Everybody knows that!

This is sort of a followup to the last post about the unreliability of eyewitnesses.

Closely related to the unreliable eyewitness account is the long held,unexamined belief. Now, don’t get excited;  I don’t mean religious beliefs.  I mean a factoid that becomes something everyone knows, but really doesn’t make much sense. As part of the book I’m working on The Secrets behind the Structures, I was writing about the Hindu temple at Brihadeeswarar. This temple has a tapering tower over 200 feet high topped by a large stone structure. Supposedly the structure was designed in such a way that the shadow from this tower never touches the ground and falls only on itself. This story has been widely accepted in the area and is taken as a fact by people who write about the temple. One quick check at the satellite view of Google maps however, easily disproves this claim. Even without this proof however it is hard to picture just how a structure could be built in such a way as to cast no shadow except on itself. If you could envision a very short and very wide pyramid with a short tower in the center only a few feet high, such a structure might possibly fill the bill, since the short shadow cast by the tower would fall only on the rest of the structure. The tower at Brihadeeswarer, however, is over 200 feet high and mounted on a base which is proportional, so clearly it does not fill the bill.

One variation of this belief is the claim that the stone at the top of the tower only casts a shadow outside the limits of the enclosure. While this might be possible under some configurations, the limits of the enclosure are about 200 feet or more in every direction so this would seem unlikely as well.


Whatever the reason, the Big Temple would seem to have enough remarkable features without inventing any more. For one thing, it is made entirely of granite, a notoriously hard and difficult to work stone, including the intricate sculptures. In addition, no one is quite sure just how the 80 ton capstone was placed on top of the tower. There are more fascinating facts in The Secrets behind the Structures, but for now, let’s just say that the Big Temple, with its World Heritage Site status casts a very big shadow….wherever it falls.

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