In Andal’s Garden studies both the architecture and texts at the temple in Srivilliputhur
I must admit. A lot of the fine details that Archana Venkatesan is telling me about are a little beyond my comprehension. She is after all an is associate professor of comparative literature and religious studies at the University of California, and an expert on early medieval poetry and the texts in South Indian temples. Also an author, she has been researching the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple since 1995. She is talking to me about her next book, In Andal’s Garden, published by the Intach Chennai Chapter and Marg, and set to release at Amethyst tomorrow evening, after which it heads to the Jaipur Literature Festival. “The book is about the temple, the crafts that survive because of it and the city and its fabric being intertwined with it,” explains Sujatha Shankar, convenor, Intach Chennai Chapter, adding that the book has been coauthored by Venkatesan and Crispin Branfoot, a senior lecturer in South Asian art and archaeology at SOAS, University of London, and expert on the architecture of South India from the 14th to the 20th century, who has also been researching the temple independently since 1995.
The two authors met in Oxford in 2013 and started exchanging notes on their expertise. This is when they realised that looking at just the architecture of a temple does not reveal its dynamic nature. “Understanding the space and how the people and the deity move in it, will help people re-imagine temples,” says Venkatesan, citing a small example. “If you look at just the architecture, you will think it borrows from the Madurai temple. But examine the texts and you will see that the inscriptional evidence predates the Madurai temple.” In a nutshell, this book is a first of its kind case study that looks at the temple from a kaleidoscopic point of view. Featuring the story of the poet Andal to the how the temple is designed around her, this book is also illustrated with 166 photographs by Clare Arni.
The book is priced at Rs. 2,800 (Rs. 1,700 at the launch, tomorrow, at Amethyst). Details: 45991600
— Ryan Peppin