Wednesday, 16 May 2007


The next part of my story, as told in The Moon's Complexion takes place in Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram), an ancient coastal city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu . It was here that the Pallava Dynasty built some of the earliest temples in South India dating from the seventh and eighth centuries. In spite of what happened to me there, it's a magical place, as I hope the following extracts from The Moon's Complexion and pictures demonstrate.

'Ahead the twin spires of the Shore Temple kept watch over the Bay of Bengal, as they had done since the eighth century. To Hannah they resembled golden pyramid cakes sandwiched with butter-cream, where layers of sandstone carvings had been eroded by centuries of salt wind.'

'A group of women and children, rainbow saris and long skirts pulled up to reveal glimpses of slender, rust-brown ankles, were playing chicken with the tide, running to the water’s edge and retreating with excited shrieks as the dying waves rushed in and splashed their feet. '

'They reached the temple compound and let its tranquillity wash over them. The outer walls, where long lines of huge, stone bulls looked out to sea, had fared little better than the temple buildings themselves, time-ravaged but still recognisable. '

'For three hours they discovered Mamallapuram’s ancient sites, treading barefoot on the sacred soil. By now the sandy earth had become a frying pan for feet unaccustomed to the ferocity of India’s midday sun. '

"Chariots - used in processions to carry the gods out of the temple. But these rathas, they’re misnamed. They’re actually little temples cut out of a ridge of solid granite. Things aren’t always what they seem, Hannah. "'

'The Mandapas, ancient rock temple halls carved into a boulder-strewn hill, provided a refuge from the overbearing heat.'

"‘And under the mountain life goes on as usual,’ he said. ‘Milking the cow, carrying water, depicted for eternity.’
‘Nothing is for eternity.’"

'Carved upon the rock face a cavalcade of men, deities and animals converged on a cleft in the centre that represented the Ganges River. The pageant on the rock was in perfect harmony. Not so Ashok and Hannah. Their unsung melody had slid almost imperceptibly into a minor key.'

Photos and Text © Irene Black