An ode to Kumbakonam

Ramaswamy Kovil, Kumbakonam

On the morning of my third day in Kumbakonam, my dad suggested going to the Ramaswamy temple (kovil, in Tamil). We walked only a few minutes to get there. I could see the gopuram (the monumental tower at the entrance of a temple) from quite some distance. It was beautifully painted in blues, greens, reds and others. The gopuram of a south Indian temple is almost always a sight to marvel. If you would be interested in reading about another beautiful temple very close to Kumbakonam (Brihadeeswara temple in Tanjavur), click Here to read more.

And if you are more interested in what I have to say today, then read on…

I was impressed the very moment I stepped foot on the big courtyard of the Ramaswamy temple. It was breezy, calm, quiet and welcoming. People sat here and there, their backs against the ornately carved pillars. Sculptures have always been the language of artists in India. We don’t have a great history with respect to art on canvas (I know a few of you will beg to differ but I honestly think that the west has done far better in capturing artistic instincts on canvas) but sculptures in India are unlike anywhere else.

As I walked around by myself, consumed by the great many sculptures that adorned the pillars, my father pointed out that it was a 16th century temple (he picked that up from a board that talked about the history of the place etc…). I wondered if these sculptures were, in any way, a reflection of the society at the time. I would honestly place my bets on that.

These sculptures immortalized warriors, kings, queens, dancers, courtesans, musicians… Many stories from the epic Ramayana were carved out on stone. There were stories of marriage, love, deceit, coronation, war and sex! Everything was there for all to see…in the most liberal, beautiful presentation of thoughts. If this was a reflection of the society at the time, then I couldn’t help but think what happened to our country in the interim…

i found a great deal of respect in my heart for the artists of the time and their skills, for the kings who commissioned this work, for the people of the time…. I could go on and on about this endlessly but here are a few pictures of the sculptures for you to see.

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There is a great deal about this temple that I could write about, but I choose to focus on what captured my attention the most. If you would like to read more about this place, visit the links below and you will surely be as impressed as I am!,_Kumbakonam


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