A “journey” through Guruvayur Temple and Annamacharya’s padams Two Talks that impressed me 27/01/2011

Adorned in a cotton sari and  sporting   a large red  bindi on her forehead I  thought  Pepita  Seth can pass off   for an Indian  but for her accent  which gives away her British  nationality. In  the  one hour   talk on  her book early  this month at the Presidency club, the author/photographer  told us what  inspired her to visit India and  subsequently  visit Guruvayur Temple and write  a book on it. A chance discovery  of her soldier great grand father’s 1857 diary in 1970  drew her on her  first  journey to India  and her fascination for elephants  lead her to  visit  Kerala  and  make Trissur her home. The journey to writing her book began with  taking numerous photographs  of the traditions and rituals followed in  Kerala’s  temples  which finally   resulted  in  her writing  a coffee table book titled “Heaven on Earth: The Universe of Kerala’s Guruvayur Temple”  It was not an easy journey, she  reiterated. She  was happy  when she received official permission to enter Kerala’s temples including Guruvayur temple in 1981.

David Shulman’s passion  about  the life and works of  the Telugu poet and songster  Tallapaka Annamacharya  came through in his  45 minute  spell binding  talk  held recently at the Madras Club. A scholar  and  a Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, he has published some 20 books on topics relating to the cultural history of  South India. He has closely worked   with  Velucheru Narayana Rao of the university of Wisconsin and their book of  Annamacharya’s padams, God on the Hill was published by OUP in 2006. It contains selected songs  of the poet  in Telugu script and their  English translation.

Annamacharya considered his compositions as floral offerings to Bhagwaan Govinda. In the poems, he praises Venkateswara, describes his love for him, argues and quarrels with the Lord, confesses the devotee’s failures and apprehensions, and surrenders himself to Venkateshwara. His songs are classified into the Adhyaatma (spiritual) and Sringaara (romantic) sankeertanas genres. Shulman  briefly explained the difference saying  the first  are more introspective and  appear like notings in a diary which  all of us tend to  relate to.   His songs in the “Sringaara” genre describe  the  amorous and romantic adventures of  Lord Venkateswara and  His Consort Alamel Manga.

Shulman  recited a couple of songs in both  genres,  first    in their original language  which  was followed by their  English translation and  explanation  of their themes.

n.meera raghavendra rao


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