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Thursday, September 3, 2015

India... for the uninitiated - Part 1

Not that there is a dearth in number of articles on or around India and yet, sometimes it appears, the general population is not much aware of India as they are about some of the other prominent nations in the world. This article is a humble attempt at uncovering some of the mysteries surrounding India by someone like me, who has seen some of the best (and some of the worst) of both worlds!

This is the first part of a series of articles on India and her people.

So, are you some time planning to visit India and not sure what to expect? Let me start with some bullet points on what exactly you should not miss if you are travelling to India.

1. Architecture 

Do not miss the ancient architecture in various states. Some prominent ones are provided below:

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his cherished wife, the Taj Mahal stands on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. It remains one of the major wonders in the world and has inspired generations throughout history.

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

On the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, Lord Curzon, who was then Viceroy of India, placed before the public the question of setting up a fitting memorial to the Queen. He suggested that the most suitable memorial would be a "stately", spacious, monumental and grand building surrounded by an exquisite garden.
The memorial houses a wonderful historical museum and visited by hundreds of people every day. Kolkata, as a city, is well known as the place where the Victoria Memorial is situated.

Konark Sun Temple

Sun Temple of Konark, built in the middle of 13th century, is a massive conception of artistic magnificence and engineering dexterity. King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of the Ganga dynasty had built this temple, with the help of 1200 artisans within a period of 12 years (1243-1255 A.D.). Since the ruler used to worship the Sun, the temple was considered as a chariot for the Sun God. Konark Temple was designed in the form of a gorgeously decorated chariot mounted on 24 wheels , each about 10 feet in diameter, and drawn by 7 mighty horses.
The temple at Khajuraho

The temple of Khajuraho is well known for the architectural marvel as well as for many figures inscribed throughtout the architecture - with exquisite details.

Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 CE by the Chandela dynasty.
Mahabodhi Temple

Quoting UNESCO:
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.

While there are hundreds of other architectural marvels to look forward to, this article is merely a first part of a series on India and the others will be covered in due course of time.

2. Culture of India

India is a land as diverse as you can imagine. Here are a few facts for your reference:

As per this Reuters article, India speaks 780 languages, although 220 were lost in the last 50 years!
Here are some details:
Official languages: Hindi, English as per Official Languages Act, 1963.
Other prominent regional languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Maithili, Bhilli, Santali, Kashmiri, Nepali, Gondi, Sindhi, Konkani, Dogri, Khandesi, Kurukh, Tulu, Manipuri, Bodo, Khasi, Mundari, Ho

Although with westernization majority of India (in cities) can be seen in casual wear much like the West, traditional wear is very popular as well. Have a look at some of the regional costumes in India.










A kid dancing in traditional attire during a festival in Mewar

There are many many other costumes based on regional identities but since this is just the first part, I shall move on.

3. Food

Indian food is popular throughout the world and each region produces some of the best cuisines you can think of. While it is not possible to include every food here in this article. I shall try to place some of my favorites here and hopefully you get a chance to taste each one. Do not forget to let me know how you liked them.

Snacks / Starters

Samosa - Samosa is a triangular kind of snack that can be either veg or non-veg. It is stuffed inside with tasty spicy fillings while the crust is hardened through deep fry.
Vegetable chop / Egg cutlet: I am covering both with one picture as they both might look similar, but tastes different. Vegetable chop is created mainly with a filling of carrot cooked in spices with a crust created with bread crumbs, flour etc. and fried. Egg cutlet contains an egg filling along with filling of vegetables.

Medu vada: This is a traditional south Indian snack.

Pakoda: Pakoda can be of several kinds and I cannot pick one. They are all delicious. Can be created out of onion, paneer, chicken, mutton, bread, potato, chillies, tomatoes, spinach - well literally anything you can think of! 

Main course
Fried Rice: Various ways of preparing it, can be veg as well as non-veg but delicious always
Alu paratha: Delcious to the core. Stuffed with potatoes ('alu' in hindu) fried with a soft crust of flour. Sorry I do not know how to prepare this, only know how to eat. :P

Masala dosa: A south Indian dish - very tasty. It may look like 'paratha' but it is not. It is what it is: delicious dosa!
Biryani: My favorite is the Hyderabadi dum biryani. Based on regions in India flavors and ingredients vary. For example in Kolkata you will also find potato in Biryani (which I like a lot)

Side dishes
Mutton kosha: This is more of a Bengali delicacy, prepared with goat meat. Those who eat this will be ready to forego any other dishes on that day! Thats how popular it is!
Bhapa ilish: If you love fish and know that ilish (also hilsha; scientific name: Tenualosa ilisha ) is the queen of fishes. Found mainly in the fresh water rivers. This is again a bengali delicacy and if someone can challenge mutton kosha above as the most preferred Bengali dish then this is it ! If you are interested here is the recipe. But remember this fish even after cooked has a million micro-bones. Bengalees have somehow learnt to eat fish from cats (joking) so they don't mind!

Paneer butter masala: Tasty Indian cheese curry prepared with butter. This can be mouth-watering!


Well, there are a million other dishes and a milion other stuff to discuss about India and her people, but you will have to wait for part 2 of "India... for the uninitiated". Till then, adieu !

List of references and sources used in this article:
  • http://www-tc.pbs.org/thestoryofindia/images/gallery/taj_mahal_main.jpg
  • http://www.history.com/topics/taj-mahal
  • http://www.itchotels.in/Hotels/images/victoria-memoria-2.jpg
  • http://www.victoriamemorial-cal.org/history.html
  • http://www.easydestination.net/Konark.jpg
  • http://www.thekonark.in
  • http://nirvanadmc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/The-world-famous-temple-of-Khajuraho-India.jpg
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khajuraho_Group_of_Monuments
  • http://www.walkthroughindia.com/attraction/10-most-famous-historical-monuments-of-india/
  • http://www.7wonders.org/images/asia/india/mahabodhi-temple/mahabodhi-temple.jpg
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/47/b2/54/47b254581ec339ba083b08dd0dd463af.jpg
  • http://im.hunt.in/cg/Andhra/About/Profile/Culture/Telugu-Attire.jpg
  • http://i0.wp.com/www.thelovelyplanet.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/A_Kashmiri_couple.jpg
  • http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01765/DE22_PAGE_3_C_G_DE_1765234f.jpg
  • http://www.indianetzone.com/photos_gallery/49/Costumes_of_Tamil_Nadu.jpg
  • http://www.corbisimages.com/images/Corbis-42-23995147.jpg?size=67&uid=d10a7ccd-ec56-483c-ba66-c926dd312f2e
  • http://i.ytimg.com/vi/iIVJN0Yz1Y0/maxresdefault.jpg
  • https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ba/b8/f6/bab8f6309e6a0499821461364253e169.jpg
  • http://www.tejifoods.com/teji/images/stories/biryani1.jpg
  • www.google.com


1 comment:

Indrani Bhattacharyya said...

Awesome...it's really help to promote the tourism of India where the main crux of tourism is ' atithi debabhaba'...Welcome to the 'Incredible India'