Interpreter of Maladies

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Sun Temple Symbol Analysis

The Sun Temple Symbol Icon

The Sun Temple is a tourist site in India that Mr. Das and Mrs. Das and their children visit, accompanied by their tour guide Mr. Kapasi. On one hand, the ancient temple symbolizes the cultural heritage that all of these characters share, given that they all have roots in India. On the other hand, the characters’ contrasting relationship to the Sun Temple signals the cultural gulf that exists between Indians and Indian Americans. Although the Das family is of Indian origin, and the temple is therefore a part of its history, the family approaches the site strictly as tourists: Mrs. Das displays a distinct impatience upon learning how far they must drive to reach the temple, suggesting a lack of excitement about or respect for the site, while Mr. Das relies on his guidebook for information about it—information that, in fact, proves inaccurate. Having spent their entire lives in America, the Das family are more American than Indian, and their identity is reflected in their distanced, touristic attitude to the temple.

Mr. Kapasi, however, is much more closely connected to the temple than the family he chaperones. He is intimately familiar with the site, which he refers to as one of his “favorite places,” and readily shares his knowledge about it with the Das family. This, of course, is partly because of his work as a tour guide, yet Lahiri suggests that the connection that Mr. Kapasi feels to the site is not simply because of his work. Unlike the Americanized Das family, Mr. Kapasi  has spent his entire life in India and, it follows, identifies much more closely with Indian culture and heritage. As such, the intimacy that he feels is borne out of his physical as well as his cultural proximity to the site, a proximity that, regardless of their ethnic background, the Das family does not share with him.

The Sun Temple Quotes in Interpreter of Maladies

The Interpreter of Maladies quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Sun Temple. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of Interpreter of Maladies published in 1999.
Interpreter of Maladies Quotes

They reached Konarak at two-thirty. The temple, made of sandstone, was a massive pyramid-like structure in the shape of a chariot. It was dedicated to the great master of life, the sun […] “It says the temple occupies about a hundred and seventy acres of land,” Mr. Das said, reading from his book.

Related Characters: Mr. Das (speaker), Mr. Kapasi, Mr. Das, Bobby, Ronny, The doctor
Related Symbols: The Sun Temple
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Sun Temple Symbol Timeline in Interpreter of Maladies

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sun Temple appears in Interpreter of Maladies. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Interpreter of Maladies
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
The Das family is on its way to visit the Sun Temple in Konarak, India. Mr. Kapasi reflects that he would not normally stop so early on... (full context)
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
Language and Communication  Theme Icon
Guilt and Responsibility Theme Icon
...without offering to share it with anyone, and the group commences their journey to the Sun Temple . (full context)
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Language and Communication  Theme Icon
...guide tiresome. Mr. Kapasi responds that, on the contrary, he enjoys it, and that the Sun Temple they are on their way to visit is one of his favorite spots. He mentions... (full context)
Culture and Identity Theme Icon
The group reaches the Sun Temple at Konarak—a huge sandstone structure in the shape of a pyramid and surrounded by chariots,... (full context)
Knowledge and Fantasy Theme Icon
Culture and Identity Theme Icon
They all look at friezes that decorate the façade of the temple, among which are depictions of naked lovers. As he looks up at the images of... (full context)