Are Sunflowers Nerdy?

Sunflowers are one of the species that originated in North America. They were probably one of the first cultivated crops by Native Americans around 1000 B.C.E. Europeans took the sunflowers around the world during 1500 C.E. Otherwise called helianthus, are adored for the bright and cheery disposition, also a food source to bees, squirrels, birds, and humans. They are the great inspiration to the impressionist painters, especially Vincent Van Gogh. Have spent hours staring at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Later bought a stained glass replica from the gift shop. In 2013, read that they are wilting and out of whim painted one.

Sunflowers Painting

Sunflowers Painting

I can never get enough of sunflowers. When this spring arrived, I sowed and it bloomed.

In My Garden

In My Garden

I finally understood why I’m fascinated with sunflowers. Did you know that sunflowers has a perfect geometry based on Fibonacci sequence? Golden Angle in geometry is the smaller of the angle created by sectioning the circumference of the circle according to the golden ratio – that is if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities:

a+b        a
—–   =  —
a            b

This theory plays a significant role in phyllotaxis – the arrangement of leaves on a stem. The most notable golden angle is the angle that separates the florets on a sunflower. They are just as nerdy as I can get.

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Evening on the Wissahickon

I came not from the old world but from the ancient world, India. I was indeed captivated by the cityscapes, the feats of man-made structures and the exploits of architectural niches in the new world. When I could get past those magnificent cities, I’ve felt “world is big” all the time. Cities make me claustrophobic. American charm doesn’t end in cities. It is true soul lies in the great wilderness. I’ve been to only 5 states so far – fascinated by nature in each one of it. Colossal Niagara falls, giant Saguaro cactus, red woods touching the sky, I’ve lost words… pondering nature, creation, and God.

It has been only 6 months in Philadelphia – getting to know the history and culture. I’ve no idea how I landed in the article about “The lost gold mine of Wissahickon” from Google. Eventually found about Friends of Wissahickon and registered for the history trail along the Forbidden Drive. Trial guide Sarah West is very knowledgeable and patient in answering our questions. My American husband, who was born in Philadelphia, had not ventured past the Historic Rittenhouse Town until last weekend. When we pulled in the parking lot heavily shielded under trees with the creek running alongside, both of us didn’t know what lay ahead of us.

Wissahickon Creek

Wissahickon Creek

Wilderness

Wilderness

Wissahickon Creek runs 23 miles passing thru northwest Philadelphia, joins Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Wikipedia says its name come from Lenape word “wiessahitkonk”, for “catfish creek” or “stream of yellowish color”. Mills of Wissahickon were producing paper to gun powder making it the first industrial area of North America. The first paper mill in America was built by William Rittenhouse during early 18th century. Benjamin Franklin noted without the mills, Wissahickon can supply pure water to Philadelphia. Eventually Fairmount Park Commission acquired 1,800 acres of the Wissahickon Valley in 1868 and demolished all the mills along the creek. Wissahickon turnpike was permanently closed to automobiles making the turnpike, “Forbidden Drive”. When the rest of America continue to become industrialized, Wissahickon slowly returned to original wilderness.

Bridge History

Bridge History

Bridge

Bridge

It is not just history that makes stop talking and hones other senses tingles with enthusiasm. Wissahickon valley is Wissahickon schist, prime bedrock underlying the Philadelphia region. This is Precambrian to Cambrian stone, has flecks of glittery mica, small garnets, and many-toned shadings of gray, brown, orange, and blue. I was jumping in joy as I started to spot mice and garnets in the schist. We loved the history walk and the region in general. My husband and I resolved to trail in the 1800 acres as much as we can and to bring our kids in the future for a practical hands on lesson on geology, history, and nature.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Schist with Sparkling Mica

Schist with Sparkling Mica

To me, after all these years, I can feel “Evening on the Wissahickon” is still close to “Morning on the Wissahiccon” 🙂

Nishumbhasudani

Where can you hunt for the roots of Chola history? South India?? Nay! You could do it in Philadelphia as well. I entered the “Asian Art” section on the second floor thinking no museum can be complete without Indian art. I wasn’t disappointed. There is a temple hall made out of the pillars from Madanagopala Swamy Temple, Madurai. It was a classic Vijayanagar architecture of 16th century CE. It is the biggest collection. On the next room, in the South Indian section, I found Chola sculptures. Never thought I could see a classic there. Eight arms with weapons, flaring hair, eyebrows bent in anger, a hint of smile in lips… my eyes were opening wider and wider… I was like “Is she…?” and bent down to read the note on the side… “Oh my God… Oh my God… She is her indeed” I got goose bumps confirming her name. I found a bas-relief of “Nishumbhasudani”. The card read “Goddess Durga As the Slayer of the Demon Nishumbha (Nishumbhasudani), 900 to 925 CE, Tamil Nadu, India”. I was thinking of meeting her in Thanjavur. She couldn’t wait any longer for my trip down there and gave me a darshan in Philadelphia. I examined her details closely with a wide smile.


According to Thiruvalangadu copper plates, Vijayalaya Chola, the first king of medieval Cholas, established a temple of Nishumbhasudani at Thanjavur soon after his conquest of the town circa 850 CE. Although Natarajar of Chidambaram temple is considered as favorite God of Cholas, Nishumbhasudani is considered as their “family deity”.

Lepakshi

Thamba and I went to Lepakshi today as Amma and Poppy stayed behind because of their trip to meet one of Kodai neighbors in Hosur. Lepakshi is small village close to Hindupur in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh. It is lies 120 kilometers north of Bangalore and can be reached through Hyderabad national highway – NH7. Drive past Devenahalli airport literally straight in NH7, take the left after the toll and forest check post. Andhra Pradesh tourism and ASI has not done much for this elegant temple of 16th century. There are no sign boards anywhere as you drive through tropical deciduous forests.

Lepakshi hosts the Veerabhadra Swamy temple built by Virupanna and Veeranna, treasurers of Vijayanagar Empire. Seems they both used the money in the treasury without the King’s knowledge and was ordered to be blinded for this crime without a trial. Legend has that this temple was built by sage Agasthya and later it came to this sage by Virupanna.

The main deity of this temple is Veebhadra Swamy. It has two shrines – Siva on the right and Vishnu on the left. It also has a small place for Goddess Durga. The main attraction of this temple is a huge monolithic Nandi in granite stone. You have to enter through Natya Mandapam, which has life-size representations of musicians and dancers carved to exquisite details designed in Vijayanagar style. Ardha Mandapam or the praying hall comes after that has all the shrines. Kalyana Mandapam at back is a testament to the exuberance of Vijanagar architecture. Local legend has that Siva and Parvati got married on the same spot of this mandapam. This mandapam has most of the great Gods and Goddess of Hindu mythology, the witnesses of this holy union. At the end of the mandapam, there are like 40 pillars each depicting different designs on all the 4 sides. This apparently gave way to Lepakshi saree designs.

One of the main attractions (the least sought after one) of this temple is the mural paintings in the ceilings of Natya Mandapam. It has best repository of Vijayanagar art made from natural dyes. It depicts various scenes from mythology including local lifestyle. I could get some medieval saree wrapping style and designs from those murals.

Saree Designs


Hunter and the Hunted