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"Temples of Tamilnad" takes us to the Tamil-speaking countryside of South India, to a collection of temples each remarkable for its veneration of the major gods of the Hindu pantheon, Vishnu and Siva. They often appear in one of their many incarnations, some with a quaint but unhelpful Dravidian name. The gods and their consorts (Parvati, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.)filter through our imagination until they become part of our lives, or perhaps even of ourselves. And in the temple sanctum the most powerful deity may be represented simply by air, water, a flame or shadow of a stone. All this to music and splitting of coconuts! Perplexing? Yes: Paradoxes abound. Puzzling? No: Enthralling, I found.
This is why we venture to Tirvannamalai, Chidambaran and Tanjore. Do you prefer blue fluting Krishna or twirling Nataraja, the dancer, or disastrous Kali with her string of skulls? Secure on their lotus pedestals they await us as they have since time began.
The author of this light-hearted account, a mid-career diplomat in search of wide horizons, admits some of the temples are musty, with a few lonely scorpions in the upper gopurans. Fortunately, there are friends, guides and companions to ward off anxious moments. Then, to leaven the text, you will find the inclusion of some early Tamil poems, alive and startling.read more