The cross staff

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Oil on canvas 57”x45”

Mankind struggled to solve the problem of navigation and
structure of universe. Both interconnected puzzles were
solved using simple mechanical instruments. Cross staff
was one of such handy instruments which made this possible.

Through several generations, through number of centuries mankind strived to find out nature of cosmos.  Learned men strived to find logic behind motion of planets. In pursuit of this quest stars were enumerated. Star shapes were given names.  Spherical Trigonometry a new branch of mathematics was invented.   Multitudes of calculations were performed.  Sine, cosine tables were learnt by heart.  Records were kept for centuries to get them deciphered.   All these efforts yielded to new era of science.  With the new science  several mysteries of cosmos were solved.

The efforts by intelligent travellers also can’t be ignored in this context.  With their records it became well established that the earth is spherical.  Distance of moon from earth was quite accurately established.  Both these important discoveries are now more than 2000 year old.   Mankind’s use of astronomy is a phenomenal event.  It is said that the aborigines also used astronomical navigation to reach distant islands in sea. When Vasco da Gamma travelled from Portugal to India he used a navigational device called astrolabe.   This device was one of the first mechanical computer which crunched the numbers.  The astrolabe was quite popular in middle ages and Vasco da Gamma came across Indian versions of the same.

On the instruments side, mankind made tremendous progress after the discovery of telescope and other precision instruments.   Prior to those instruments, humankind used simple devices which helped humans to reach safely to places from high seas.  With these instruments and with the help of almanac tables and mathematical tables, sailors were able to calculate position of the ships on the globe.

Gola, Bhagana, Chakra, Ghati, Shanku, Shakata, Kartaryaha, Pipta, Kapal, Shalaka were some of the instruments used by Indians in ancient time.  These instruments, although looked simple were probably constructed precisely during those times.

One of such instrument “the cross staff” a truly hand held instrument to measure angles caught my attention.  The painting is tribute to the struggle of humankind and as an icon I have chosen cross staff and one eyed pirate for the painting.  It also depicts Yugarambh (beginning of an era) for some of the theories and myths.

Pirates have been iconised as one eyed persons.  This iconisation has happened probably because sailors used one eye patch to take astronomical readings of the Sun.  To me he represents a knowledgeable man who guided the ship to safe havens.

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Hubble’s Bubble

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

The universe is expanding slowly and steadily in a peculiar way.
There is no observed centre point of expansion in the universe.   The Universe
seems to be expanding symmetrically about each point in it.  Picture of expanding bubble with
the universe being at the surface of it,  is probably the best way to view this.

Edwin Hubble was one of the greatest man of measurements.  Modern cosmic puzzle was solved by him through painstaking measurements.   His answer to the cosmic puzzle was quite an astonishment. It proved that Universe has a very peculiar shape probably unimagined by any of his predecessors.   His contemporary  physicist George Lemaitre and him together established that our current universe is expanding.  Hubble went further and with his precise measurements he found out a constant of expansion, “Hubble’s constant”.

Hubble found that the Universe was expanding symmetrically.  His second finding was quite astonishing.  He found a relationship between speed of going away and distance of the star from earth.  He found that the speed is directly related to the distance of star.   It was quite difficult to visualise the expansion process in normal three dimensional world.  His findings were most convenient for a four dimensional spheroid with three dimensional surface.  This model of universe gave exact numbers of Hubble’s findings.

It is very difficult to imagine a 4 dimensional spheroid.  The best analogy comes from a balloon.  Imagine universe is like a dotted balloon.   The dots represent stars and galaxies.   The balloon is blown at a constant rate and the dots on the balloon move away from each other.  This moving away from each other is similar to Hubble’s observations of cosmos.

The painting is inspired by Hubble’s model of Universe.

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Multiple Worlds of Quantum

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

The world is limited to what we observe. 
Whatever we can’t observe is not reality.  Act of observation changes the reality. 
The Schrodinger’s cat is sometimes dead and sometimes alive.   There are simultaneous multiple worlds.

What is the limitation of reality?  Realism demands that the world exists and is observable.  But is there any reality beyond observation?  German scientist Heisenberg started a philosophical revolution when he formulated his famous uncertainty principle.   The principle then led to philosophy that the real world is limited to what we observe.

In everyday terms “if you do not go to your office the office doesn’t exist”.   This can be called as extreme realism.   This also led to famous paradoxical situation called  “Schrodinger’s cat paradox“.  This paradox was stated by famous scientist Werner Schrodinger.   In this interpretation the cat is sometimes dead and sometimes alive.

Another philosophical offshoot is multiple worlds interpretation.  In plain terms the if you don’t go to office the there is one world in which office does not exist and in another world the office exists.  The world in which the office does not exists ends when you observe the office.

The painting is based on this philosophical interpretation of reality.

Companion painting:

Yugant:  Worlds End in Observation

Oil on Canvas 18″x24″

Albert Einstein was opposed to the philosophy and science of quantum mechanics.   The science of quantum mechanics survived in spite of his criticism.   One of his famous sentence was “God does not play dice“.

The multiple worlds of quantum is probabilistic interpretation of reality.  The probability of life ends with actual observations.

The observation kills several probabilistic realities.  This statement is inspiration of this painting.

The next painting is not included in the exhibition.   It is on synthetic board.

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Big Bang

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

The world rose from a point singularity. The bang created a
universe which was the surface of 4 dimensional sphere. The
bang was so massive that we still hear the echo in form of
the background radiation.

Theory of big bang was first proposed by Belgian physicist Georges Lemaitre.   Observation of the world lead us to believe that the stars are going away from us.  Their speed is related to their distance.   Which means farther stars are going away at larger speed.

George Lemaitre, who was also trained to become catholic priest then mooted the idea of big bang.   He interpreted that the going away of stars points out to the fact that everything was near to each other at the beginning.   The big bang theory  envisages that the world at its beginning started from a point.   It erupted with a bang.  All of our universe emerged from a point.

It is probable that the idea of big bang lies in the myth of Creation in Christianity.  It also has probable roots in “first cause argument” by Thomas Aquinas.

The painting inspired by all of this and also has a story of who caused the bang.

Aftermath of Big Bang Following painting is not included in the exhibition.  It was prepared on synthetic board in oil.


The second accompanying painting is titled “Fractal Big Bang”

Oil on Synthetic Board 18″x24″

We know that the universe is like balloon.  Within the balloon there are galaxies which look similar to each other.  And within that is also a star-star system or star-planet-satelite system.   The structure sort of repeats at smaller scales also.  This lead to postulate that the cosmos could be fractal in nature.  The painting tries to find the root of fractal nature in big bang itself.

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Ptolemy’s world

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

Ptolemy’s idea of world prevailed for more that 1000 years.
His charts were perfect and his maps were also good.

Idea of cosmos started to look more firm after Ptolemy wrote his book Almagest.  His idea of cosmos emerged triumphed amongst the then various popular ideas.   His theory of cosmos was so strong that it  prevailed for about 1500 years.   It ended when ideas of Copernicus and the observations by Galileo demolished the earth centric model of Ptolemy and Aristotle.

The heroic struggle of Galileo and beginning of new era of science captured minds of modern mankind to a great extent thereby denigrating Ptolemy’s idea of universe.   To be fair to Ptolemy and his predecessor Aristotle one can say that the their cosmic theory was based on facts known to them.  There was no probable religious basis of his idea of fixed and central earth.  It was based on pure observations and scientific argument.  Aristotle and Ptolemy knew that earth was spherical.  It was easier to imagine that the earth rotates around its axis.  Aristotle considered this possibility and rejected this idea on the basis of observations.  He argued that if earth was to rotate there would be considerable unidirectional wind on the earth’s surface.   Since this wind is not observed earth does not rotate.  There are similar arguments (arguments of parallax) against earth rotating around the Sun.

Ptolemy was also a geographer.  His ideas of almanac and geographical maps were continuously used and contributed vastly for mankind to reach age of reason.

The painting although inspired by Ptolemy’s idea of Universe does not depict it as envisaged by him in terms of crystal spheres within each other.

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World with in world

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

Famous scientist Halley predicted that earth could be hollow
and there could be another world with in earth. During
middle ages this belief was held by few learned men.

The idea of abyss prevailed for many centuries and in many civilizations.  Some travelers probably claimed to have visited abyss by going under the earth.  Indian mythology stated that Patal (another name of abyss) was ruled by serpents.   King Bali abdicated his throne and went to rule abyss.

Edmund Halley who was fellow scientist of Isaac Newton probably believed in abyss.   During his time a great scientific revolution was in offing.  Newton was busy in giving mathematical and physical reasoning to heliocentric system of Copernicus.  With earth loosing its support idea of abyss was taking a beating.

Halley whose discovery of regular motions of comets reinforced the ideas of heliocentric universe was a very keen astrophysicist.  He probably toyed with the idea of gravity before Newton.  Later he induced Newton to publish his ideas on gravitation and motion.

He probably wondered about the whereabouts of abyss and came up with a theory that abyss lied below earth surface.  He theorized that the sphere of earth was hollow and contained the world of abyss.  This idea of hollow earth probably influenced many.  Recent movie about “journey to earth’s center”  and Jules Verne’s book of same title were based on the idea of hollow earth.

The painting depicts the idea in different way where several worlds lie within each other.

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Virtual world

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Oil on canvas 45″x57″

Each of us lives in one’s own universe. There is no real world
but figment of our imagination. There is no truth but self.

ज़िंदगी ख़्वाब है, ख़्वाब में झूठ क्या और भला सच है क्या

World is according to what we perceive is the source doctrine of idealism.  The world is in our ideas.  There is no real world but only ideas.  Although the theory of idealism surprises many it can’t be refuted by logic or observations.

Indians were much more into the theory of idealism.      Both Hinduism and Buddhism have elements idealism.  Vedanta philosophy by Shankaracharya coins the phrase  “ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या” which probably means “world is false and only truth is brahma”. “The Matrix” movie is also one is a kind of idealism.

The painting is influenced by the concept of idealism.

Yugant:  End of imagination.

Our perceptiveness is probably influenced by our thoughts.  What influences our thoughts?  It is probably a whole electronic system which is influencing our thoughts and thereby our universe.   The electronic system can go off by electrical failure.

End of virtual worlds is influenced by this thought process.

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Anaximander’s clock

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

Anaximander was one of the first to predict that earth needs
no support. The world was mechanical and earth was
cylindrical according to his ideas. The Sun and the Moon
lied beyond the sky. Anaximander was one of the first to
create a map of the world.

“In my opinion this idea of Anaximander’s is one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.”  Karl Popper

Anaximander was pre-socratic philosopher who had some unique ideas on universe.  His ideas were based on observations and logic.   He considered earth as a cylindrical body un-supported in space.  The sky and stars were nearer to earth than the Sun and the Moon.   His model of cosmos was mechanical with regularity of motion.

Each of his ideas can be seen through logic and observations then known.   He considered the problem of perpetuity of support (depicted by the term “turtles all the way” ).  He logically concluded from that  “the earth needs no support”.   The flat earth concept was very much in vogue during pre-socratic times.  Based on travellers’ and probably his records of astronomical observations he concluded that the earth is curved at least in one direction.    He must have been a good mathematician to bring in whole number ratios to various distances.

The painting gets inspired by his ideas of mechanical universe.

Companion of this painting is Yugant.

Oil on Canvas: 18″x24″

The Anaximander’s universe was depicted as a clock.   The clock will stop if it doesn’t get wound.   The painting shows stopped clock with cobwebs as the owner lies sleeping.

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Turtles All the Way

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Oil on canvas 45”x57”

Most of the early legends predicted a support to the earth
mostly in animal form. Turtle was one of them. What
supports the turtle? “Turtles all the way” was a wise answer
coined by Bertrand Russel.  

Paradox of infinite regress is chicken – egg question.   What came first?   The chicken or the egg?  Similar question is what causes what.  If there is  smoke,  there is fire.  If there is fire. someone lit it. If someone lit it, someone is there.  If someone is there,  someone must be cooking.  This series of reasoning can be endless.

In cosmology, it was thought that earth needs support.  Because earth shakes during earthquakes the support has to be live.  Some imagined it to be ox, some thought it could be serpent, a demon, fish etc.  Turtle was one of the answers.    How does turtle gets supported?  On another turtle. Turtles all the way is clever way a saying it is leading to regress of infinite paradox,  Bertrand Russel has coined this phrase in his book Why I am not Christian.

Some species of sea turtles hatch their eggs in sand nest near sea shores.  It happens so often that the eggs gets hatched simultaneously and thousands of baby turtles emerge out of the nest and reach the sea. The painting Turtles all the way has also been inspired by this event.

Nowadays sea turtles are protected,  but  it was not far in history that hunters would come and catch several baby turtles.   The companion painting of this is related to this situation where hunter is barbecuing the turtles and the world ends with the feast.


Slow and Steady

Second accompanying painting of the series is Slow and Steady.  World made a slow and steady progress like turtle going uphill.

Oil on synthetic board 18″x24″


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Flat Earth

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Oil on canvas 45”x42”

Although astronomical observations made by travellers
proved that earth is curved, many continued to believe that
earth is flat. Most of the legends believe that the flat earth is
surrounded by high mountains.

Flat earth is no longer popularly held concept.  There is  a minuscule minority which holds this belief today.  This minuscule minority is probably holds this belief due to distrust in science and trust in scriptures.  The painting has been inspired by the concept of flat earth.  Usually scriptures demanded that the flat earth is circular in shape and is surrounded by mountains so high that it is impossible for any living being to cross it. The inspirational theme behind this painting is that the if the earth is flat then the cosmos is cube.  Of course this view is not  held by the flat earth theorists.


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