Articles

A tome on Vishnu

The book bears the title of an exhibition that was opened in North America and coordinated by the First Center for the Visual Arts drawing from at least 45 collections in the U.S. Going by the book, this seems to have been a superb exhibition and the text and the photos of the exhibits do full justice to what seems to be a mammoth and ambitious undertaking. The various images of the exhibits are intermingled across three important and well-written themes that governed the layout of the...

For that spiritual connection

Most devotees are absorbed in prayer when rituals are conducted in temples and the less religiously inclined are not interested. Both miss out a fascinating aspect of temple rituals – especially the shodasha upachara or the offering of 16 items that include garments, rice, betel leaf and flowers, to the deity after the ritual bath. These have symbolic meanings and also serve as an interesting connect between religion and politics. While we do not have the exact century when the 16 items...

Symbols of tradition - Part 2

This is the second and concluding part of the story about the temple rituals, shodasha upacharas, published on April 13. Deepa or waving a lamp lit is an integral part of the upachara, for two reasons - it was the only means of light in the past and because of its symbolism of removing ignorance. As a consequence several types of lamps evolved – those that were stationary (a fine example from the Chola period can be seen in the Government Museum, Chennai), those that were suspended from...

Symbols of tradition

(This is the second and concluding part of the article on shodasha upacharas. The first part was published on April 20) Deeparadhana or the ritual of moving a lighted lamp in front of the deity, is an integral part of the upachara, for two reasons - it was the only means of light in the past, and because of its symbolism of removing ignorance. As a consequence several types of lamps evolved – those that were stationary (a fine example from the Chola period can be seen in the Government...

Beauty of bhakti

Six years to translate 100 poems — each of four lines — seems like an inordinate time even for an academic. But Archana Venkatesan’s translation of Nammalvar’s Tiruviruttam is time well spent. The 255-page slender volume is a must-have for lovers of Tamil Vaishnavite literature and, in general, lovers of metaphor-laden love poems. Among the 12 Vaishnavite saints who sang in Tamil during the Bhakti movement, Nammalvar of Alwar Tirunagari is a favourite for many. His...