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