House and Leisure

GODS AND MONSTERS

There’s nothing simple about a lesson in Hindu cosmology. ‘There’s Brahma, the creator of the Universe, with his wife Saraswati,’ says our guide Charles, pointing to a candy coloured riot of gods and monsters gazing beatifically from Kapaleeshwarar Temple’s facade in Mylapore, old Chennai. He continues at length, describing the powers of the supergods, their animal chariots of choice and the names of their avatars and children. Some say there are 33 million Hindu gods; others 330 million. There’s a lot to remember and much that needs explaining, and the divine genealogy is only the half of it.

Though Tamil Nadu is a populous state approaching 80 million people, it feels distinctly different to the ‘golden triangle’ tourist circuit of northern India. In the capital Chennai, the traffic jams are more civilised, the touts fewer and less persistent, and the dress code sari-specific. ‘Tamil is the world’s oldest

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