Posts Tagged ‘Sanskrit’

Jai Singh’s Observatory in India: A Great Location for Dr. Who

November 18, 2018

Maharaja Jai Singh’s observatory in Jaipur, as photographed by the Archaeological Survey of India

Last week on Dr. Who, the Doctor and her friends traveled back seventy years to the partition of India to uncover the secret of Yas’ grandmother’s marriage. Yas is surprised to find that the man her gran, a Muslim married, was a Hindu. And as nationalism and ethnic tensions surged on both sides, her groom was murdered by his own brother as a traitor. Yas’ gran survived, and held on to the watch her husband of only a few hours had given her as a treasured token of their doomed love.

It was a story of family history, doomed romance set against the bloodshed of the Partition, which resulted in 4 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs being slaughtered in bloody massacres. And its central theme was the inevitability of history, as Yas could do nothing to save her gran’s first husband. It was similar in this respect to the Classic Star Trek episode, ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’. Written by Harlan Ellison, this had Spock, Kirk and McCoy travel back to Depression-era America. There Kirk falls in love with a woman running a soup kitchen. But she’s an opponent of America entering the war in Europe, who dies in car accident. If she lives, America will not enter World War II, and humanity will never go to the stars. Kirk is thus faced with the terrible necessity of letting the woman he loves die in order to preserve history.

It’s a good story, though I would have preferred one with a bit more science in it. The two aliens that appear, who the Doctor first believes are assassins and responsible for the murder of the Hindu holy man, who was to marry the happy couple, turn out instead to have reformed. Returning to find their homeworld had been destroyed, the two now travel through the universe to witness the deaths of those who pass unnoticed. They reminded me of the Soul Hunters in Babylon 5, an alien race, who travel through the universe to extract and preserve the souls of the dying at the moment of death. They are interested in ‘dreamers, poets, thinkers, blessed lunatics’, creative visionaries whose genius they want to preserve against dissolution.

Dr. Who has a tradition of the Doctor going back in time to meet important figures of the past. One such influential figure in India was Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur, who constructed great observatories in Jaipur and Delhi. As you can see from the piccy at the top, the measuring instruments used in astronomy at the time were built out of stone there. To my eyes, the observatories thus have the shape of the weird, alien architecture portrayed by SF artists like Chris Foss, as if they were monuments left by some strange future extraterrestrial civilization.

B.V. Subbarayappa, in his ‘Indian Astronomy: an historical perspective’, in S.K. Biswas, D.C.V. Mallik and C.V. Viveshwara, eds., Cosmic Perspectives: Essays dedicated to the memory of M.K.V. Bappu pp.41-50, writes of the Maharaja

In this respect, special mention needs to be made of Majaraja Sawai Jai Sing II (1688-1743) of Jaipur, who was not only an able king but also a skilled astronomer and patron of learning. He built five observatories in different locations in Northern India. The observatories now standing majestic and serene in Jaipur and Delhi bear testimony to his abiding interest in astronomy and to his efforts for augmenting the astronomical tradition with an open-mindedness. The observatory at Jaipur has a large number of instruments – huge sun-dials, hemispherical dial, meridian circle, a graduated meridianal arc, sextants, zodiacal complex, a circular protractor (which are masonry instruments), as well as huge astrolabes. Sawai Jai Singh II meticulously studied the Hindu, Arabic and the European systems of astronomy. He was well aware of Ptolemy’s Almagest (in its Arabic version), as also the works of Central Asian astronomers – Nasir al-Din at-Tusi, Al-Gurgani, Jamshid Kashi and, more importantly, of Ulugh Bek – the builder of the Samarqand observatory. In fact, it was the Samarqand school of astronomy that appears to have been a great source of inspiration to Jai Singh in his astronomical endeavours.

No less was his interest in European astronomy. In his court was a French Jesuit missionary who was an able astronomer and whom Jai Singh sent to Europe to procure for him some of the important contemporary European works on astronomy. He studied Flansteed’s Historia Coelestis Britannica, La Hire’s Tabula Astronomicae and other works. He was well aware ot he use of telescope in Europe and he spared no efforts in having small telescopes constructed in his own city. In the introduction to his manum opus, Zij Muhammad Shahi, which is preserved both in Persian and Sanskrit, he has recorded that telescopes were being constructed during his lifetime and that he did make use of a telescope for observing the sun-spots, the four moons of Jupiter, phases of Mercury and Venus, etc. However, in the absence of a critical evaluation of his treatise, it is rather difficult to opine whether Jai Singh was able to determine the planetary positions or movements with the help of a telescope and whether he recorded them. No positive evidence has yet been unearthed.

The principal court astronomer of Jai Singh II was Jagganatha who was not only well versed in Arabic and Persian but also a profound scholar of Hindu astronomy. He translated Ptolemy’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements from their Arabic versions into Sanskrit. The Samrat Siddhanta, the Sanskrit title of the Almagest, is indeed a glorious example of the open-mindedness and generous scientific attitude of Indian astronomers. (pp. 36-8).

It would be brilliant if there was a Dr. Who story using this fascinating, historic location, but as it’s almost certainly a prized national monument, I doubt very much the Beeb would be allowed to film there. Still, perhaps something could be done using CGI and a lot of imagination.

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Hope Not Hate Infiltrates the Alt Right

September 21, 2017

The anti-racist/ anti-religious extremism website and magazine, Hope Not Hate, has posted up a piece by their contributor, Patrik Hermansson, describing his year-long mission to infiltrate the Alt Right both in Britain and in America. Mr. Hermansson is a young, gay and very anti-Nazi Swede. During his year amongst the assorted Nazis and Holocaust deniers, he met and became close to the far right London Forum and its leaders, Jez Turner, Stead Steadman and Mick Brooks. He also encountered smaller, associated Nazi groups like the Extremists Club and various Nazi Odinist groups, which worship the Norse gods.

He also met the Traditional Britain Group and its founder, Gregory Lauder-Frost. This has links, as has the London Forum, with the Nazi publisher, Arktos Media, and has hosted meetings, whose speakers have included other members of the international New Right such as Alex Kurtagic and Tomislav Sunic, John Morgan, formerly of Arktos, now working for Greg Johnson’s Countercurrents, Marcus Willinger of Generation Identity, and Richard Spencer and Mark Tait of the Alt Right. The Traditional Britain Group has also had links to Breitbart. The TBG has also hosted events attended by the UKIP MEP Gerard Batten, and Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who later apologized for attending.

Johnson has also set up groups like the London Forum in New York and Seattle. Guests and speakers at these events have included the anti-Semitic editor of the Occidental Observer, Kevin MacDonald, and the British Alt Right vlogger Colin Robertson, who vlogs under the monicker ‘Millennial Woes’. In Seattle, he also met the infamous Nazi ceramicist, Charles Krafft. Amongst other things, Krafft makes teapots of Adolf Hitler, one of which is shown. The Seattle Forum is Whites only, and is attempting to purchase land on which to found an all-White colony, Cascadia. He also met Jason Reza Jorjani, the co-founder of Alt Right Corporation and editor of Arktos Media, who later resigned his position at both to concentrate on overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran. Jorjani’s middle and surname suggest that he’s of Iranian heritage, so it’s no surprise that he wants to destroy the Islamic Republic and create an Indo-European world order. Many of the Iranian languages, like the majority language, Farsi, are Indo-European, the same as the Indian languages derived from Sanskrit. The father of the former Shah decided on renaming his country Iran, instead of Persia, following a suggestion from the Nazi ambassador in the 1930s. ‘Iran’ is derived from ‘Aryan’.

These groups attempt to offer a complete, parallel society to that of the mainstream, so that the people within it not only attend political events with their fellow Fascists, but also socialize and go to and organize cultural events with them.

They also have links to the White House, and its current denizen, Donald Trump.

The article also includes a diagram of the various groups and organisations making up the Alt Right, and the links between them.

Hermansson also describes how he found the year within the movement emotionally numbing. These are viciously racist groups, with a violent and genocidal hatred of Jews, non-Whites, gays and feminists. They deny the Holocaust and joke about the murder of the Jews by the Nazis. They also cheered at the new of the Orlando shooting, when a sexually repressed and conflicted gay Muslim took out his anger and self-loathing by murdering people at a gay nightclub, many of whom were Latinos/Latinas. Hermansson describes how meeting and immersing himself in this milieu every day has the effect of normalizing their extreme and disgusting views. He states

I learnt a huge amount about how people and groups are connected, how the movement operates and what it was planning. I found out how the movement interacts internationally and how important the social aspect of activism is in radicalising and retaining members. These groups attempt to become all-encompassing organisations that go far beyond politics, into art, religion and social life making them incredibly difficult to leave. Tragically I’ve seen how social pressure inside these groups can make ordinary people support genocide.

The far right is often treated with complacency. Should we let them into the public debate? Their views might be different, but aren’t they just other opinions

What’s obvious after a year inside the alt-right is that we cannot become complacent. These are not just opinions. These are organisations that actively foment hate and promote violence towards large groups of people. They are dangerous and their dangerous ideology must be confronted, wherever it appears.

The article concludes with his description of the events in Charlottesville.

In addition to the diagram, there are also numerous photographs taken by the author.

https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/my-year-inside-the-international-alt-right