Ramanujan’s House: A Math-Nerd Fan-Boy Trip to Kumbakonam

As a student Sanskrit, I often overlook a lot of important places in India.  I was lucky enough to travel to Tanjore with a mathematician, so we had to take a detour to the house of the famous Ramanujan (no, not that Ramanujan) in Kumbakonam.

I tried to understand a bit of the math, but taking pictures was easier.

Ok, and kinda unrelated to math, here is a huge rath wheel right outside of the house, with lanky me for scale:

 

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Dirty Carvings: What’s Up with Them? or The Varied Manifestations of the Nature of Man

So my own inherent Victorianism made me think a few times about putting pictures up of “dirty” carvings.  But hey, if the Newars put ’em out there in broad daylight for all to see, why shouldn’t I?

But still the question of dealing with ancient and medieval eroticism is a difficult one.  I put up pictures with a short and goofy commentary, but really, how can one talk about them?  I managed to find two sources on those carvings: a book on Kāmaśāstra in Nepali I briefly saw at the NRC, and Dr.  Giuseppe Tucci’s contribution to the Summer of ’69, “Rati-Līlā (Geneva: Nagel, 1969).  Here is a selection from the latter’s delightfully gauche  introduction:

“Since the publication in 1962 of Kama Kala, the first volume in the series “Unknown Treasures”
which was acclaimed by the international press for its audacious beauty, Nagel Publishers have
continued to unveil the secrets of the erotic art created by the civilisations of the world. Eros Kalos, Roma, I
Amor, Shunga, Checan and Sarv e Naz have thus successively revealed, under the guidance of leading
authorities, the artistic manifestations of the erotic sense of the Greek, Roman, Japanese, Peruvian and
Persian peoples.

“A further area of unknown territory is now opened up with this seventh volume in the series, Rati-Lila,
which is concerned with the erotic imagery of the temples of Nepal. Under a title which to some readers
might appear frivolous – for “Rati-Lila” means “the sports of love” – Professor Giuseppe Tucci, of
the Italian Institute for the Middle and Far East in Rome, initiates us into the esoteric mysteries of Tantric
thought in a luminous analysis which is the product of over twenty-five years of uninterrupted contact with
the civilisation of Nepal. We should like to express our sincere gratitude for his ready helpfulness throughout
the preparation of this work.

“The reader will be struck at once by the exotic originality and the extraordinary humour shown in these
erotic creations by the artists of Nepal. To photograph these works entailed an expedition lasting more
than two months, and the 230 illustrations presented in this volume were selected from over a thousand.
This is an indication of the care that has gone to the making of this book, for the greater pleasure of readers
whose appreciation of art comprehends all the varied manifestations of the nature of man.”  (p.6)

Thanks to I. S. for the reference.  He is truly font of all things arcane and amazing.

Dirty Picture… errrr, carvings.

Ok.  This is ‘Not Safe For Work’ as they say.

Right on Tridevi Marg in Thamel, in the backpacker epicenter of Kathmandu,  there is a slightly beat up, slightly run down temple.    I must have walked by this temple dozens of times without giving it a second look—and why would you when there are the spectacular complexes in Durbar Square or Patan to look at.  Actually, I had never seen anyone paying any attention to the place.  While wandering around looking for an ATM I happened to look up.

Wow.

Some are pretty run of the mill:

But others are a bit more creative:

…or perhaps we should say athletic:

There are also a few for those who prefer solitude:

…or:

I end with my personal favorite.  Is that corn?