Do you remain dissatisfied and uncertain about how to face emerging situations and challenges in today’s fast-changing world?
Do you frequently get the sense that however hard you or your team are trying, there seems to be always someone ahead of you and winning?
As you resolve a problem or a challenge, do you get confronted by fresh ones?
Are you frequently unable to prioritize which problem to tackle first?
However much you strive, are you unable to see the big picture and align yourself and your team with that?
….. And on a more personal level:
Do you want to get that job or assignment that you have been trying?
Do you want to get that promotion and recognition you have been aspiring for?
If you have been plagued by one or more of the above questions, the Winning in a Disruptive Worldprogram might just be what you need to improve your winnability quotient in today’s world.
The fact is that our present world is constantly getting disrupted. By new technologies, new competitors, or other factors that can disrupt traditional business models. The disruptive world with its VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) characteristics allows us to reside in a significantly narrow band in the present with a hazy and uncertain future in front and the inability to take recourse of our past experience.
Conceived and developed based on workshops and programs conducted for leading organisations and Business Schools, the course showcases the major types of disruptions that are shaping the world. You, as the participant, would gain an insight into what leads to us getting disrupted. You would review the process followed by a probability-based mindset and the need to shift to a possibility-based mindset to be able to better handle disruptions. You would practice and gain proficiency in the five action steps for the needed shift by conducting in-depth Inquiry through a structured process.
Creation of a context by using hard trends in three areas.
Creation of the three lists.
‘Plug into the future’.
Relational assimilation through a triad of competencies.
Sometime back, in a Leadership workshop for Larsen & Toubro that I was conducting, one of the participants shared a challenge he was facing.
“Earlier I had been involved in direct sales of earthmoving equipment to institutional buyers. A year back I got promoted and was moved to product and market development. However even now a few of the clients continue to contact me on even small issues.”
“That only goes to show that they still have a lot of trust in your support to them, is it not?” I commented.
“True,” the participant agreed. “But it often leads to negativity and bad blood with my sales colleagues who think I am trying to throw my weight around and stepping on their toes.”
“So, what is stopping you from letting go and clearly informing your ex-clients suitably?” I asked.
“That is what I am finding difficult to do. I feel I might be letting my clients down” was the response.
“That surely is a good intention. But are you taking accountability of future sales to the client?” I asked.
Looking at me, the participant slowly shook his head to conveying that he was not.
Each one of us, in our career, would have faced a similar situation. The problem occurs because of the clash between our stated positive intention and the negative impact we are making. If we are not careful, we can get sucked into a black hole of spiraling negativity which ironically arises from an initial intention to help.
The authority being exercised in some manner (even with good intentions) without being accountable is really abuse. If we expect others to be accountable for the task at hand, and we get sucked in, we need to be equally accountable to them, even if hierarchically they are junior to us.
Simply put our impact and influence may move in contrary direction leading to minimal or nil positive outcome. We thus need to explore how these two may operate together in the same direction to maximise the positivity of the outcome. Think of a train being pulled by a set of double engines.
Jim Dougherty, CEO of a software company, writes in Harvard Business Review ( Dec 12, 2012 issue), “If you want to get an emotional connect with the people you are working with or with whom you have business relationships — you need to be willing to commit and be accountable to them , unsolicited and without direct hope of reward.”
Should you wish to move on the road to better influence and impact, I invite you to explore and answer these questions:
Are you willing to make personal investments in people?
Are you willing to share what you are learning?
Are you willing to empathise with the stresses and frustrations others feel?
Are you willing to work for a shared purpose, results and consequences?
What could you do to maximise the overall outcome from the influence and impact you make?
I was quite taken up with the book title and so decided to give it a read.
The curiosity piqued from two aspects. First, Bibhuti Dash, the author, happens to be a batchmate of mine from my MBA days and I was aware of his ‘tongue in cheek’ ability and how he liked to revel in the comic and the absurd in day to day life. The second was my innate curiosity as to how an easygoing and gentle soul like Dash could have stumbled into and then negotiated the rough and tough demands of a cop’s life. By the time he penned the book, Dash had spent an incredible third of a century donning the police uniform and mindset as part of the elite Indian Police Service cadre.
It was sometimes end of 2009 and I was visiting my Alma Mater, the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore in Bannergatta. The occasion was the twenty fifth anniversary reunion of our batch’s passing out of those hallowed portals. Going down the stairs, I bumped into this slim person coming up. Recognition was instant, “Hey, Dash, you haven’t changed a bit my friend”. I was meeting the guy after twenty-five years!
That was also when I learned about the storied career the guy had had, having spent some years in the corporate sector before qualifying for and joining the police services.
Our paths crossed again when I moved to Kolkata. Over the years, I have come to know and admire the mix of diffidence and humility that characterises Dash.
With Bibhuti Dash @ Belur Math, Kolkata Oct. ’22
In the book’s foreword, Dash mentions that the book evolved out of a “Whatever it is, I’m against it!” blog series that he had been penning over the last couple of years. I daresay that I have been an avid reader of the blog which Dash publishes on Saturdays.
I had particularly liked one of the blogs with the rather evocative title, “ It’s raining guns and bullets”. This three-piece blog held a particular interest for me as it was about the Purulia Arms drop case in which large caches of sophisticated arms, ammunition and explosives had fallen out of the skies into the the sleepy Purulia district villages of West Bengal in the winter of 1995. As I recalled, it had become a sensational front page media incident. Dash had been involved in solving that case and his description of how several events transpired is the stuff crime thrillers are made of. Let me not say much more for fear of becoming a spoiler, except that “It’s raining guns and bullets’ is part of the book.
‘Police in Blunderland ‘contains forty odd ‘real life’ tales from a policeman’s diary with the protagonist being Dash himself in them. What I found refreshing was how the narrations created perspectives of an observer, even though narrated in the first person.
In the words of Bibhuti Das, “Policing in India is considered very opaque, stern and brutal. In the articles, I have tried to say that there is a human side to Policing and not all of it is dry and taciturn, although it has its flaws.”
I would strongly recommend you to get your hands on a copy. It is sure to entertain with its pithy style and its gamut of interesting plots and characters.
‘Baked earth temples, where the fired body is porous. How does this work? Monsoon rains drench all, But there they are, that should have melted wet in the wash And drained and dribbled away, solidified like candle wax, But they stand in their various stalwart clay red forms…..’
We boarded an early morning train from Santragachi Junction for our three-hour journey to Bishnupur, the temple town of West Bengal. We had heard tales of its heritage, architecture and fascinating terracotta artifacts.
Alighting at a quaint station, our waiting car whisked us to the Banphool treehouse resort in the Joypur forest area where we were booked to stay over the next few days. I was visiting the Bankura district for the first time and realised it had excellent forest cover.
Did you know that Bishnupur was the jewel in the crown of arguably one of the oldest-running kingdoms in the world? The Malla dynasty was founded in the 7th century and continued to exist till the beginning of the 20th! Moving along the narrow roads and lanes, I mused about this continuation of a single dynasty over a thousand years through the turbulence of India’s history. I could not think of any other kingdom of India which had replicated this feat. Waves of Muslim invasions through the Khyber pass, the might and spread of the Mughal empire, the colonization of the sub-continent by the British had ensured that the longevity of homegrown kingdoms remained limited. So how did the Malla kingdom continue the way it did? Was it because the Malla kings had the wisdom to be flexible and used diplomacy to ensure they were not conquered? Or was it because the focus of the invaders was on the fertile and revenue-generating Gangetic plains and the forest areas of Bankura and Bishnupur held little attraction? Or could it have been a combination of both?
The uniqueness of Bisnupur’s architecture stems from the short supply of stones in the area. The local architects, centuries ago, found a way to build using the local ‘Laal Matti’ red clay; they used burnt bricks made of this. Incredibly the builders could use the interlocked red clay bricks to make roofs and overhanging arches without the need for concrete or other supporting structures. The temples and buildings made in this manner, using laal mathi bricks, locally available laterite blocks, and Terracotta overlays, have survived for centuries!
It is said that the kingdom of Mallabhum, in its heyday, extended far beyond Bankura. Encompassing as it did the districts of Burdwan, Birbhum, Midnapur, Purulia and going up to the southeast part of present-day Jharkhand state. What to me remains intriguing is the flowering of creativity manifested by the fascinating Terracotta art form, the Dokra craft on metal, the timeless beauty of Baluchari and Tassar sarees and the Hindustani classical music form known as Bishnupur Gharana. What is that which catalysed this huge upsurge of artistry in a forest land? What could have been the motivation to sustain such creativity against all odds?
Which brings me to the Terracotta temples and the associated art form which the Malla rulers took to mesmerizing heights. The intricately chiselled terracotta panels stand out, depicting as they do, mostly incidents from Krishna and Radha’s liason, but to a lesser extent, important scenes from the Hindu epics Mahabharat and Ramayana.
The Rasmancha, a four-century old arched temple structure with a pyramid-like top. Replete with visions of Radha playing with Lord Krishna during Rash Purnima, that full moon night in November.
The arcs and the arches…
The Shyam Rai temple, the only panch ratna or five pinnacle temple in Bishnupur with terracotta art on all four sides.
Shyam Rai temple
The Jor Bangla temple, with an innovative roof design akin to two thatched roofs joined together.
Jor Bangla temple
The Madan Mohan temple, a large structure with exceptionally detailed wall art depicting Krishna Leela.
Madan Mohan temple
‘…….Each one a sculpture, arcs and arched doorways, outer walls Of small framed panels, depicting: Ganesh, Siva, Varuna, men And women, carriages and animals, cows and collocations Of the visible world, elephants engaged in the act of coition, Mounted, each panel an astonishment, hundreds of them, On each side wall. One temple’s roof’s a pyramidal lift Of straight diagonal lines, converging; another’s is as swift A symmetrical curve as a scimitar’s blade, four curves, Balanced; another’s uses square shapes; all are brazen, Terra cotta red, and smell of cold earth. The air is wet and warm……’
Chiselled intricacy of Terracotta
In fact, I learned that the Bishnupur temples were inspired by those built in faraway Vrindavan, tales of which had been brought by travellers and vaishnavite disciples over the centuries. However, the architecture and forms remained distinct, following local traditions and innovations.
Nestled incongruously amongst the terracotta temples sits a large four-meter Dalmadol cannon. Legend has it that when attacked by Maratha marauders, the Malla ruler himself fired the cannon to save the region.
I had gone to Bishnupur to see the temples. I returned reliving the entrancing tales of Mallabhum’s Rajas, their creative passion for architecture and their devotion to Lord Krishna. Do I still hear the sounds of Rasleela in the corridors of Rasmanch? Do the murmurs of Terracotta surround me whichever way I turn?
In Musing…….. Shakti Ghosal
Acknowledgement: Quoted verses are by Alan Riach, Scottish author and Academician.
Sometime back, at a ‘Learning & Development’ elective course I was running at Indian Institute of Management Kashipur, one of the participants came to me for a discussion.
“ Sir, you have been emphasizing again and again about the need to have a lifelong Learning mindset. You have also been mentioning about the criticality of the L & D template to remain relevant during unpredictable and disruptive situations in terms of one’s problem solving ability and initiatives. Don’t you think these two aspects are contradictory to each other? “, he said.
This intrigued me. I asked, “How so? Could you clarify some more?”
The participant explained, “In my MBA program, we are learning concepts and tools which allow us to make sense of a business situation and solve problems. They have stood the test of time. But what you have been advocating is to seek completely new way of looking at things to solve problems in uncertain, fast changing environments. So whatever we are learning in our MBA Course would no longer work. To me, that is both scary and disheartening”.
“Well, It is YES and NO”, I replied. “ Your domain knowledge would always continue to play a role. It would be something like a searchlight which will show up a situation in a particular manner, highlighting certain aspects but hiding others. However, the L & D funnel which you would master in our course should allow you to do a Learning Needs analysis in terms of desired outcomes within a shifting environment and spot the needed L&D strategy. In other words, the superstructure that you would need to build on top of your domain expertise would be your new learning need tactics”.
We remain dis-satisfied and uncertain about how to face emerging situations and challenges. Be it on the professional front or may be in our personal life.
“Winning in a disruptive world” would mean succeeding in a business environment that is constantly changing and being disrupted. By new technologies, new competitors, or other factors that can disrupt traditional business models. So, what does one do to win?
The human mind loves continuity and certainty. These allow us to make sense of what we see as stuff we are familiar with. This is why we, our sense making brains, detest change and disruption. For the latter take us into uncertain and unfamiliar territory. We thus like to lull ourselves into believing we are living in a stable world, a world which we understand. We handle new and unfamiliar aspects by distorting and force fitting them into the mental model we hold of the world.
If you have seen the movie, Matrix. It is like living in a never changing, make believe world as the protagonist Neo was doing even though the real world was totally different with its own equations and challenges.
Neo’s real world….
So if we are to draw some lessons from the story of Neo in the matrix, ‘Winning in a disruptive world’ would require a mindset to embrace change and adapt quickly to new circumstances, as well as a focus on innovation, creativity, and agility.
I invite you to dwell on the following questions.
What are the questions we need to answer in the exploration ‘making sense’ stage of our Learning & Development cycle?
How do we align the outputs of the ‘making sense’ stage with our critical analysis of the emerging situation?
How do we carry out a decentering exercise between our domain expertise and the gaps thrown up by our critical analysis?
“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” – Nelson Mandela
Alipore Jail in Kolkata has recently been converted into a museum and we made a visit. I found the place refreshingly well laid out with directional signs to the various highlights.
Though not well known, there are actually two Alipore Jails. The first Alipore jail, later called the Presidency jail, was built more than two hundred years back. The newer one, which continued to be known as the Alipore Jail, was built close to the earlier one in the early twentieth century. Known as a ‘correctional home’, it was used by the British to hold political prisoners.
A few miles away from Alipore jail is Dalhousie Square. Named after Governor General Lord Dalhousie, who held office in the mid-nineteenth century, it was and continues to be the administrative and Business epicenter of Kolkata. Standing majestically at the center is the Writer’s Building with its French renaissance style architecture, Roman facade and rooftop statues.
Dalhousie Square is today known as Benoy Badal Dinesh (BBD in short) Bagh and therein hangs a tale of an interesting connect it has with Alipore Jail.
It was 1930. With the Indian freedom struggle at its peak, Alipore Jail was bursting at its seams with political prisoners. Colonel N. S. Simpson, the Inspector General of Police, had become the epitome of brutality when it came to dealing with political prisoners. Seeing himself as an able administrator, Simpson had devised an efficient and brutal system to force the prison inmates to reveal their political ideologies and ‘terrorism’ plans. Merciless beatings while hung from a tree, putting chilli powder on the genitals etc. were commonplace.
Three Bengali revolutionaries Benoy, Dinesh and Badal, aged twenty-two, nineteen and eighteen, chanced to come together. Members of the Bengal Volunteers, a group set up by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose a couple of years earlier, they had found their life’s calling in revolutionary activities. The threesome, having heard horror stories about Colonel Simpson’s notoriety, decided to take the fight to the British administrator.
To gain access to the Writer’s building the three youngsters entered Writer’s building wearing immaculate western attire. Asking to meet Colonel Simpson, they shot him dead point blank. BBD Bagh today stands testimony to the courage of this threesome.
As I stood looking at the Alipore jail gallows, I heard a sound and turned around to see an old tree standing forlornly in the courtyard. The rustling leaves seemed to be whispering to me about the killings and the merciless beatings it had been witness to. Did I hear Dinesh shout ‘Vande Mataram’ as he was being taken to the gallows?
Dusk fell and I watched the red-bricked Jail walls come alive and take on the colour of blood. The coloured lasers of the ongoing Light and Sound show pranced to and fro. A multitude of voices ebbed and flowed, from various directions.
Netaji Subhas Bose protesting against brutal assaults on other inmates, just before he was knocked unconscious from a head blow.
Subhas Bose inviting Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das to a frugal meal that he had painstakingly cooked himself.
Young Indira ‘Priyadarshini’ Gandhi meeting her father Jawaharlal Nehru ( first Prime Minister of independent India) when he was incarcerated in a cell for participating in the civil disobedience movement.
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy ( a future Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal), himself serving a sentence, treating sick and injured prisoners in the jail hospital.
The whisperings of the guards on watch tower duty.
The tales that the jail was relating to me were of innumerable shades. Of sacrifice and suppression. Of idealism and brutality.
Night had fallen when I stepped out of the Alipore Jail complex to return home.
As I got into the cab, I mused on the dichotomy of the Western civilizational ethos about freedom and bondage. Did that ethos emanate from a deep-down racial distrust of ‘non-western’ people and their purported non-adherence to western civility and norms which had justified Europe’s colonization ( it was never termed conquest!) of almost all of the planet?
When it came to India, The British parliament and administration had gone to great pains to justify its ‘colonial intervention’ in the name of the rule of law, human rights and upliftment of the natives. An image of a benign Raj was fostered, a righteous mask was worn through setting up parliamentary commissions and inquiries every time there were reported cases of extortion and torture. The British would always take the moral high ground claiming ignorance of torture and beatings indulged in by the indigenous havildars and policemen a category which was illiterate, poorly paid and only too happy to curry favours with the British Sahebs.
In 1854, the Madras torture commission, which had been set up to investigate allegations of torture in the police department, had scathingly observed:
‘The police establishment has become the bane and pest of society, the terror of the community, and the origin of half the misery and discontent that exist among the subjects of Government. Corruption and bribery reign paramount throughout the whole establishment; violence, torture, and cruelty are their chief instruments for detecting crime, implicating innocence, or extorting money. Robberies are daily and nightly committed, and not unfrequently with their connivance; certain suspicious characters are taken up and conveyed to some secluded spot far out of reach of witnesses; every species of cruelty is exercised upon them; if guilty, the crime is invariably confessed, and stolen property discovered; but atempting bribe soon release[s] them from custody….’
A hundred and seventy years on, does the above sound eerily familiar? As I sat thinking of all this in the cab, the irony of the situation did not escape me. The British have long gone, our tryst with destiny is now three-quarters of a century old. But our governance and law-enforcing structures seem to perpetuate those very aspects which our forefathers had fought against.
Would the shifting of the jail facilities away from British structures like the Alipore Jail finally allow for fresh thoughts and mindsets to set in? I wondered.
The museum boasts an excellent coffee shop which we thoroughly enjoyed. A visit is recommended.
In Musing……. Shakti Ghosal
Acknowledgement : “Very wicked children”: “Indian torture” and the Madras Torture Commission report of 1855: by Anuj Bhuwaniam Replicated from Sur – Revista Internacional de Direitos Humanos, São Paulo, vol.6, n.10, pp. 6-27, 2009
A little over an hour’s drive from Joypur in Bankura district ( West Bengal, India) where we were vacationing, The Gangani ravines are known as Bengal’s very own Grand Canyon. A remnant of the last Ice age and the glacial activities at that time (anywhere up to two million years ago), the carved rock formations offer a breathtaking sight. As if to provide some relief to the frozen cliff and ravines, the river Shilabati meanders lazily below.
An interesting Legend links Gangani to the great Indian epic Mahabharata.
It is said that after the Pandava brothers lost the game of dice to their cousins the Kauravas, they were exiled for twelve years in the forests. During this period, they reached these lands which were being terrorized by the demon Bakasura. The villagers had to provide a huge quantity of food along with a human every day to the demon to ensure that the land was not ravaged. On hearing of this, Bheem, the second brother of the Pandava clan, offered to go with the food the following day.
Now Bheem was strong and well trained but it remained uncertain if he could take on the might of the powerful demon. But in the epic battle that ensued, Bheem displayed frightful ferocity and slayed Bakasura. The crumpled land and ravines remain a testimony to that.
I stood there and looked at the ravines and the land formation below.
As I wore the geological lens, I could visualize how the weathering through millennia might have created those interesting carvings and structures which I was witness to.
As I changed the lens and wore the mythological one, I could well nigh hear the roars and sounds of that titanic conflict with the adversaries slugging it out over days.
It is fascinating how our beliefs about what we are witness to can be so much based on the viewing lens we choose to wear.
Sometime back, at a two-day Leadership Development program that I was running for Larsen and Toubro Ltd (a heavy engineering and multi-business conglomerate in India), a participant came to me during one of the breaks and said:
“All these techniques which we are learning seem to be of little value to me. I am faced with a different kind of problem. My boss has a strong controlling impulse. It is usually his way or the highway. It seems to me he believes this mindset is what has helped him reach his current position. So even if I try, there is never a win/win situation for my boss vis a vis me. What should I do?”
@ L & T Workshop
As I stood there listening to him, several thoughts came to mind. I asked him whether he was okay to delve into the issue some more.
We need to start exploring. We need to ask, ‘What is that which our ‘controlling boss’ would really like to control and change?’ And even more important, ‘What is that we ourselves are willing to let go?’ For ‘letting go’ could be the start of getting back in control.
Could we try and meet the ‘control freak’ half away down? For instance, certain relationships and one to one interactions could still be kept under our control. This realization itself can give us a sense of empowerment.
Could we ‘let go’ by avoiding reacting when we are being pushed to accept the controller’s point of view? Acknowledge what we have been told and then explain what we plan to do, why we have decided so and that we are willing to take full responsibility of the outcome.
The above exploration would allow us to create our action steps in the matter, thus elevating our own control of the situation.
‘Becoming a leader’ does not arise from knowing techniques or aping what we see great leaders do as they exercise leadership effectively in varied situations. Leadership and Performance is very little about what we know, it is almost all about how we see. ‘How we see’ comes from our ability to shift our perception through developing a contextual framework for our own selves.
“Language of Man here is defeated by the language of stone.” – Rabindranath Tagore
A visit to Puri in Odisha can never be complete without a trip to the Konark Sun temple. Having paid our homage to Lord Jagannath in that iconic Puri temple in the morning hours, we had the afternoon available for going to Konark.
A surprisingly good infrastructure exists in terms of road access from Puri as well as the upkeep of the Konark Sun temple complex. Getting down from the car in front of the long walkway, I had my first glimpse of the famous temple in the distance. The tiled pathway, overlooking gardens and the Konark temple information Centre (which incidentally has a wonderful audio-visual show about the temple and its origins) lead to the temple.
Standing there, as I looked at the ruined structure, my mind’s eye brought in the vision of an enormous chariot with its giant wheels and horses, a resplendent Sun seated as the charioteer, taking flight across the sky. The word Konark in Sanskrit is a sandhi, a combination of two words: Koṇa, which signifies a corner andArka which refers to the Hindu Sun God, Surya. Built out of stone seven and a half centuries back, the temple is an intricately carved, giant chariot of Surya, replete with ornaments, twenty-four giant wheels and pulled by seven horses. Throughout history, different cultures and lands have referred to ‘crossing the seven seas’ for a travel around the world. In India, it is called, ‘Saat Samundar Paar’. Did the seven-horse drawn chariot of the Sun God signify that it had the motive power to circumvent the world?
The temple external walls are sculpted with intricate and jewelry like miniature details. The carvings range from Hindu Gods and Goddesses, nymphlike apsaras, nature inspired motifs, day to day living and cultural activities of people ( Artha and Dharma) , animals, birds and sea creatures along with some depictions of the life and times of the king. Ernst Binfirld Havell, the English art historian and author, writes that the Konark temple is “one of the grandest examples of Indian sculpture extant“, adding that they express “as much fire and passion as the greatest European art” such as that found in Venice.
As I looked at the lengthening shadows of an evening sun, I envisioned the year 1756 AD when Vice Admiral Charles Watson of the East India Company navy accompanied by Robert Clive, was rushing to Calcutta to take back Fort William recently captured by the Bengal Nawab, Siraj Ud Daulah. Spotting the Black Pagoda, as the Konark Sun Temple was known then, along with the White Pagoda, the Jagannath temple near the then coastline ( which has since receded), Watson would surely have been relieved that their destination at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal was near.
History indicates that the Konark Sun temple was destroyed by invasions and natural calamities. Over time it ceased to attract the pious and the faithful. And like the other famous Hindu temple at Angkor Wat in present day Cambodia, the Sun temple too disappeared under dense forests for a long time prior to being rediscovered.
What remains most intriguing however is the highly erotic sculptures interspersed amongst the aforementioned carvings. As I stood there looking at the sculptures, it seemed that eroticism held sway over all else. The carved in stone figurines displayed sexual engagements and coitus in varying positions. I saw several of the chariot wheels depicting different sexual postures. What I found astonishing was the uninhibited depictions of polyandry, polygamy and lesbianism.
As I walked way, I was beset with several thought trains, trying to make sense of such brazen display of sexuality in a temple made to worship the Sun.
Was the displayed eroticism a deliberate attempt to increase sexual activity amongst the population in the 13th century? I had read somewhere that Buddhism, the prevailing religion in the land of Kalinga, preached abstinence which over the centuries, had led to a declining population. Had the King thus ordered the seductive carvings to stimulate carnal desires in his subjects?
Could it be that the depictions were a result of the sexual longings of the thousands of artisans tasked to work on the temple carvings for twelve long years, away from home and family?
Or were the erotic creations deliberate to strengthen the spiritual and divine belief of the devotees coming to the temple? Was the seemingly random display of eroticism, scattered amongst other displays of Gods, nature and public life motifs, a trigger for the observer to choose his/ her path between ‘dark’ attractions of sensuality and depravity vis a vis the brightness of spirituality?
Finally, could the differing displays be based on the age-old belief that each one of us would attain Moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth), that final desired state, only once we have fulfilled all our earthly duties and participated in the cycles of Dharma viz. spirituality, Artha viz. wealth and Kama viz. sexual pleasures?
Does the Konark Sun temple offer a perspective of our life as ‘lived in the moment’, cycling as we do through Dharma, Artha and Kama without the attachments of what is right or wrong, good or bad?
Back in Puri, I was watching the Sunrise next morning from the balcony of my hotel room.
Sitting there, as I soaked in the solitude, the morphing hues of the sunlight, the occasional bird chirps and their flights, I seemed to sense that all was well with my world.
As the sun rose in the sky, that solitary boat on the calm waters, seemed to be following the light. The sight brought to mind those immortal words of the Beatles: