While researching my novel, ‘The Pagoda Tree’, I made four research trips to India, starting with a visit to Thanjavur in the south. On the exterior walls of the 11th Century ‘Big temple’, the names and addresses of 400 devadasis (temple dancers) are inscribed – the novel’s main character, Maya, is one of these dancers. My guide, Mr Rajah – a slight man with grey hair, his buckteeth blackened from smoking – started reading out some of these women’s names. I loved the fact that the presence of these women is still evident today. This made them feel even more real. As a writer, you are always looking for ways into your characters... this was one of the ways I used to learn more about my main character Maya.
Caption: Writing in Tamil from Thanjavur's Big Temple
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