Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Adventures of a Modern Dr.Dolittle #1

There was a doctor who was living in a big Govt. quarters in Kuala Brang, way back in 1974.

Kuala Brang is the district head-quarters of the large district of Ulu Terengganu in the State of Terengganu in the east coast of Malaya. It is full of virgin jungles and mountains. It is cut by many rivers and there were only two roads. One of them was of gravel. The mode of transport used to be by land-rovers or shallow draft boats.

The place was noted as a tiger and elephant territory.

Trade was by some form of barter involving cheques. A cheque which is issued may be circulating with other cheques for at least three months before ending up in someone's account. Thats because there were no banks in the vicinity. Petrol was bought in spare jerry-canes because there were no petrol bunks.

The folk living along the rivers used bring vegetables to a riverside 'pasar migguan', twice a week. A biweekly market of sorts.

For three months in a year, the place would be flooded. It will be cut off from the rest of the world. The only mode of transport was by helicopter.

At such times, food would be restricted to cracker biscuits, potatoes, tinned sardines, all types of dry rations like potatoes, etc. And of course....you guessed it - fish, fish and more fish. Fresh water fish, of course.

It would be an adventure alright.....but then there were the hazards. Snakes, rats, iguanas, all forms of insects, and other animals might want to share your house with you. Sometimes, a tiger might stray nearby. Elephants might decide that your garden would be suitable for a short snack break.

But our doctor fully enjoyed himself because he was an adventurous type who used to go boating in rivers. He was also interested in carrying out a historical study of the place. Hence, he would go around ancient sites which were covered up with jungle.

That quarters was never fully occupied except once. Very young doctors used to be posted for about three months. But they seldom slept in that house......and none of them were married.

The only full-time occupant was an Albanian (or was he a Yugoslavian?) contract officer. He was a funny kinda guy. Nobody was allowed to enter into the house. Even the windows were latched and locked. He never allowed patients to come into the clinic. He went to the waiting lobby and prescribed medicine after asking for symptoms. There several stories as to who he was. One of the stories was that he was a former Nazi.

Well. He died under mysterious circumstances. The thousands of dollars and that were found in house was stufed into drawers, almaris, pillows, matteresses, etc. There was also a fantastic book collection. Some more thousands of dollars were in the bank. All his money was held by court of trustees.

After a short interval, our doctor found himself in that place. For convenience, shall we call him as 'Dr.Dolittle'?

Of course nobody cared to tell Dr.Dolittle anything about anything.

He stayed there for three years with his wife and two small children.

From the beginning, he started having strange feelings and experiences.

One night, he was sleeping as usual in the master bedroom. The doctor still beleives it was no dream. Suddenly, the walls vanished. He found himself in bed in the open space. Then there was a man who rushed past, helter skelter. Following him was another man, chasing after him, brandishing a parang - a sharp sword shaped like an aruvaaL. Both of them were screaming. They rushed past about five feet away from the doctor's bed. They did'nt seem to have noticed him. Then.... silence. The walls reappeared. The scene became normal.

The doctor's wife and children were sleeping soundly. He woke his wife and went outside and had a good look around. Everything was normal.

The doctor's wife also had a separate similar dream, one day.

But after that incident there were more and more disturbances. After a few months the doctor got an audio-tape of mantra recitals and played it in the recoder. But in a very short time, a storm cloud gathered and a lightening struck behind the house. The fuse went. The recorder died out.

The doctor put on the fuse and replayed. But a second lightening struck in the same place.

Thus started a feud between the doctor and something that was already there.

The last straw took place one morning. While in the bath-room, the doctor felt as if a hand grasped his ankle and jerked it off. He fell down soundly. The fall cracked an old fracture that he had sustained in a martial game of bull-chase (jalli-kattu) in India, some years ago.

Finally, the doctor went to see his brother who was living in a town about 100 miles away, Pasir Puteh in the State of Kelantan.

He took the doctor to see a bomoh(a sorcerer, black magician). The bomoh was living in a remote kampong - a very small village. It did not have electricity.

The bomoh was very old and after nightfall, he went into a trance and started asking questions in Kelanatese. Kelantanese is a dialectical form of the Malay language. It is spoken by the people of the State of Kelantan. Other Malays cannot understand it. Some sort of answer was also coming out of him in some strange language. My brother said, it was the Thai language.

After the seance, he explained to the doctor's brother. He gave a vivid description of the doctor's quarters and its surroundings.

He said that there was a small rivulet behind the house (the place where the lightening struck - which he did'nt know). There was a hantu raya(a very powerful spirit - like a muni) dwelling there.

"All the area belonged to him. Ask your brother to make perjanjian sireh-pinang with the hantu and leave the master bed-room. Your brother always goes along the riverside(Sungai Trengganu,Tersat,Brang) and interferes into old history. The spirits there do not like it. Its all rahsia(secret). What is rahsia, must be kept as rahsia. Ask him to mind his own business."

The doctor's brother told him to follow the instructions.

'Perjanjian Sireh Pinang' is very special form of oath-taking or swearing. Betel leaves and betel nuts are taken and upon these, the oath is taken with the incantations of mantras.

They got hold of the most efficient bomoh in Ulu Trenggaanu and asked him to do the necessary. But the most efficient bomoh was more inquisitive about the doctor's income and status and asked an exorbitant price. The doctor complained to his brother.

The brother was thoughtful and brooded silently for a while. Then he uttered the pearls of wisdom.

He said, "It seems that it is more profittable to be a friend of a hantu than being a friend of a bomoh. You leave the bed-room to the hantu and don't talk ill about it. Just go about things normally in a peaceful manner. Let's see what it does. In a way it will be a pact of understanding."

So the doctor let it be.

Hence forth, the doctor did not have any problems. He left the place peacefully after a few months when a long overdue transfer was given to him.

But his newly married successor's wife had an abortion.

But wait. I heard that there is an interesting sequelae to this story.

Let me get the rest from Dr.Dolittle and pass it on to you.


There is a sequelae to the Kuala Brang episode.

Kuala Brang is on the confluence of three rivers - the Terengganu, Brang, and Tersat. Old legend says that Kuala Brang was an emporium in those days.There is said to have been a kingdom around these parts. Further interiorly, there were at least two more.

Across the river, from Kuala Brang, there is a certain Kampong Buloh.
A kampong is a small village. For all practical purposes, this was a kampong allright and looked like one.

Except for one thing. It was too large.

In 1974, its population was 1400, being slightly more than Kuala Brang. It is also very large in area.

Malaysian history has a prominent place for the famous 'Batu Bersurat' of Trengganu. Batu Bersurat means a stone inscription. It is from the 14th century. There is a sinister story about this batu bersurat. But that will be a different story. Perhaps Dr.Dolittle might tell it to us, one of these days. Well, it was found here in Kg.Buloh. It was, in fact, a stepping stone in front of a local Mesjid. The British noticed it in 1910, and soon afterwards, hoisted the stone onto a raft, and floated it along the Trengganu River. Half-way along, something happened, no-one knows what, and the stone broke in two. The top portion of the stone slid off into the river, causing frustration for history scholars for the next three quarters of a century.

You can see the remaining portion in the Museum in K.L.

So..... this kingdom we were talking about.

It had its capital which was Kg.Buloh/Kl.Brang complex.

Kingdom means civilisation; civilisation means wrong-doers. And according to laws of civilisation, wrong-doers means execution. And so, they executed in various ways; including the "Bersula" method, so I was told. So it had its own execution grounds. The bersula method is a horrible way of torturing-cum-killing.
A sharp pike or spear is passed into the anal orifice, right through. Thus the victim was impaled and left to die. The Thais had modified versions.
The execution grounds were just outside, towards the north. That was the site over which, in later times, the Kuala Brang Hospital Desa was built(a Feng Shui-practioner's night-mare). A hospital desa is a rural hospital.

Dr.Dolittle was once told by a Pathan teacher that there was well in that site. His mother fell into the well when she was seven month's pregnant, and died. The well was subsequently filled-up.

Soon after the Japanese occupation, a Malay district officer who was friendly with the Japanese, was tied to a tree in that area, and shot to death by the Anti-Japanese Peoples Army. That tree was standing just on the spot where the porch of the present Doctor's quarters is situated. (The house where Dr.Dolittle had lived for over three years).

All this story was told to Dr.Dolittle, only after he had left on a transfer away from Kuala Brang, to Besut. This is another place in Terengganu. During his stay in the house, he used to hear single, isolatd gun-shots, in the middle of he night. He always thought that people were shooting wild-boars or mouse-deers. Once he asked his trusted land-rover driver about it, and the driver described the incident. He said that after the execution of the district officer, it was customary to hear the single gun-shot in the middle of the night.

There was also another funny noise that Dr.Dolittle used to hear at nights. Something like "Uuunnngghh....Aaangghhh.... Uungghh...Aaangghhh". At first he thought that it might be some saw-mill oprating some distance away. But then why so infrequent and why so sporadic?

The doctor asked another driver about this. He told him that it was the tiger roaring in the distance. The doctor told him that the sound is nothing like what we see and hear in the movies.

He said, "But Sir! Dat kind noise all, you see in pictures oni-lah! Dis one, real real one, you know-ah!"('You can see such roaring/growling noises in movies only. From the sound track. But this sound is what you will hear under natural surroundigs). And so!

That's the back-ground to the story of the 'Hantu Raya' of Kuala Brang.

But mind you, it might *NOT* afterall turn out to be any one of the executed victims, the pregnant lady, or the pro-Jap district officer.....or the mysterious fugitive contract doctor from Albania.

Who or what is the Hantu Raya, then?

Dr.Dolittle still wonders and still has not got any answer.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Indomitable Umaiyan

I was involved in writing a big article on the Marudhu Brothers
of Sivaganggai. It also involved the history of UmaiDurai alias Umaiyan of
Panchalankurichi. People only remember him as the younger brother of

While I was writing it, I came to realise that the motives and
the abilities of Umaiyan were far more complex and far-reaching and
unless I wrote in detail, the real insight into the personalty of Umaiyan
would be lost forever.

Unfortunately, Umaiyan is one of the historical figures who got
outshone by the lustre cast on the others around him. He rather got
pushed inside the shadows of people who were actually lesser than the
calibre of Umaiyan.

Historians have not done due justice to Umaiyan.

People dont realise that he was a prime mover of the pawns
and that he commanded a greater degree of respect and had built up
a network which extended right upto the Maratha territories and involved
such historical figures like Doondaji Waug, Tippu Sultan, and others.

If Napoleon had won in the war in Egypt, things would have been
different. And if the French army from Java had managed to reach
Tamilnadu, the dreams of Umaiyan and Chinna Marudhu would been

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

PreDecimal Indian Coins

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

PreDecimal Coins of India


In the olden days, India was made up of many countries.
On and off, there were several empires which would group together these countries under their folds. But usually there would be more than three empires at any one time; except on two occasions - during the rules of Asoka, Mohammed bin Tughlaq, and Aurangazeb.
When the British came to India and started to become land-holders, there were more than two thousand countries.
By conquest, and by the Law of Lapse, they took over most of these countries until 1870's when Queen Victoria became the Empress of India.
When the British gave independance to India, there were 562 Native States in addition to the British Presidencies.
During the course of the rule of the British Empire, the British standardised the coinage. Some of the Native States had been given special privileges to issue their own coins. But the British Indian coinage was currency in all parts of India.

While standardising, they did away with many of the coinage which were in existance at that time.
From 1870 onwards, the coinage remained more or less the same, while accommodating some minor alterations. During this period until 1947, a few of the coins were abolished. Due to changes in the economical condition of the British Empire, and the demands on metal made by the two World Wars, the coins were debased to a considerable degree. Some of the coins which were 97 percent silver became debased to have a lesser silver content.
Let us see those coins and how much they were worth.

This system of coinage was later known as the 'Rupee - Anna - Paisa' system.
It was based on the Rupee and its fractions.

The Rupee was a silver coin which was made up of 16 annas.
1 anna had 3 thuttus.
A thuttu was originally known as a Pice.
1 pice had 4 salli or thambidi.
A thambidi was originally known as 1/12 anna.

The coinage was based on these denominations.

1. The smallest was therefore the thambidi alias salli.
4 of them made 1 thuttu
12 of them made 1 anna.
There were 192 thambidis in 1 rupee.

2. 1/2 thuttu which was equal to two thambidis
This was one of coins to abolished early

3. 1/4 anna which was otherwise known as mukkaa thuttu or 3/4 thuttu

4. 1 thuttu = 4 thambidis
This was also abolished early.

The above coins were copper coins.

5. half anna = 6 thambidis

This was originally a copper coin but was replaced later by a small coin of nickel copper alloy.

6. 1 anna = 12 thambidis

7. 2 annas

These were nickel/copper alloy coins.

After this was the silver coinage series.

8. 1/8 rupee. This was also known as one Panam or Fanam. This is actually equal to 2 annas. After the First World War, this was abolished.

9. 1/4 rupee = 4 annas

10. 1/2 rupee = 8 annas

11. 1 rupee

After the Silver Series, was the Gold Series.

A Sovereign or English Pound was equal to 3.5 Silver Rupees.

A Varahan was also equal to 3.5 rupees. This coin went out of use a very long time ago. But still merchants were paying salaries based on the varahan until 1950.

A Mohur. This was a Mughal coin.

A Pagoda - This was a British East India Company coin.

Let us see the coins in the Obverse and the Reverse.


The Sixty-Four Arts of the Ancient Indians

The sixty-four activities in fine arts and crafts are the following:

(1) gIta - art of singing.

(2) vAdya - art of playing on musical instruments.

(3) nAtya - art of dancing.

(4) nauya - art of theatricals.

(5) AlEkhya - art of painting.

(6) vichEnyaka chedya - art of painting the face and body with colored unguents and cosmetics.

(7) Art of preparing offerings from rice and flowers.

[8] Art of making a covering of flowers for a bed.

(9) dacana-vasanaiga-rAga - art of applying preparations for cleansing the teeth, cloths and painting the body.

(10) maei-bhUmika-karma - art of making the groundwork of jewels.

(11) cayyA-racana - art of covering the bed.

(12) udaka-vAdya - art of playing on music in water.

(13) udaka-ghAta - art of splashing with water.

(14) citra-yoga - art of practically applying an admixture of colors.

(15) mAlya-grathana-vikalpa - art of designing a preparation of wreaths.

(16) Art of practically setting the coronet on the head.

(17) nepathya-yoga - art of practically dressing in the tiring room.

(18) karnapatra-bhaiga - art of decorating the tragus of the ear.

(19) sugandha-yukti - art of practical application of aromatics.

(20) Art of applying or setting ornaments.

(21) aindra-jAla - art of conjuring

(22) kaucumAra - a kind of art.

(23) hasta-lAghava - art of sleight of hand.

(24) citra-cAkApUpa-bhaknya-vikAra-kriyA - art of preparing varieties of salad, bread, cake and delicious food.

(25) pAnaka-rasa-rAgAsava-yojana - art of practically preparing palatable drinks and tinging draughts with red color.

(26) sUca-vAya-karma - art of needleworks and weaving.

(27) sUtra-kriyA - art of playing with thread.

(28) vEyA yamuraka-vAdya - art of playing on lute and small x-shaped drum.

(29) prahelika - art of making and solving riddles.

(29-a) pratimAlA - art of caping or reciting verse for verse as a trial for memory or skill.

(30) durvacaka-yoga - art of practicing language difficult to be answered by others.

(31) pustaka-vAcana - art of reading books aloud.

(32) nAdikAkhyAyikA-darsana - art of enacting short plays and anecdotes.

(33) kAvya-samasyA-pUraya - art of solving enigmatic verses.

(34) Art of designing preparation of shield, cane and arrows.

(35) tarku-karma - art of spinning by spindle.

(36) Art of carpentry.

(37) vAstu-vidyA - art of engineering.

(38) raupya-ratna-parIksha - art of testing silver and jewels.

(39) dhAtu-vAda - art of metallurgy.

(40) maNi-rAga jnyana - art of tinging jewels.

(41) Akara jnyAna - art of mineralogy.

(42) Art of practicing medicine or medical treatment, by herbs.

(43) Art of knowing the mode of fighting of lambs, cocks and birds.

(44) Art of maintaining or knowing conversation between male and female cockatoos.

(45) utsAdana - Art of healing or cleaning a person with perfumes.

(46) kEsa-mArjana-kaucala - art of combing hair.

(47) Art of talking with letters and fingers.

(48) mlecchita-kutarka-vikalpa - art of fabricating barbarous or foreign sophistry.

(49) desa-bhAshya-jnyAa - art of knowing provincial dialects.

(50) pushpa-chakatikA-nirmiti-jnyAna - art of knowing prediction by heavenly voice or knowing preparation of toy carts by flowers.

(51) yantra-mAtrakA - art of mechanics.

(52) dhAraNa-mAtrakA - art of the use of amulets.

(53) samvAcya - art of conversation.

(54) mAnasa kAvya-kriyA - art of composing verse mentally.

(55) kriyA-vikalpa - art of designing a literary work or a medical remedy.

(56) chalitaka-yoga - art of practicing as a builder of shrines called after him.

(57) abhidhAna-kosa-cchando-jnyAna - art of the use of lexicography and meters.

(58) vastra-gopana - art of concealment of cloths.

(59) dyUta-vicenya - art of knowing specific gambling.

(60) AkarshNa-kriyA - art of playing with dice or magnet.

(61) bAlaka-kriyanaka - art of using children’s toys.

(62) vainAyika vidyA - art of enforcing discipline.

(63) vaijayika vidyA - art of gaining victory.

(64) vaitAlika vidyA - art of awakening master with music at dawn.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


We call mystics as "Siddhar" in Tamil
and "Siddha" in Sanskrit. The superhuman feats
that they perform are known as "Siddhi" or "Siththu". >
Siddhars were, and are found all over the world. >

Imhoteb, who was the Grand Vizier of the Pharoah, >
was also an engineer, and a physician, knew the secret of >
longevity, preservation and rejuvenation of the body, >
suspended animation,and.......yes you have guessed it.
Immortality. The above mentioned powers are called >
"Kaaya Kalpam", "Samaadhi", and "Saagaa Kalai". >

As such he was a Siddhar.

By the way, he is the one who built the first pyramid
called the Step Pyramid.

His Medical system was learned by the Greeks who
finally deified him and called him Aesculapius. Aesculapius
is the god of the physicians and medicine.

His emblem was the winged-staff, entwined by two
snakes. They stand for the three nadis called Surya Kalai,
Chandra Kalai, and Shushumnai Naadi. They are concerned
with the flow of Pranic Energy. Hence with Kundalini Yoga.
That winged staff is also seen to be carried by Mercury.
It became the emblem of the Medical fraternity.

Coming to Bogar - he belongs to a long line of >
Siddhars. One along the line was Thiru Muular - one >
of the greatest Siddhar of all times. He is the author >
the authoritative work called "Thiru Mandhiram" >
which is made up of nine chapters or Tantras with >
a total of 3000 verses.

> One of ThiruMuular's disciples was Kaalaangi Naathar. >
He went to "Maha Sinaa" and a Chinese became his disciple. >
He was Bogar. He has written profusely on metaphisical, >
parapsychological, Tantric and medical subjects. >

His works are made up of seven books with a total of >
7000 verses. They go by the name "Bogar Elzhaayira". >
He came to Tamilnaadu and made many disciples. One of >
them was Karuvuur Thevar@Karuvuuraar. He was the Guru >
of Raja Raja Chola (Raja Chulan's father).

When the Grand Chola built the Great Temple of Tanjavuur, >
they came across certain technical difficulties. At that time >
Bogar was in China. So Karuvuuraar sent word to him. >
Bogar sent the instructions and the final construction steps >
were carried out without hitch. Bogar attained the final >
Samaadhi in Palzhani in Tamilnaadu. His lineage continues >
to present times - even to Malaysia.

There were other Siddhars from other places as well.

Raama Devar was one of them who settled in Tamil >
Naadu. He was an Arab by the name of Wahab. He was a >
physician as well as a Sufi Grand Master. He has written >
treatises about medicine.

> Paulisa Rishi was a Graeco-Roman called Paulus. >
Roma Rishi was another one whose real identity is not >
known, except that he came from Rome.

> Bodhi Dharma who founded the Zen Buddhism >
was born in a place which is about six miles from my >
ancestral home town in Southern TamilNaadu called >
the Paandya country. He studied in Kanchipuram, >
Tamilnadu, went to Sumatra, and then settled down in >
China. In Chinese paintings of Boddhi Dharma, he is >
painted with dense moustach and beard , thick eye-brows >
and huge round eyes.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The ancient Tamils had used many types of weapons.

Some of the weapons have travelled through all these ages and have come down to the present times.

Although we know what they are, there are no more practitioners of the art of using those weapons. Unlike the Chinese, who have redesigned and revived many of their ancient weapons and use them in their many types of martial arts. Just like our martial arts, our weapons are also becoming exhibition pieces.

There are some wise guys who would say, "kaththiyaith thiittaadhE. Buddhiyai thiittu". We Tamils are not thiittifying anything. But the Chinese are advancing themselves in every field. Their involvement in martial arts and other arts have not made them backwards in other important pursuits.

There are some weapons which are unique to the Tamils. Among them are thirukkai vaal, vaLari, and suruL vaaL.

Of these, the vaLari is a weapon which arouses our curiosity.

It is a sort of boomerang. Boomerang is a weapon which is used by the Sons of the Soil of Australia and some tribes of Africa.

Tamilnaadu is the only place apart from them.

The boomerang of the native Australians comes back to the thrower.

But the Tamilian vaLari does not do so.
VaLaris were available in many shapes and sizes. The usual form consists of two limbs which are at an angle to each other. Usually the limbs are flat. One is thin and tappering while the other is rounded. Some have one limb; the other limb is used as a handle. They were usually made of wood. But some were made of iron. Some the vaLaris had limbs which were tipped with iron. Some had limbs which had sharpened edges. These were very lethal. There were special daggers which were known as kattaaris. These were double-edged and razor sharp. They were attached to the limbs of the vaLari. The thrower holds the vaLari by one of its limbs and throws it. There are several ways of throwing and aiming. It is usually given a spin while throwing. While flying through the air, it manuevers and executes several types of movements according to the throwers purpose. It may spin in the vertical axis or horizontal axis. Or it may just fly without spinning. The spin may also vary in speed.

A lethal throw is given a spin and aimed at the neck.

A non-lethal throw is given a spin and aimed at the ankles or knees. This is to capture a fleeing victim. A simple hurting blow does not have any spin.

VaLari was used in war, fights, and hunts. It was the favourite weapon of chice in a deer hunt.

VaLari was a famous weapon in the KaLLar naadu and Sivaganggai Siimai - the present PudukkOttai, Sivaganggai, and parts of Madurai and Ramanathapuram districts. There were competitions in vaLari throwing. It was the favourite weapon of great heroes of these territories. Among the most notable vaLari exponents are Periya Marudhu, Chinna Marudhu, the rulers of Sivaganggai and one of their generals, Vaithilingga ThoNdaimaan of Pattamanggalam.


Hello Everybody.....

Welcome to this blog.

This is going to be blog for articles and stories of a serious nature.

The articles will be spiced with jokes and punchlines.