Anuradha Goyal pens a must-read guidebook to India’s temples

By Siddhi Jain
New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANSlife) For author and noted travel blogger Anuradha Goyal, who has penned the book ‘Lotus in the Stone: Sacred Journeys in Eternal India’ on India’s most sacred sites, temples contain vignettes of our history, heritage, art history, folk tales, aesthetics. Condensing years of her travel into writing, Goyal presents a travelogue rooted deep into Indian history and culture.

Published and launched by Garuda Prakashan, the book holds in its pages a testimony to Indian art, culture, civilisation and spirituality. It makes for a rich, fascinating guidebook to India and its temples and hidden gems. Goyal narrates her mystical and magical experiences at places like Kumbh Mela, Ayodhya, Khajuraho, Thanjavur, Kolhapur, Odisha, Himalayas, and many more.

She holds that their grandeur is the testimony of our prosperity and that they were the centers of our social, cultural as well as economic lives. “We need to understand temples and their roles in our lives as it was and as it can be in the future. They are not the places to seek quick blessings when we need them, but we need to keep them alive enough for us to be able to go there to seek blessings. I have highlighted how ancient engineering and architecture should inspire future engineers and architects, as these are rooted in this land, and in sync with our climatic conditions. The chapter on languages introduces you to the common metaphors that are well understood across the country despite us having a plethora of languages,” the author told IANSlife in an email interview.

With her experiences and adventures in crisscrossing India for decades, the author shows us how ancient India’s surviving heritage and living traditions are a testimony to her history and the invisible threads and sacred geography that bind her people together. The book draws from the author’s travels and personal pilgrimage to sites across the country, and from reading books on India — from ancient scriptures to modern renditions, and correlating both.

How did she conceive the book? “‘Lotus in the Stone’ is a culmination of my travel experiences since childhood. I have been writing about my travels since 2004, but that happened destination by destination as I travelled. This book joins the dots that I captured through my travels. It is my own journey of discovering an India that was all around me, but it took me walking around the country to see,” she reveals.

Asked about her travels and visits to the country’s sacred spaces, the avid traveller said that she has been travelling since childhood first with parents as they were posted at different places in the country, then during her own corporate career and now as a travel blogger.

“Most people like to travel but not many go beyond looking at travel as a leisure activity. Thanks to the ease of travel and the brag value that travel provides, a lot more people are travelling. It has become a part of the lifestyle for most of the middle class. Now I hope, people read my journey, and add the layers of travel that would make their travels far more meaningful and something that would help them grow as individuals, help them achieve their goals. The book features a lot of places from all corners of India. I do not think it would be easy to create a list of places featured as it is not a travel guide, it is a journey that goes back and forth in time as it weaves the warp and weft of the sacred geography of India.”

According to Sankranth Sanu, Founder and CEO, Garuda Prakashan, the book is a celebration of India’s plural syncretic culture.

The book gives readers a thorough peek into the India that was — unhurried, trusting, simple and full of devotion and life — and the one that still continues to be so, when it comes to the lives around its sacred spaces and ancient temples. The camaraderie and the devotion generated in these sacred spaces, the trust and respect for the fellow traveller — the book has endearing insights for one to appreciate these hidden aspects of life.

The author, having traversed across the country along, with friends and family, and with strangers, Goyal takes us to this riveting and endearing ride of an India, where we might have gone, but not seen the place.

Commenting on post-pandemic travel, especially to pilgrimage sites and temples, Goyal says that pilgrimage travel has been the backbone of domestic travel since time immemorial, and forecasts that it will get back on its feet as soon as the logistics are back on their feet.

“Domestic tourism will get a push due to limitations on international travel as well as due to fear of a second wave that might lead to unpredictable circumstances. I hope the Indian tourism industry will take it as an opportunity to not just tap the domestic tourists but also define the new paradigms in tourism that are rooted in Indic travel traditions. A good question to look at is – Can we make the travels more deeper and mindful and more than just chill out parties?”

The book is available on the Garuda Prakashan website.

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

–IANS
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