The practice of tradition

The two books we write about today share a photographer, Usha Kris, and are both on Hinduism in practice.

R Champakalakshmi who retired from the Centre for Historical Studies at JNU is an expert on South Indian history. In a book done for Roli's Lustre imprint, she writes about The Hindu Temple. The book, written in 2001, "is a comprehensive expose on the evolution of a simple and sacred place of worship to a monument, which over the centuries became the pillar of Indian religiosity, culture and aesthetic significance; the super ordinate ideological focus of society and polity. Tracing its origin to the pre-Christian era, its sanctity, and the unwavering reverence accorded to it even today, is manifested in the elaborate rituals performed within its precincts by devotees, and the festivals celebrated by them. The book brings into special prominence the relevance of the temple in the social, economic and political integration of the subcontinent. Authoritatively written and impressively illustrated with exceptional and rare photographs, it elucidates in minute and graphic detail the multifaceted sculptural and architectural wonder that is the Hindu temple."

Usha Kris' photographs- exceptional and rare- also adorn a somewhat more lavish and detailed Follow the Hindu Moon: A guide to the festivals of south India by Soumya Aravind Sitaraman from Random House, India. The book is a comprehensive how-to guide to the hindu festivals of south India.

In two parts, the first book, Celebrate "showcases pooja and features complete walkthroughs of every South Indian festival celebrated by the people of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Book 2, Understand, presents an overview of Hindu cosmology and culture, toothsome festival recipes, and guides to festoons, kolams, and etiquette. No question goes unanswered – Soumya and her team of consultants tell you when to light a ghee lamp, how to water clap, which prayer or shloka to recite at what time, how to cook the perfect neivedya, and much more. Here is the wisdom of your aunts and grandmothers, never before collected in one place – and for those who just don’t have the time, cheatsheets and choices between quick and elaborate pooja options are within easy reach. Infused with a warm, personal tone, Follow the Hindu Moon is a tribute to the family who worships together."

When the book was released a couple of years ago, The Indian Express said "Everything has been put together with a precision that accompanies the handing over of age-old recipes. This, with a presentation that makes it contemporary and easy-to-approach. Photographs by Usha Kris provide the visual reference."

Both books are new in our Culture section. The Hindu Temple is in hardcover, 144 pages, Rs 695, ISBN: 9788174360946

Follow the Hindu Moon is also in hardcover a two-voulme set of 908 pages, Rs 3500. ISBN: 9788184000115