A very short post, and a beautiful thing to make your day golden.
I have spent many a day standing silently adoring this. Its definition is not in the dictionary, though its Sanskrit name is ancient.
It stands in the Museum of Science in Oxford. The museum is full of things I covet, and had I a prince’s ransom I sould send my soldiers to the four corners of the earth to acquire such a thing for myself.
It is a bhugola.
And engraved on it is man’s understanding of the globe, set in India at around 1531, or as it is inscribed: ‘In the Saka year 1493 in the region of the earth-lord Viraji by Ksema Karna the learned was the earth-ball created.’
It is an extraordinary compromise. For this is an effort to combine to visions of the earth and the stars: the traditional Hindu flat earth – a crust which divides two parts of an egg-shaped universe – and the spherical earth. The Sanscrit writers, says the museum, had come across Ptolemy, and here is the result: a Purana-Ptolemy fusion.
Such a rich object, though: engraved with bands of sea and land, it includes a sea of milk and curds, and there are pictures of Gods in the mountains while humans inhabit the lowlands, dancing, playing instruments, and talking beside bathing elephants and capering turtles.
Its use seems prosaic to a society where food is not particularly ritualistic. It held food.
And its grace, and its illustrations, and its very shininess, gets me going back for more whenever I can get to Oxford.
Until tomorrow, enjoy.