Showing posts from May, 2018

A Damaru hand drum in Sikkim 1943 and Lhasa in the Present

My father was fascinated by a hand drum he saw a man using in a Gangtok market in 1943 . He took two photographs, which are reproduced below. The drum itself has come out very blurred due to its rapid movement. He later (1993) recalled, " We spent a few days with the Political Officer for Sikkim, entertained and were entertained by the Maharaja and his three grown up children. " The Maharaja was Tashi Namgyal, ruling Chogyal of Sikkim from 1914 to 1963. He was born in Tibet and crowned by the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. Back in England, he photocopied part of a book on "Heritage of Tibet"  (W. Zwalf, 1981, ISBN 0-7141-1420-0) and highlighted a 19th century skull drum ( damaru ) which reminded him of the ritual drum seen in use in Gangtok during WW2. The text states that the damaru was inherited from India, appearing as an attribute of deities in both Hindu and Buddhist sculpture. " The drum could be made of wood, painted with designs, or tw

Wallace's "Rainbirds" - a Night-time Encounter on the Kinabatangan River

Last June I wrote about broadbills, trogons and barbets described by Alfred Wallace in "The Malay Archipelago" (1869). This Monday 30th April, looking for wildlife along the Kinabatangan River of Sabah (and staying at the delightful Sukau Lodge) there were several encounters with Wallace's "blue-billed gaper," now known as the black-and-red broadbill. Here is the quote from Wallace (1869) again: "The very first time I fired my gun I brought down one of the most curious and beautiful of the Malacca birds, the blue-billed gaper ( Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchus ), called by the Malays the 'Rainbird.' It is about the size of a starling, black and rich claret colour with white shoulder stripes, and a very large and broad bill of the most pure cobalt blue above and orange below, while the iris is emerald green. As the skins dry the bill turns dull black, but even then the bird is handsome. When fresh killed, the contrast of the vivid blue with the ri