Swamimalai: The Rasa of Reverence


Swamimalai in Kumbakonam, my maternal ancestral home, now long demolished.

I am a regular at South-Indian temples the priests always eyeing me in squinted suspicion.

Community and worship, chant and song, incense and flowers, lit lamps and rustling silk.

The rigor of perfected Ritual, the propriety of Tradition, for its own sake.

The Bhava of Benediction, the Rasa of Reverence. If your heart cannot hum in the cirque of the sacred, surely you miss.


The great temple shrines at Thanjavur and Madurai were far more than centers of ritual and ceremony. The cities grew around them in concentric circles, and they served as the centers, literally and figuratively, for every Art Form. Music and Dance, Literature and Theater.

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