With Flight of Deities and Rebirth of Temples, Meenakshi Jain takes you from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from temple to temple she traces the story of plunder and loss.
In a thorough research-based reference book style chronicling, she documents the histories of many well known and not so well-known temples. She talks about their building and destruction. Now, it is common knowledge that temples were destroyed over a long period of over 800 years and some even continue to be destroyed even today. She breaks the myths that temples were destroyed once. The book brings out the fact that temples destroyed were built again and again and sometimes destroyed as many times.
She takes you through the journey of many deities who are displaced from their original temples. Like temples, their journeys are also not simple or linear. She takes you, town to town. Talking about the temples you know of like Vishwanath in Kashi, that has been destroyed so many times. She brings our attention to the fact that it could be destroyed so many times because it was rebuilt as many times. You realize the role of all those kings and their officials who committed themselves to bring back these temples. Even if it meant paying more taxes or compromising somewhere else.
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She tells you stories of people who risked their lives to save their deities. Based on whatever little documentation is available about them. For us in 21st CE, it is difficult to imagine their motivations, their dedication, and their perseverance. As someone who visits temples very often, I find it difficult to believe that someone could actually break such beautiful images. Sure, beauty must lie in the eyes of the beholder & motivations at extremes.
A lot of stories repeat across geographies and across generations, but with their own nuances.
Read More – Rama and Ayodhya by Meenakshi Jain
Story of Chola Bronzes
The story of pre-13th CE Chola bronzes that keep emerging from the villages of Tamil Nadu is eye-opening. The sheer numbers of instances quoted and I can safely assume there are many more, makes you think of the scale of Indian civilization. It makes you think about the golden era that we never saw. All we can try and do is try to imagine that era with the fragments that have reached us. I wonder how our villages and towns would have looked with those stone structures and an environment of devotion. I am sure good and evil would have co-existed even then. But still, the sophistication that art saw then is a goal to be achieved for our generations.
The language of the book is academic. Yes, that means it demands a bit more attention and can get dry to read. There are far too many references for a non-academic reader. Rarely the author shares her own experience or opinion. She sticks to the available evidence that is acceptable in the scholarly world. Be aware of that when you pick up the book.
History & Temples
Does the lesser-known aspects of Indian history, especially the one related to Indian temples interest you? Then this is a must-read book for you. The book captures a slice of this history that has many more episodes still waiting to be written. You could call it the beginning of the alternate history literature in India.
Read More – Finding Forgotten Cities by Nayanjot Lahiri
Although it looks like a big book to read in its hardcover, it is not too big to read. It is well structured, organized by geography that you can easily read in any sequence. Depending on your interest. Of course, I read it back to back, not missing a word.
Can you read it as a casual reader? Yes, you can.
Take your call.