SRI LANKA, November 20, 2021 (, by Radhika Coomaraswamy): The piercing sound of the nadaswaram filled the air. A soul-rending call, expressing the constant yearning of the human spirit, I would hear echoes of it in dark spaces in New York in the sound of the tenor saxophone. It was ther [chariot] day at the Nallur Kandasamy temple and musicians came from all over Sri Lanka and India to compete with each other, one drummer more powerful than the next. As the afternoon faded, Lord Skanda, dressed in green, would be taken back to his abode, dancing on the shoulders of his followers. These scenes from my childhood have always associated music and dance with the sacred and the divine.

The Nallur Kandasamy Kovil, situated down the road was one of the main preoccupations of the women in my family, especially my grandmother. My early childhood was overhearing conversation of how it had fallen into disrepair and the constant discussion on how to make it better. My great grandmother and grandmother along with much of Nallur had set their eyes on Kumaradas Maapana Mudaliyar as the young man who would rescue the temple. [HPI Note: the temple is owned outright by the Mudaliyar family, there is no government or management board.]

Kumaradas, as he was fondly called, was the second son in line for the Nallur inheritance. Educated at Jaffna Central College and St. Peter’s College Colombo, he wanted to follow a career in medicine. But the aunties of Nallur, among others, had his brother, the natural inheritor of custodianship, request Kumaradas to take charge. When his brother died in 1964, Kumaradas became the full custodian and guided the temple till he died on October 9, 2021.

Much more of Coomaraswamy’s account is here: