William Dalrymple's travel book Nine Lives cover Nine Destinations in Search of the Sacred in Modern India. The stories in the book portray earthy images of the mystic land India is. Dalrymple focuses on individuals while suggesting a rustic image of the destinations the stories are set in. If you're an ardent reader and equally enthusiastic about travel, you must visit these places and see for yourself if the magic can be recreated.
Here's a sneak peek at the nine sacred destinations...
The Nun's Tale
A story of a Jain nun set in Shravanabelagola gives you a sense of the customs and rituals followed by Jain nuns. Not only that, but Dalrymple also sketches an image of the pilgrim centre - Shravanabelagola located in Hassan district of Karnataka.
The Dancer of Kannur
A story of a Dalit set in Kannur district of Kerala tells you a lot about the cultural heritage of the place while it narrates the heart-touching story of Hari Das. You would not want to miss the Theyyam ritual held in December and January months.
The Daughter of Yellamma
Dalrymple narrates like no other the shocking story of the devadasi tradition set in Modern day Belgaum. A perfect example of how history changes and adapts to modern life, Belgaum which was once active in its courts and forts is now shown to be active in the nights.
The Singer of Epics
A tender story of a couple - the last remaining singers of the Epic song of Pabuji. Rajasthan is known to have passed on its traditions like no other, but it has still not escaped the brutality of modernity. Your visit to Rajasthan must include an audience with the folk singers and dancers there.
The Red Fairy
This story about a Bihari Hindu woman now settled in Rural Sindh gives you a picture of religiosity practised in these places. There are detailed descriptions about secularism and eccentricity that prevails even to this day in Modern cities.
The Monks Tale
Of all diasporic tales, the Tibetan one is the dearest to India. The refugee settlement in Dharamsala and the story of a monk forms the central theme for Dalrymple. When you take the route from Tibet to Dharamsala, the journey will be nostalgic even the first time around.
The Maker of Idols
The history is traced back to the Chola Empire and the art of making bronze idols is endangered. Set in the old city of Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu, the story takes you to the bucolic roads of the past and the present.
The Lady Twilight
This story takes the readers to the holy town of Tarapith. The tantric traditions and mystic images of India are retraced. On your visit to West Bengal, Tarapith is now added. The so-called primitive practices continue to this day.
The Song of the Blind Minstrel
Dalrymple has given an account of the life of one of the Bauls in Bengal who by birth was blind. The Bauls of Bengal are well known in Bengali literature but these wandering minstrels are hardly taken note of elsewhere. Make sure you attend the annual Baul festival held at Kenduli, West Bengal.