Why visit ancient temples? Meet this author who shares insightful details on ancient temples and their unique traditions

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Updated: Nov 17, 2020 1:34 PM

Sudha Raju's 'Ancient Temples: My Travelogue' shares interesting insights anddetails that document her passion for exploring ancient temples.

ancient temples, ancient temples of India, book on ancient temples,travelogue on temples, temple traditions, temple worship, ancient templeworship,Sudha Raju's 'Ancient Temples: My Travelogue' shares interesting insights about ancient temples.

Love to visit ancient temples and curious to know more about them? Sudha Raju’s ‘Ancient Temples: My Travelogue’ shares interesting insights and details that document her passion for exploring ancient temples. In conversation with The Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand, the author shares a key challenge that she faced while she started writing.

“Books on ancient temples are not a widely popular genre,” she points out, “Whether you are a temple goer, pilgrim or avid traveller, if a book covers all aspects, it will be useful for three types of people. An ancient temple is a book by itself. The only thing is that you should be open to reading about it and to learn from it.”

What prompted you to write this book on ancient temples?

Few years ago, I had written a couple of articles for a magazine. Two years ago after going to some temples in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh, I sent some photographs along with the detailed description of the temples to my best friend. She loved both the pictures and writing and encouraged me to start a blog. So I started a travel and temple blog recording all my experiences.

Many times what is given on the Internet may not be too accurate.

I had this experience regarding some temples. The pictures on the Internet and the actual temple look vastly different.

My aim has been to give accurate pictures and information to interested people.

In the beginning, writing a book was not my intention but later, when I had a lot of material about ancient temples, I decided to make it into a book.

Travel writings are an emerging area of interest today.

How do you view your experience from the perspective of having written a travelogue?

Travel is very popular nowadays. While many people leave the planning and arrangements to others, there are many who would prefer to research about the place they are going to before finalizing their plans. It is for such people that travel writings are very helpful. As I belong to the latter group of people, I have written my book in a way that it is helpful for people with an interest to visit ancient temples.

In the process of writing this book, can you share some interesting aspects relating to temple traditions that are highlighted in your book?

Temple traditions followed for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years are always very fascinating.

In Simhachalam temple of Visakhapatnam, according to the sthala purana, King Pururava and Urvashi discovered the murti of Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. They were instructed by aakashavani ( a divine voice), to cover it with sandal paste and that it can only be removed on the third day of the month of Vaisakha. Till today, the same tradition is followed and the murti is completely covered with sandalwood paste throughout the year.

Only on the third day of Vaisakha, the sandal paste is removed for that one day and the devotees can see the real form of Swamy. This ceremony is called Chandanotsavam.

In Vizianagaram, the presiding deity is Pyditalli ammavaru.

On the first Tuesday after VijayaDashami, the Sirimanu utsav is celebrated. Fifteen days prior to it the goddess appears in the dream of the pujari and instructs him as to which tree should be used for the sirimanu. The pujari after doing pooja to that tree gets it cut to make the sirimanu – the long staff and seat that are attached to the chariot to be used for the procession.

In Ahobilam, the Chenchu tribe consider Sri Narasimha Swamy as their son in law, as he married Chenchu Lakshmi (Lakshmi Devi born in the Chenchu tribe). The Chenchu tribe are accorded special honours for Makara Sankranti.

In Bhadrachalam till date, for the occasion of Sri Rama Navami, the ruler (in present day, the government) sends pearls for talambralu for Sita Rama Kalyanam, a tradition started in the late 1600s by Taneshah.

In Upamaka, the temple on the hill is open only from 7.30 to 10.30am and 4 to 5 pm. This is because of the belief that Sri Venkateshwara Swamy comes here to sleep. This place is called his ‘pavalimpu kshetram.’

Have you been chronicling the historical aspects in your book or has the emphasis been mainly on the spiritual and cultural aspect?

I have covered many lesser known ancient temples in my book. But whichever temple I went to, I have tried to include the divinity, architecture and sculpture, the sthala Puranas and history of the place. In some places I just had to go by the local account because information was not available in all the temples.

What are the challenging aspects of publishing a book relating to ancient temples? Can you share your experience so far?

Books on ancient temples are not a widely popular genre. I am a first time writer so I had decided to self publish my book. I started and completed the book during the lockdown and published the kindle version through Amazon. Then I wanted to get it printed so approached Notion press, reworked on my book and gave it for print.

My book is richly illustrated so I opted for colour printing and good quality paper which led to the printing cost shooting up. So my print book is a bit high priced. However, my readers appreciated it a lot.

What, in your opinion, demarcates the world of ancient temples from the more contemporary or global ones?

Ancient temples have a strong aura. When worship is done for centuries, the positive vibes are always very strong. Also, the ancient temples teach us a lot about the rulers and culture of a bygone era.

We cannot fail to admire the skill and workmanship of our ancient engineers and sculptors in building the temples.

Contemporary ones, no matter how beautiful, miss out on this aspect.

Given that travel has been badly hit from the months of March 2020 to September 2020, do you think travellers are ready to visit temples again?

The pandemic has hit the travel industry badly. There are a lot of people who want to go to ancient temples because it is a source of energy for them. Yet due to the pandemic, many are not risking long distance travel, they are waiting for circumstances to get a little normal and safe so that they can resume visiting ancient temples.

So hoping for safer times soon.

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