This is the part of Tamil Nadu I was most smitten by. Colourful and packed with gods, goddesses, myths and secular life, its gopurams are a peculiar feature unique to the state. True, gopurams or entrance towers are a part of temple architecture across southern India. But in Tamil Nadu, they have a life of their own, larger in design and scale than the overshadowed holy sanctums inside the temple complexes. They are pure art. And I loved them.
I visited scores of temples during my week-long exploration of the southern state’s temple towns. From the incredible Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai celebrating the town’s beautiful and gracious patron goddess to the ancient Pillaiyarpatti Temple in Chettinad, site of an electrifying abhishek ceremony of the god Ganesha.
From the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, the only Hindu temple to worship Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, to Thirukadaiyur Temple on the outskirts of Tranquebar where married couples celebrate their 60th, 70th, and 80th wedding anniversaries for it is renowned to defy death!
From the monumental Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli, India’s largest functioning temple and a mini-city in itself with a whopping 21 gopurams, to the string of lively temples lining the streets of Kumbakonam where I temple-hopped from one to the other for a different kind of night-life.
Dedicated to various deities, one architectural feature yet bound them all together. Their animated, multi-coloured, towering gopurams. Continue reading →
Are you an urban monk? I am. Or at least that is how I perceive myself. Ok, that is how I like to perceive myself—not unlike many others who love the city life and its dynamic vibrancy but are equally at ease with spirituality, restraint, and minimalism. Is that not the new order? And when we go to places that are hubs of spirituality, well, we just tend to experience them a tad differently. 😀 Continue reading →
I am not one for religious rituals for the simple reason that I am quite ignorant of most of them, whether it be what one is supposed to say and do in a temple, church, mosque, synagogue or gurdwara. But that has in no way diluted my love for religious places. 🙂 Yes, god is everywhere—Next to me, as well as you. But within certain sacred walls, in the culmination of art and the faith of followers, He (or to be a feminist She—God doesn’t really care; we are the ones with all the issues) is a bit more tangible. Almost visible in his invisibility. Continue reading →
Every day as I set off to explore one corner or another of Kutch I would pass a dazzling white edifice in Bhuj, my base during my travels in north-west Gujarat. And my eyes would hold on to it, till it disappeared from sight. It was the Swaminarayan Temple of Bhuj. I knew I could not leave without visiting it. Call it faith. Call it the traveller’s call. But I found myself waking up at the crack of dawn this morning and finding my way towards it. Continue reading →
With this post I digress to another side of Kutch—the ornamental wall paintings which decorate the walls of homes, temples and work places in the vast salt pans’ midst. An art form sadly extinct, and least known of Kutch art and crafts.
Dating back to the 18th Century, the Kamangari School of Painting, painted on scrolls and walls, and unique to Kutch, is now a vanished tradition—its remnants found in a couple of Bhuj’s museums, a few random surviving homes, and a portico in the decaying monastery of the Kanphatayogis that I visited in Than. Continue reading →