How do temples thrive in a state committed to rationalist politics?
The state's rational politics began as anti-Brahmin, not anti-temples.
What draws people to these temples?
Partly the food offering! Some find it a 'time pass', others a morale-booster.
What's different between temples of the past and today?
Temples served as public and community welfare institutions and secular and cultural spaces. Now they are sanctuaries for the religious and needy.
How many temples are there in Tamil Nadu?
Over 40,000. It's possibly the state with the most temples, and some of the oldest.
What is unique about Tamil Nadu's temples?
The temples have over 50,000 inscriptions—economic and socio-political records, useful today if our politicians could read the words of wisdom on geopolitics and justice.
This is your third book on Tamil Nadu temples. Why this recurring passion?
I was annoyed with so little factual info. Most of it is hagiological, written 100-200 years back.
What is the latest book on?
Short and fascinating histories of Madras, Kanchi, Tanjore, Kumbakonam, Tirunelveli, Madurai—sourced from ancient poetry, many never translated into English before.
What features does the iPad version of the book contain?
Maps, music and more are available in the iPad version, making it a light travel companion.
Are Tamil Nadu's temples living museums of the past?
Absolutely. From statecraft to economics, trade details to cultural wellsprings, temples nurtured art, craft and society at large.
How can the temples be better preserved?
By getting more people to visit; and by getting the inscriptions into history textbooks.