the beginning of the land under consideration!

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One view of the tract of land we visited. The branch rotated near the trees seen in the far end of this photograph.

We got down and walked along. In the distance and much nearer on our left were hillocks. Some trees and wild grass interspersed the land. The land was arable but the soil had little pieces of rock mixed in it.  Suddenly, our friend pulled out a branch from a nearby tree. The branch was Y-shaped. He held one arm of the branch in his left hand and the other in his right.  He now walked back a little distance, turned, and started walking towards us with the branch loosely held in his hands and the tip pointing outward. As he walked the branch started rotating in his hand! I couldn’t believe my eyes. If one were to rotate it manually/physically one would have to twist the wrists. It would be a tedious task if at all it was possible! I tried it. As a matter of fact he had not even gripped the arms of the branch. Each arm was light held in the circle/tubular cavity formed by the curving of the fingers in the palm; like when you hold a bicycle arm.  My cousin thought he would give try. He took the same branch and walked the same path.  The branch did not rotate but he felt it trying to wriggle in his palm as if to rotate. He was holding a bit too tight. The friend showed it again. I was skeptical. I took another Y-shaped branch from the tree and walked the same path. Nothing. No rotation. No feeling at all from the branch!  Apparently, it happens only with certain people. I don’t have it in me.

The incident stayed in mind until one day when I chanced upon theDSC_0088 book ‘Brihat Samhita’ by Varahamihira in the Ramakrishna Math library. Brihat Samhita is an ancient(~500 AD) encyclopaedic work in Sanskrit which covers various topics of human interest including architecture, medicine, physiology, zoology and other subjects.  The 54th chapter is entitled Dakargalam which means ‘the exploration of water springs’ or ‘water divination’.  There are about 125 Slokas (verses) describing the signs on land of water being present under ground. The depth to which one has to dig for water is also mentioned.  For instance, Sloka 8 says: in a waterless tract if there is a Jambu tree then water will be obtained at a depth of 10 cubits at a distance of 3 cubits to its north. It further describes what one is to expect on digging up to 5 cubits.

Several types of trees, rocks, presence of ant-hills and other such data have been connected to the depths at which water can be found even in desert regions. Simply incredible!  But, there was no mention of a Y-shaped branch, when held in a particular manner, rotating if there was water underground.  I had seen with my own eyes that the branch rotated in our friend’s hands at a moderate speed if not rapidly. And that too only in a particular patch of land. I wish I had taken a video. I looked up YouTube for videos on water divination. there are several where a person with a coconut placed on his palm walked on a tract of land. The coconut stood up where-ever there is water underground. But no video showing what I had seen. The YouTube links are:

The videos show that the coconut stood up on its own, but it is not clear if they dug  there and found water. Did you come across water divination using a branch of a tree? Let me know if you did.

For those interested in Brihat Samhita, the book is available online here.

Hsuen Tsang’s route to India

August 6, 2012

Most of us are taught in school about the seventh century Chinese Buddhist monk who came to India. Many of us even recollect the name but i wonder if we ever gave thought to the route he took to India. Until i read this fascinating travelogue i always assumed that he would have come across the Himalaya. After all didn’t the Dalai lama cross the Himalaya to come to India?! Well, it turns out that Hsuen Tsang took the much longer route:

China (from Xian)-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India.

In India he went up to Kanchipuram in the south and Assam in the north east! On his way back he went from Afghanistan directly to China skirting Tajikistan and skipping Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan. The map below clearly shows the short cut he took on his way back.

I initially thought i would look up the places that Hsuen Tsang visited and make a route map in google however i found that it has been already done in great detail and is available here.

As i went through the book i found that even the author wondered why Hsuen Tsang took this rather long route.  We get to know the possible reason from the author’s companion in Uzbekistan, a Ukrainian Archaeologist Leonid Sverchov.  Famous translators of Buddhist texts were from  Samarkand (Uzbekistan) and so Hsuen Tsang must have thought the region to be rich in Buddhism. He came to look at Buddhism in all these regions in Central Asia.

Cunningham Road

August 3, 2012

I came across the name Alexander Cunnigham in the travelogue ‘Chasing the Monk’s Shadow’ by Mishi Saran. In this book the author, Mishi Saran writes about her travels to the places visited by the famous 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang on his journey to India.  Mishi Saran referred to Cunningham’s report ‘ The Ancient Geography of India. Volume 1, Buddhist Period’ to know about the exact locations of Buddhist sites in India.

The name Cunningham raised my curiosity. There is a ‘Cunningham Road’ in Bangalore that i normally take to go towards Shivajinagar. Could he be the person after whom the road has been named? and why? So i google’d and came across fascinating information from Wikipedia. Alexander Cunningham is known as the father of  Archaelogical Survey of India! Francis Cunnigham, his brother, was a deputy to Sir Mark Cubbon who was the then chief commissioner at Bangalore. Apparently, Francis Cunningham lobbyed on behalf of the deposed Maharaja of Mysore arguing that he should be allowed to adopt and the kingdom be restored to him. It is possibly due to these efforts of his that the Cunningham road is named after him.


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