Award-winning documentary Hidden within the mists of Time – The Travancore Observatory, brings the forgotten analysis facility from the 1830s to new mild
Trekking up the arduous path to the misty peak of Agastyakoodam, astrophysicist and educational Anand Narayanan, marvelled on the spirit of enquiry and journey that motivated John Allan Broun, a British astronomer, to make the identical journey greater than 150 years in the past.
“Broun, the second director of the observatory in Thiruvananthapuram (appointed in 1852), felt that an observatory submit atop the Agastyakoodam, the second highest peak within the Western Ghats in Kerala, can be one of the best place to hold out research on magnetism. We have been tracing his footsteps to see if we might uncover the submit he had arrange there,” says Anand, Affiliate Professor on the Indian Institute of Area Science and Know-how.
Ever since Anand first heard in regards to the ‘nakshatra bungalow’ within the coronary heart of Thiruvananthapuram metropolis from native historical past buffs, he was intrigued and tried to study extra about its location, work and historical past. “It nonetheless exists within the coronary heart of the town however hardly anybody is aware of about its significance and the work of eminent scientists who had labored there,” he says.
He started delving into the historical past of the observatory and skim annual reviews introduced out by the erstwhile Travancore Administration, the place they chronicle in nice element all the pieces that occurred within the kingdom throughout that 12 months. All of it’s preserved on the Public Library within the metropolis.
“I used to be capable of learn the report on the centenary of the observatory in 1937, the place many dignitaries, like CP Ramaswamy Iyer, had gathered to have a good time the event. I realised that although it’s a small facility, it had been via a whole lot of ups and downs, relying on the folks on the helm,” says Anand.
Wanting extra folks to know extra in regards to the place, he determined to make a documentary. The 27-minute quick, Hidden In The Mists Of Time — The Travancore Observatory, bagged awards for the best-researched movie and for the best-technically visualised movie (graphics, animation, and particular results) within the lately concluded tenth Nationwide Science Movie Pageant of India, held from November 24 – 27.
Anand started his analysis for the movie in 2017. “We realised how fascinating regional historical past could be. Tales of the previous are all the time round us however hidden from us on the similar time. And that’s the place analysis turns into attention-grabbing. We talked to a number of native historians and the older technology who have been related to the observatory somehow. We then spent a whole lot of time discovering documentary proof to confirm sure info and fill the gaps,” he elaborates.
Steeped in native historical past
The observatory predates the College of Kerala, though it now comes beneath its aegis.
“That is maybe the oldest scientific facility of the College and it had been commissioned by Swati Thirunal, then the reigning monarch of erstwhile Travancore, in 1837. He was eager on astronomy and was in his twenties when he determined to have an observatory in Thiruvananthapuram. There was a sure imaginative and prescient in his resolution,” explains Anand. In 1832, Swathi Thirunal had met John Caldecott, the British business agent and persuaded him to arrange the observatory.
To make the movie, Anand approached the Division of Physics of the College of Kerala. They have been extraordinarily supportive, giving him permission for filming and for going via the archival materials within the observatory. The movie was financially supported by an outreach grant from the Kerala State Council for Science Know-how and Schooling.“I gathered a group of scholars to assist with the analysis. Reputed wildlife photographer Suresh Elamon sir joined in as cinematographer. I had no story board or script. We started randomly capturing all the pieces associated to the observatory. Someplace alongside the way in which, I wrote a script,” he says. Rahul Rajiv, an engineer with a knack for visuals and science, did the enhancing, and Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan, the voiceover.
Anand and his group did the Agastyamala trek (about 69 km from the town) in January 2019, following reported geographical coordinates of the magnetic observing station. “There have been no tangible constructions there. The reviews talked about that the construction was fabricated from wooden. It’s prone to have perished within the humid, windy circumstances near the summit of the height. We simply filmed no matter was current at roughly the placement talked about — there was virtually nothing,” he remembers.
The group consisting of Sreerag Jayakumar, Shajeer Rahman, Vivek Vijayan and Anand discovered the going robust even now as a result of tropical vegetation and the steep climb. Tutorial and native historical past buff Achuthsankar S Nair mentions within the documentary that the group led by Broun was given convicts to assist them lower a path to achieve the height.
Making the movie meant digging via the historical past of the town. They discovered that the observatory was as soon as used for timekeeping and that the Travancore Broadcasting Station relied on the observatory for correct timekeeping.
“Nonetheless, one of many many explanation why this facility, in our opinion, waned out is as a result of its focus saved shifting over time from astronomy to magnetic discipline research, to timekeeping, and meteorological measurements. It relied on who was answerable for the observatory and what their science pursuits have been. On the similar time, the town grew round that facility, the sunshine air pollution elevated, and it turned troublesome to hold out scientifically worthwhile astronomical observations,” believes Anand.
He says the way forward for this place lies in reviving the power right into a science historical past museum, and an astronomy public outreach facility and thus assist. . “That is in all probability one of the simplest ways to assist the longer term generations bond with native historical past. The place is of nationwide significance; it’s the second oldest trendy astronomical observatory in India, after the Madras Observatory,” he asserts.