Dr. Beck in Prague
The President of the Sophia Hilton Foundation spoke in Prague (capital of the Czech Republic) on October 13, 2015. She was dressed to represent the night sky, wearing a crescent-shaped white necklace made from a pair of wild boar tusks sourced from South India. Furthermore, she balanced this remarkable crescent moon theme with a long white scarf that was well-covered with metallic sparkles. “My scarf represents the milky way. It frames this crescent moon in the darkness of night,” she explained.
Speaking at the Institute of South and Central Asian Studies at the ancient Charles University in Prague, Dr. Beck described the imagery linked to a wild boar named Komban (king of the tuskers) and his important role in the Legend of Ponnivala story. Her main point was that the story of this great big, aggressive beast, still found in the forests of Tamilnadu’s Kongu area to this day, is a legendary animal that reveals a likely set of ancient folk beliefs. An astrological male boar was central, it seems, in a very old cyclical calendrical system. Its aggressive force and fearful curved tusks appear to have been associated with the crescent moon and its monthly cycle, a drama played out in the skies above. Its periodic waning (dying) and then subsequent waxing (re-growing) match several astrological references found in this animal’s own local tale.
Dr. Beck drew further evidence for this cluster of ideas from a range of Mesolithic stone-carved images archaeologists have located in Central India. These independent references add weight to the idea that there was an ancestral set of well-interwoven celestial beliefs that have persisted in the folk culture of the Kongu region since early times. Dr. Beck’s lecture was sponsored by Dr. Jaroslav Vacek, a Tamil Sangam literature expert, who was then Professor Emeritus and Director of the Institute at Charles University where she spoke. Her reception was warm and the discussion after Dr. Beck’s presentation was animated, an indication that the audience thoroughly enjoyed her talk.
We are sorry to report that the much respected Czech Professor, Dr. Jaroslav Vacek has now passed on. Dr. Beck subsequently published a two-part essay honoring his pioneering work “The pig in Sangam literature” found in Pandanus, 2007, Nos. 1 and 2, the Institute’s banner scholarly journal. Dr. Beck’s expanded thoughts on the same topic are now available on pp. 29-54 and pp. 17-58 of Pandanus 2016, Nos. 1 and 2 respectively (published by Charles University, Prague).