ABOUT THE BOOKThe children in the story explore the Descent of the Ganges, with its carvings of animals, humans and celestial beings. Temples, tigers and tsunamis all feature in this tale of the Mahabalipuram architectural complex by the sea, lost and then miraculously found again.
- The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India Series deals with five of India’s most fascinating heritage spots. In Mahabalipuram: The Ganga Comes to Tamil Nadu, we follow six students, Sundar, Rama, Faisal, Devi, Aravind, and Aarathi on a school trip to Mahabalipuram. They are accompanied by their teacher Miss Lakshmi. The conversations they have on the way and at the site are richly informative and will give readers plenty of facts and ideas to absorb and mull over.
- The book deals not only with the temples of Mahabalipuram, but with the entire landscape and ecosystem surrounding them. In the course of their drive to the temple, the children talk about the crocodiles of the Crocodile Bank, and the devastating tsunami of 2004 and its effects on the coast, among other things. By doing this, the writer gives readers a clear sense of the setting of the historical site.
- Like the other books in the series, this one too encourages children to engage actively with history. While the book contains its fair share of facts, it also shows the characters interpreting the sculptures, carvings, and other sights that they see. For instance, when the children look around the Tiger Cave, they all make guesses about what the large arena-like space was used for. The author, a historian herself, presents history as an open-ended field, rather than as a set of dates and events.
- One of the problems with the book though is that most of the information is presented too obviously. The children seem to already know a lot about the historical site and its background, in a way which often feels unrealistic. The character of the teacher too, is often made to merely recite facts about the place in a very direct and encyclopaedia-esque manner. Even though the information is woven into the dialogue, there are several instances in the book when the dialogues simply do not feel natural, and the educational purpose of the story becomes all too palpable.
- The illustrations are a let-down and do not manage to bring the characters or historical site alive. They are very basic and remind one of the pages of a school textbook. In such a well-produced book, these rather plain and two-dimensional illustrations are a disappointment.