# Heaven and Hell

Circle Limit IV
Heaven and Hell

by M C Escher

Yesterday I have put up Escher’s Circle Limit IV – Heaven and Hell on my new desk. The Circle Limit series of drawings was drawn by Escher are essentially what are known as his hyperbolic tesselations. The new computer table that I have got has an odd shape. On one end the side is circular and it smoothly metamorphises into rectangle on the other side. Though it is not at all comparable to what Escher has accomplished, I feel bad even when I use the word metamorphosis for this, but I have not found anything better. The table is designed for use with a desktop. So it has sections for different parts of the desktop like the monitor, CPU keyboard etc.
Anyways the main point that I want to tell is that the table at one end is circular. Since I had put Escher’s Three World on another table, I thought it would be a good idea to use a ciruclar print of Escher for this part of the table. Of all the prints I had, which I had taken when I had at my disposal A3 sized printers, the one which fitted the purpose seemed to be Circle Limit IV – Heaven and Hell.

Let us see what Escher himself has to say about this series of works viz. The Circle Limits:

So far four examples have been shown with points as limits of infinite smallness. A diminution in the size of the figures progressing in the opposite direction, i.e. from within outwards, leads to more satisfying results. The limit is no longer a point, but a line which border’s the whole complex and gives it a logical boundary. In this way one creates, as it were, a universe, a geometrical enclosure. If the progressive reduction in size radiates in all directions at an equal rate, then the limit becomes a circle. [1]

And he says this about Heaven and Hell:

CIRCLE LIMIT IV, (Heaven and Hell)
Here also we have the components diminishing in size as they move outwards. The six largest (three white angels and three black devils) are arranged about the centre and radiate from it. The disc is divided into six sections in which, turn and turn about, the angels on a black background and then the devils on a white one, gain the upper hand. in this way, heaven and hell change place six times. In the intermediate, “earthly” stages, they are equivalent. [1]

Like most of Escher’s drawings this one also takes you to a different world. A world which is far away from the reality. A world of mathematics. A world of abstraction. But then as always we can make connections between this abstract world and the real world. The connections that we can make are dependent on the world view that we have. Some people fail to make the connection. They cannot `see’.

The Circle Limit series is what brought Escher to the eyes of the mathematicians. H. S. M. Coxeter used Circle Limit II as an illustration in his article on hyperbolic tesselations. Since then the other works of Escher have been examined by the mathematicians, and we find that very deep and fundamental ideaso of mathematics are embedded in them. As to how Escher did it is amazing. The kind of clear insight that Escher exhibits in his artwork is astounding. He could visualize the mathematical transformations in his head and then transform them onto the artwork he was working with. Escher has said

I have brought to light only one percent of what I have seen in the darkness. [2]

This must be certainly true, as most of his artwork is nowhere close to what we see in the light. I rate the artwork of Escher as greater than that of the renessaince artist’s as they had just beautifully drawn what one could “see.” But with Escher we go a step beyond, imagination takes the control. What interests me in Escher is that he can make you imagine the unimaginable. What you know is not possible is demonstrated just in front of your eyes. Logic is discarded. Rather it is kept in the basement which is upstairs for Escher.

Yesterday you start to believe what you thought was impossible tommorow.

The way different things merge for Escher is just unparalled in the work of other artists. What has now become known as “Escheresque” is just the typical of his style. Lot of later artists are influenced by the works of Escher, I have found one Istvaan Orosz particulary good. There are others who are equally good but I don’t remember their names now….

Coming back to Heaven and Hell. The main artwork is in a woodcut format in black and white. For me this is a kind of dyad which represents the world. The idea of two opposing forces one termed to be evil and the other good are all permeating in the Universe. Here also the bat-devils and the angels are the representative of the same. There is no part of the Universe where these two are not present. It might seem that somewhere far out there there is nothing, but it is not so. Even there, the design is the same, it is just too far for us to see. This is what harmony in the universe is about. It is the same everywhere, when you have a broad enough world-view. The cosmologists say that the Universe is homogenous and isotropic, if you choose to “see” it at the right scale. The cosmologists often use Heaven and Hell to illustrate this point. For me introduction to Escher came in a talk by a cosmologist who used The Waterfall to illustrate the idea of a perpetual motion machine. Since then I have become addicted to Escher, as has everybody else who has some sense of imagination. For those who cannot appreciate Escher, I can just pity at their miserable imagination.

References:

[1] The Graphic Work of M C Escher by M C Escher
Ballantine 1975, ISBN 345246780595

[2] M. C. Escher (Icons) by Julius Wiedemann (Editor)
Taschen 2006, ISBN 3822838691

# Zafarnama

Recently while reading about the last great Mughal, Aurangazeb, I came to know about a letter called Zafarnama written by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. Zafarnama literally means letter of victory. The letter was written by the Guru when he escaped a treacherous attack by Mughals in Chamkaur. Earlier oath on Quran had been taken to allow a safe passage to the Guru. There were 40 Sikhs in all who defended a garhi in Chamkaur on 22nd December 1704, amongst them sons of Guru Gobind Singh also gave their lives.
The letter is in verse form, written in persian. The letter has 111 verses dedicated to different things. It is said that the letter caused great remorse to Aurangazeb and hastened his death.
Maybe the all the fundamentalists should also read this letter and understand, what Aurangazeb understood at the end of his life.
More about Zafarnama here and here. The translation below is from here.
Zafarnama by Guru Gobind Singh
O Master of miracles, O Eternal and Beneficent One,
O The Provider of our sustenance, O our Deliverer, Bestower of Grace and Mercy! (1)
O Giver of Bliss, O Great Pardoner, Who holds me by the Hand,
O Remitter of sins, O Bestower of daily bread, O Charmer of our hearts! (2)
O King of kings, O Giver of Good, O guidance of the Way.
O One without colour, without form, without equal! (3)
He who has no material possessions, no army, no ground to stand upon,
Him too, Thou blessest with Heavenly Bliss. (4)
Separate from the world, yet most powerful, the Presence, Who givest Thy gifts as if Thou wert here before us. (5)
O Thou Pure One, Our Cherisher, our only Giver.
O Thou Merciful One, who givest to every land! (6)
O Greatest of the great, Thou art the God of every land:
Of Perfect Beauty, Merciful and Giver of sustenance! (7)
O Master of intellect, O Embellisher of the meek,
O Refuge of the poor, O Destroyer of the tyrant! (8)
O Protector of the faith, Fountain of eloquence,
O Knower of the Real, O Author of revelation! (9)
O Master of intelligence, O Appreciator of Wisdom,
O Diviner of secrets, O Omnipresent God! (10)
Thou knowest all that happens in the world,
And Thou resolvest all its problems and doubts. (11)
O Thou all-knowing God, O Great One,
Thou alone art the organiser of our lives. (12)
The Memorandum to Aurangzeb
I have no faith in thy oaths,
Even if thou bringest in God as thy witness. (13)
I haven’t even an iota of trust in thee,
For, all thy ministers and thy courtiers are liars. (14)
He who puts faith in thy oath on the Koran,
He in the end, comes to ruin. (15)
But, beware that the insolent crow
Can lay not its hands upon one whose protection is Huma, the Bird of Heaven. (16)
He who seeks the refuge of the tiger
Can he be harmed by a goat, a deer or a buffalo? (17)
Had I vowed even secretly on the book of my faith,
I would have withdrawn infantry and cavalry from the field. (18)
And, what could my forty men do (at Chamkaur), when a hundred thousand men, unawares, pounced upon them? (19)
The oath breakers attacked them, of a sudden, with swords, arrows and guns. (20)
I had, perforce to join battle with thy hosts,
And I too fought with the muskets and arrows as best as I could. (21)
When an affair is past every other remedy,
It is righteous, indeed to unsheath the sword. (22)
Hadn’t I taken thee to thy word upon the Koran,
I wouldn’t have chosen the path I did. (23)
I knew not that thy men were crafty and deceitful like a fox.
Else I wouldn’t have driven myself to this state. (24)
He who swears to me on the Koran
Ought not to have killed or imprisoned my men. (25)
Thy army dressed like blue bottles,
Charged us, of a sudden, with a loud bang. (26)
But, he who advanced from thy ranks beyond his defences,
Was hit with such deadly aim of my single arrow that he was deluged in blood. (27)
But they who aggressed not against us
Were left unhurt, unmolested by us. (28)
When I witnessed thy general, Nahar Khan, advancing for war,
I gave him the taste of a single deadly arrow. (29)
And many of his men who boasted of their valour,
Fled the battlefield, in utter shame. (30)
Then advanced another one of Afghan blood,
Rushing forth like flood, like a gun-ball, or a deadly arrow. (31)
He made many assaults with great courage,
Some with conscious skill, and others like mad. (32)
The more he attacked, the more he was mauled,
And then while killing two of my ranks,
He, too, fell dead in the cold dust. (33)
But the cowardly and contemptible Khawaja came not forth like a man,
And hid himself behind a wall. (34)
Had I but seen his face,
I couldn’t but have helped him too with an arrow. (35)
At last, many on their side fell on the ground
Hit by the arrows and the death dealing bullets. (36)
There was, indeed, an overpowering rain of these,
And the earth turned red like the lalla flower. (37)
Torn heads and legs lay in heaps,
As if the earth was covered with balls and sticks. (38)
The arrows whizzed, the bows twanged,
And, it brought forth from the earth only cries and yells. (39)
There were other dreadful, vengeful noises too, of weapons and men,
When men, bravest of the brave, battled like mad. (40)
But, what kind of chivalry is this in war,
That countless hosts should pounce upon a mere forty of us, (41)
When the lamp of the world veiled itself,
And the queen of night came forth with all her splendour. (42)
He who trusts, however, in an oath on God,
His Protection also in He; in need, He shows the Path. (43)
So, not even a hair of mine was touched, nor my body suffered,
For the God, the Destroyer of my enemies, Himself pulled me out to safety. (44)
I knew not that you, O man, were a perjurer,
And a worshipper of self, and a breaker of faith. (45)
Nay, you keep no faith, nor mind religion,
Nor know God, nor believe in Mohammed. (46)
He who observes the tenents of his faith,
He makes a promise but never to break it. (47)
You have no idea of what an oath on the Koran is:
Nay, you have no faith in the One God.
(48)
Now if you were to swear a hundred times on the Koran,
I’d regard not thy word, not an iota of it. (49)
Had you ever a mind to keep thy faith,
You would have taken courage and come to me. (50)
From when you gave your word,
Swearing in the name of God’s Word, it was incumbent on you to keep your faith. (51)
If your majesty were to be present here before me,
I would have with all my heart posted you with your treachery. (52)
Do now what is enjoined upon you,
And stick to your written and plighted word. (53)
The written word and the verbal promise of your envoy,
Both, should have been fulfilled by you. (54)
He alone is a man who keeps his word:
Not that he has one thing in the heart, and another on the tongue. (55)
Your promise was to honour the Qazi’s word,
If that be true, then come thou to me. (56)
If you want to seal thy promise on the Koran,
I would send the document for sure to thee. (57)
If only you were gracious enough to come to the village of Kangar,
We could then see each other face to face. (58)
On the way, there will be no danger to your life,
For, the whole tribe of Brars accepts my command. (59)
Come to me that we may converse with each other,
And I may utter some kind words to thee. (60)
I’d send thee a horseman like one in a thousand,
Who will conduct thee safe to my home. (61)
I’m a slave of the King of kings,
And ready to obey His Call with all my heart. (62)
If He were to order me thus,
I’d with utmost pleasure present myself to thee. (63)
And if you are a believer in One God,
Tarry not in what I ask you to do. (64)
It is incumbent upon you to recognise the God,
For He told you not to create strife in the world. (65)
You occupy the throne, in the name of God, the Sovereign of all creation,
But strange is thy justice, stranger thy attributes! (66)
What sense of discrimination is this? What regard for religion?
O fie on such a sovereignty! Fie a hundred times!! (67)
Stranger than strange are thy decrees, O king,
But beware that broken pledges boomerang on those who make them. (68)
Shed not recklessly the blood of another with thy sword,
Lest the Sword on High falls upon thy neck. (69)
O man, beware and fear thy God,
For, though flattery or cajolery He can be deceived not. (70)
He, the King of kings, fears no one,
And is the True Sovereign of the earth and heaven. (71)
God is the Master of the earth and the sky:
He is the Creator of all men, all places. (72)
He it is who Creates all – from the feeble ant to the powerful elephant,
And is the Embellisher of the meek and Destroyer of the reckless. (73)
His name is: “Protector of the meek”.
And Himself He is dependent upon no ones support or obligation. (74)
He has no twist in Him, nor doubt.
And, He shows man the Way to Redemption and Release. (75)
You are bound, indeed by your word on the Koran,
Let, therefore, the matter come to a good end, as is your promise. (76)
It is but meeting that you act wisely,
And be discreet in all that you do. (77)
What, if you have killed my four tender sons,
When I, like a coiled snake remain behind. (78)
It is not brave to put out a few sparks,
And stir up a fire to rage all the more! (79)
What a beautiful thought has Firdausi, the sweet-tongued poet, expressed:
“He who acts in haste, plays the devil”. (80)
When you and I will, both repair to the Court of God,
You will bear witness to what you did unto me. (81)
But, if you will forget even this,
Then, God on High will also forget you from His Mind. (82)
God will reward you well for your misdeed,
Which you launched with all your recklessness! (83)
This is the keeping of faith: this the act of goodness,
To put God above the love of life. (84)
I believe not that you know God,
Since, from you have come only tyrannous acts. (85)
The Beneficent God also will know thee not,
And will welcome not thee with all thy riches. (86)
If now you swear a hundred times on the Koran,
I will not trust you even for a moment. (87)
I will enter not your presence, nor travel on the same road,
Even if you so ordain, I would oblige you not. (88)
O Aurangzeb, king of kings, fortunate are you,
An expert swordsman and a horseman too: (89)
Master of the lands, ruler and emperor. (90)
A skilled wielder of the sword and clever in administration,
A master-warrior and a man of charitable disposition. (91)
You grant riches and lands in charity,
O one of handsome body and brilliant mind. (92)
Great is your munificence, in war you are like a mountain,
You are the king of kings, ornament of the throne of the world:
Master of the world, but far from religion! (94)
I warred with the idol-worshipping hill chiefs,
For, I am the breaker of idols and they their worshippers. (95)
Beware, the world keeps not faith with any:
He who rises also falls and comes to grief. (96)
And look also at the miracle that is God,
That He may destroy a whole host through a single man! (97)
What can an enemy do to him whose friend is God?
For the function of the Great Bestower is: To Bestow. (98)
He grants Deliverance and shows also the Way.
And He teaches the tongue to utter His praises, in love. (99)
In the time of need, He blinds the enemy,
And protects the helpless from all injury and harm. (100)
And he who acts in good faith,
On him, the Merciful One, rains His Mercy. (101)
He who serves Him with all his heart,
God blesses him with the Peace of Soul. (102)
What harm can an enemy do to him,
On whom is the Please of God, our Supreme Guide. (103)
The Creator-Lord is ever his refuge, even if tens of thousands of hosts were to proceed against him. (104)
If you have the pride of your army and riches,
I bank upon the Praise of God, the Almighty. (105)
You are proud of your empire and material possessions, while I am proud of the Refuge of God, the Immortal. (106)
Be not heedless: for the world lasts but a few days,
And man may leave it, one knows not when. (107)
Look at
the ever changing faithless world:
And see what happens to every house, every denizon. (108)
If you are strong, torture not the weak,
And thus lay not the axe to thy empire. (109)
If the One God is one’s Friend, what harm can the enemy do,
Even if he multiplies himself a hundred times? (110)
A thousand times let an enemy assault him,
And yet touch not even a hair on his head. (111)

# Why?

The first time I had seen her, she was different. She seemed energetic, flamboyant and full of life. There was a sparkle in her eyes which I have not seen in many. The dusky complexion of hers with the kohl lined eyes had made an imapct on me, which was not easy to forget. And to add to that she had a great sense of dressing, which again is not easy for me to forget. The choice of colors and materials was almost perfect. And her smile, it was a confidant and smile of a winner. Anywhere I would have recognized her. She was hard to forget. I would have liked to retain this image of hers….
But ….
The other day saw her and I was devastated. The first thing I feel bad about is that even though she was sitting close to me, I failed to recognize her. This is what hurt met the most. Then after straining the memory a bit she came to light. And I felt sorry for her…
I may never know the reasons why she became so…
Maybe there were genuine reasons, maybe she could have been helped,
Maybe….