When Temples Were Banks

It is reported that Mahmud of Ghazni attacked India 17 times between 1000 and 1025 CE. The chief motive behind these raids was money. The kingdoms of India were famed for their unimaginable wealth, and Ghazni was keen to get his hands on as much of it as he could. Do you know where all this wealth that mesmerised Ghazni was locked up in? Temples! Continue reading When Temples Were Banks

The Bene Israelis of India

In the 18th century, during the third Anglo-Mysore war, the ruthless Tipu Sultan captured a group of army officers fighting for the British and ordered their execution. But when Tipu’s mother discovered the identity of two brothers among them, she requested they be spared. She said that the Quran spoke highly of them. And the Sultan complied! The two brothers were Bene Israelis. Continue reading The Bene Israelis of India

The Story of Sugar

In the old days, sugar really was a prize worth winning! In 16th century England, sugar was a luxury item, a fine spice that only the wealthy and powerful could afford. The traders who sold sugar were minting money, and soon their name for sugar was “white gold”. It was considered a luxury because there were only a few places in the world where sugarcane was grown and then processed into sugar. Continue reading The Story of Sugar

The Man who Produced the First Tamil Bible

In the early 1600s, Portugal, Holland and Britain, Europe’s superpowers at that time, were embroiled in a struggle to dominate India. Even while they were fighting it out, Denmark quietly managed to establish a colony in Tranquebar in 1620. Tranquebar is Danish for Tarangambadi, a seaside town about 280km from Chennai. As the little colony prospered, the Danish King Frederick IV decided to “civilise” his Indian subjects with Christian values. But this was easier said than done. Continue reading The Man who Produced the First Tamil Bible

Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

Once upon a time, an acorn fell on top of a little bird named Chicken Little and he thought the skies were coming down. He made a huge commotion and set the other animals running as well. This story is a part of Aesop’s Fables. But even before Aesop and Chicken Little, there was a hare in an Indian Jungle who feared that doomsday was … Continue reading Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

Following the Lotus around the world

The Lotus is India’s floral VIP. Hindu Gods are often shown seated or standing on a blooming lotus or holding one. In Hinduism the flower represents beauty and purity. The supreme Hindu God of creation, Brahma is said to have emerged from inside a lotus. But the lotus as a religious symbol is not limited just to Hinduism or even to India. In fact it … Continue reading Following the Lotus around the world

Golu – Toying with tradition

Dolls in vibrant colours, stacked on steps that sometimes reach the ceiling, suddenly appear, every year in South Indian Hindu households. After spending most of the year locked up in trunks, protected by moth balls, someone lets them out for ten very special days every autumn. These ten days, called Navaratri or Dussehra, mark an important Hindu festival. In South India, especially in the states … Continue reading Golu – Toying with tradition

Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Temple gopurams and church spires dot Chennai’s skyline, side by side, bearing witness to the centuries old coexistence of Hinduism and Christianity. Christianity reached India over 2000 years ago. But how did something that started somewhere around modern day Palestine, gain such a strong foothold in ancient India? The long saga of Christianity in India, according to Christian tradition, began with St. Thomas, one of … Continue reading Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Of Temples, Gods and Saints …

Temple Gopurams, as integral a part of Chennai  as malli poo, filter kapi and checked lungis. That does not mean they are not found elsewhere – just that they are so evocative of this city. In a city where there are temples everywhere, three stand apart – the Parthasarathi temple in Triplicane, the Kapaleeshwara temple in Mylapore and the Murugan temple in Vadapalani. And what … Continue reading Of Temples, Gods and Saints …

Temples in Mylapore, Triplicane, Adyar, and Thiruvanmiyur

Chennai has hundreds of temples to boast of, each accompanied by a host of wonderful traditions and intriguing myths. And hidden amongst the many well known temples are stories of lesser known temples or lesser known stories of what at one time were important temples. This article covers some such stories, and as with all such stories based on faith, it would be hard to … Continue reading Temples in Mylapore, Triplicane, Adyar, and Thiruvanmiyur