New Login   

Celebrating Antiquity

Vijaya Ramaswamy

Text by Pradeep Chakravarthy . Photographs by Vikram Sathyanathan
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 220, Rs.1250.00


This book has been published in the thousandth year of the consecration of the Brahadisvara temple, as have many other books, conference proceedings etc, across the country. These celebrations while on a lesser scale than the euphoric celebrations of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, have drawn the attention of Indians to the Cholas and the historic heritage of Thanjavur and the Brahadisvara temple. This makes this volume part of a larger exercise of cultural revival. This reviewer would however like to go beyond the obvious and recommend the book for other reasons, the most important among which are its readability and pleasing appearance. It looks expensive and I am sure the price will bear out its glossy good looks. However, unlike most coffee-table books, this is a book I would actually read and enjoy. So would many ‘affluent’ book lovers. The production of the book has brought together two unusual people who are both in the infotech and business management lines but with an abiding interest in history and heritage. This accounts for the refreshing nature of the book which freelances its way through early historical times in Thanjavur—from the Cholas to the Nayakas, from the Marathas to the period of the British Residency. ‘Of Granaries and Palaces’ is a racy account of Thanjavur history over a span of a thousand years. Since it has no pretensions of being a history book, the author’s snippets about the cultural life of the later medieval period, is fascinating. Quoting from the Raghunatha Abhyudayamu of Ramabhadramba (a 17th century text) he gives an elaborate account of the king’s meal. The author’s interest in the cuisine of that period also gets reflected in his study of the cookbooks in the Saraswati Mahal library and the recipes of two dishes from the text Sarabhendra Paka Shastra (facing p.152). Pradeep also lets us into the secret of the South Indian curry called ‘Sambar’, saying that its origin is to be attributed to the Marathi cook Sambhaji who made the Marathi lentils using tamarind, thereby creating culinary history! Another delightful vignette from the first chapter is an account of a darbar held in 1879 by the queen Vijayamohana Muktamba Bayi Ammani to celebrate the Nativity of Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen Empress of Hindustan. The spectacle was a curious mix of British imperial presence and Deccani cultural traditions such as distributing paan (betel ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.