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Snakes and bulls - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Snakes and bulls [Apr. 12th, 2006|02:34 am]
Arvind Narayanan
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There's an Indian old wives' tale that snakes respond to punnAgavarALi. This is doubly hilarious because apart from the absurdity of snakes having the mental capacity to recognize ragams, snakes are deaf.

There's just no limit to what some people will believe :)

Don't get too smug though -- did you know that bulls (cattle) are color blind?
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[User Picture]From: sunson
2006-04-12 01:00 am (UTC)
I'm trying to research what kind of 'music' my dog would like. Thus far, it seems to enjoy the simplest sa-pa-Sa. But I'm not Ilayaraaja to compose any enjoyable music with just three notes :). There is just too much difference between dogs and us ;) Maybe a monkey will visibly start enjoying something more simpler like a Mohanam or a Suddha Saveri.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-12 01:20 am (UTC)
Funnily enough, even though chimps are close to humans in the tree of life, they didn't evolve language, so I doubt if they have a capability to even recognize notes. On the other hand, dolphins are extremely good at this. I wouldn't be surprised if dolphins could appreciate some of the simpler elements of music. It is even possible that the dolphin ability for pattern recognition in sounds surpasses our own in some (limited set of) areas.

Some amazing shit about dolphins, including one (#8) that performed experiements on the guy who was performing experiments on it, in a stunning instance of life imitating Douglas Adams.
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[User Picture]From: kadambarid
2006-04-12 01:36 am (UTC)
There's an Indian old wives' tale that snakes respond to punnAgavarALi. This is doubly hilarious because apart from the absurdity of snakes having the mental capacity to recognize ragams, snakes are deaf.

Same's the case with the snake-charmer hoax- there still are people who believe that the poor snake actually "dances" to the charmer's music. A perfect example of ignorance is bliss mentality...

Don't get too smug though -- did you know that bulls (cattle) are color blind?

There's another clean case for winning "the height of stupidity and/or ignorance" award- that bulls (and at times the docile cows, as well) turn vicious at the sight of red & start "attacking" the person in red (a la Tamil cinema!)
Another superstition is that snakes...hold your breath...drink milk!

Shit man, it really can't get any worse...
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-12 01:47 am (UTC)
"Same's the case with the snake-charmer hoax-"

Aren't the two myths the same? Charmer plays punnagavarali, snake likes punnagavarali, starts dancing.

(Actual snake response mechanism being charmer's feet-tapping transmitted through ground vibrations.)

The bulls-hate-red myth is really worldwide, BTW.
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[User Picture]From: kadambarid
2006-04-12 01:58 am (UTC)
Now, when you put it that way, I guess they're the same- except the charmer can play any music at all (and not necessarily in punnAgavarali, to the same effect ('coz of the charmer's bare-soles-tap-dancing-routine, again:)
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From: kupamanduka
2006-04-12 08:06 am (UTC)
Charmer plays punnagavarali

Thanks, I didn't know that.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-12 10:38 am (UTC)
"ADu pAmbE" for example, if you speak tamil.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-16 06:44 am (UTC)
It just occured to me -- the naga in punnagavarali is probably not a coincidence. However, punnaga appears to be the name of a tree. With your Sanskrit skillz can you figure out what the connection is (and if there is one at all)?
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From: kupamanduka
2006-04-16 07:53 pm (UTC)
My sanskrit skills aren't good and I don't know the answer for sure, but I will present the data available to me. I think "puM" is for "male". If you look at the Cologne Sanskrit Lexicon for "puMnAga" they give a variety of meanings, including "elephant among men" - elephant because "nAga" also means elephant - which is why I think "puM" should be "male". As this left me puzzled as to what "varALi" was ( that dictionary says "moon" or "a rAga" ). In dIkShitar's kamalAmbA navAvaraNa kRti in punnAgavarALi, the rAga-mudra-line "ramaNIya-punnAgavarALi-vijita-vENyAH" seems to mean "She whose braided hair excels the beauty of lovely black bees which swarm around the Punnaga tree" - but here I think he is interpreting "varAli" as "vara + ali" - vara meaning "excellent" and "ali" meaning "bee". A similar line from "Ehi annapUrNe" seems to be translated as ( cf. translation which used to be there on sangeetham.com ) "your tresses which are dark like snakes and bees". Unless there is some other obvious derivation I think it is safe to assume "punnAga-varALi" is "the rAga of/for the male snake". In the above, I have included some not-directly-pertinent facts since I thought you might be interested in them too. Have you learnt/been learning some sanskrit, since you seem to know more than what one learns from a purely tamizh-and-english curriculum?
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From: kupamanduka
2006-04-16 08:03 pm (UTC)

Errata


I meant "punnAga-varALi" should mean "the varALi of/for the male serpent", not "the rAga...". Also the obvious typos which don't matter ( note that in sanskrit there is no "La" - so it is actually "varAli", not "varALi" - I write these interchangeably ).
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-16 10:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Errata

Thanks da, that was really useful. Well, I have to say that I always knew a little more than a Tam-n-English curriculum, at least through association with you :) But no, I haven't been doing any formal study, I just like to google the meanings/etymologies of new words once in a while.

But I have been taking an interest in languages in general, and I'm currently trying to get better at written Tam. (example). Given an infinte span of time, I would start on Sanskrit next, but realistically I don't know if I'll ever get to it. I'm hopeful though.
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[User Picture]From: kadambarid
2006-04-16 11:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Errata

The roots- they matter a lot, no matter what the language is...:D
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-17 12:00 am (UTC)

Re: Errata

Totally. I was learning about Proto-Indo-European the other day and I was very surprised at how many word roots English and Tamil share (via Greek and Sanskrit that is, the "Tamil never borrowed from Sanskrit" faction notwithstanding).
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[User Picture]From: kadambarid
2006-04-18 12:28 am (UTC)

Re: Errata

Way cool:P
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-12 10:46 am (UTC)
I'm 95% sure that's a load of crock.

For example, in the case of the rat experiment, I believe someone else performed a non-bogus version of it and realized that the rats simply responded to the volume of the music. The rats probably perceived rock as a loud banging on their head (hell, *I* do), so they preferred classical, which they didn't perceive at all.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-12 11:14 am (UTC)
Gotcha.
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-04-15 03:25 am (UTC)
hey..

there is too much abt life and the universe that we still do not understand...

"There's just no limit to what some people will believe :)" ???

what if there could be another sense to detect raagas other than the hearing sense.. one that we haven't even imagined yet??

Somebody somewhere in the future is goin to be making fun of our beliefs as well..
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2006-04-15 07:01 am (UTC)
All kinds of things are logically possible. It is possible that humans were sent to earth by aliens on a spaceship who further planted fossils to hide our true ancestry.

"there is too much abt life and the universe that we still do not understand"

This is the argument that apologists for religious literalism use to justify the possibility of their beliefs. Unfortunately, it is bullshit. Maybe you don't understand very much about life and the universe; the scientific community as a whole does. We understand the world extremely well; way better than enough to rule out nonsense like extra senses.

"Somebody somewhere in the future is goin to be making fun of our beliefs as well"

Yes. That's pretty much guaranteed. That's why you should use your brain to determine the truth to the extent possible rather than believe absurd and untestable hypotheses.
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