Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple - review by John Keay

John Keay

Beyond The Myth

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India


Bloomsbury 260pp £20

Srikanda Stpathy runs a business that makes gods. His Tamil forebears began bronze-casting the Hindu pantheon for the Chola dynasty in the eleventh century and their descendants have been at it ever since. ‘The gods created man,’ says Srikanda, ‘but here we are so blessed that – simple men as we are – we help to create gods.’ Using the original ‘lost wax’ process, his little foundry in Swamimalai now supplies all India and beyond (well, Neasden, parts of New Jersey and California, and anywhere else that the Tamil diaspora has settled). His order book is overflowing; god exports are doing their bit for India’s booming economy. 

The only problem could be a lack of repeat orders. A Nataraja, say, or an Uma has a finite lifespan; at some point divinity will desert it. But not any time soon: in fact not for up to 850 years. Exactly how long depends on the deity’s horoscope

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