Book Review: Kerala – The Divine Destination, by Lalitha Balasubramanian

‘That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.’
~Jhumpa Lahiri~

At times, there’s nothing more relaxing than traveling. The heart gets tired of seeing the same things over and over again, and wishes to explore the unseen, hear the unheard and experience something new. Someone who is stuck in the city for most days of the week may prefer to venture out of it, and seek the sounds of nature, or the calmness of a village. Of course, there are occasions where one would seek out the warmth and familiarity of an old, treasured memory.

For many reasons, I do not often venture out of this city I call home and go traveling to those places that are so closely guarded and filed away in the depths of my memories. But when it comes to God’s Own Country, or as the book so rightly says – ‘The Divine Destination’ – it does not require much of a trigger for the memories to come rising back to the surface and envelop me in that warmth that is never too far away. I’ve spent many a fond summer vacation over there, in the lap of greenery and devotional music.

Lalitha Balasubramanian’s book ‘Kerala – the Divine Destination’ is, in essence, a travelogue. But, it’s by no means written just as a tour guide might be. Through the book, she takes us along on her travels to the various temples around the state, recollecting how she visited those places, the ambience and the aura that they have, and even at times, about the devotees. She gives the reader the directions on how to reach the temple, the timings they are open, the pujas, and rules to follow while entering the temple. She even shares the legends and history behind the temples.

The book, as far as I can see, covers almost all the major temples of the state. I’ve, at one time or the other, visited most of them as well. Perhaps the most detailed entry is for the temple that is most famous, the Guruvayur temple town, said to be the heaven on earth. It’s the temple I’ve visited most often, and so I could relate to that. The words, along with my memories, brought the temple to life in my mind. The ambience… filled with devotional music, the throngs of devotees, small stores selling things from jewellery to snacks to even audio tapes, the elephants… it just came rushing back. It was wonderful to read about the legend behind the temple too, and she does describe the temple too, but I think what appealed to me the most was that it brought back some memories that I’ll always treasure.

I also enjoyed reading about the three temples of the town/city of Thrissur which are famous. The three – Vadakkumnathan Temple, Paramekkavu Temple and Thiruvambadi Temple – are well known to me because of the annual Thrissur Pooram and the festivities that accompany that. Again, I have been to the temples a couple of times, so there were memories that helped me to enjoy the read more. Other familiar temples like the Kodungalloor Bhagavathy temple, Chotanikkara temple and of course, Sabarimala were written about well, and more than the directions or ambience, I was intrigued by the mythology behind each.

The tone of the book is very formal. A non-fiction warrants that perhaps, but I felt that more of a personal feel may have made the writing shine more. Also, there were typos that stood out. The cover art could have been more true to the divinity perhaps, like a photograph of the outside of the temple during the deeparadhana puja.

While these would have added to the beauty of the book, even in its present version, I feel the book is magical. It’s one that I’d keep proudly on my shelf, and re-read when I want to plunge into the soothing waters of memories.


A score of 9 out of 10
A score of 9 out of 10
Book Details
Title: Kerala – The Divine Destination
Author(s): Lalitha Balasubramanian Genre: Travelogue
ISBN/ASIN: 9789381576236 Publisher: Leadstart Wordizen

Reviewed for the publisher in exchange for a copy of the book, and no other payment. The views expressed here are mine, and they remain uninfluenced and unbiased.


(© 28th April 2016)

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