Indian Frontiers http://www.indianfrontiers.com Fri, 11 Oct 2019 05:40:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.10 Durga Puja in Kolkata: experience the divine http://www.indianfrontiers.com/durga-puja-kolkata-experience-divine/ Tue, 17 Sep 2019 10:29:16 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2847 In India, festivals are as diverse as the people and that is why every now and then you will find people of India prepping up for a festive celebration. Every festival in India brings along vibrant vibes. One such auspicious occasion in India is – Durga Puja, worshipping of Goddess Durga. This is one of […]

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In India, festivals are as diverse as the people and that is why every now and then you will find people of India prepping up for a festive celebration. Every festival in India brings along vibrant vibes. One such auspicious occasion in India is – Durga Puja, worshipping of Goddess Durga. This is one of the warmest and lively festivals of India. Also known as Durgautsava, the festival lasts for 9 days before the Dussehra.

Durga Puja marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting and deceptive buffalo-asura Mahishasura. Thus, the festival epitomises the victory of good over evil. Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Hindu Goddess Durga in a battle against asura (demon) Mahishasura – the deceptive and shape-shifting buffalo.

Although the festival is marked across the country, the city of joy – Kolkata, observes it in the most divine and grand manner. The festival smears the whole city in the festive mood. This festival is endemic to Kolkata as it is the city of Bengalis and for Bengalis, the Goddess Durga holds a special reverence.

The Durga Puja festival in Kolkata is a divine experience and no matter to which religion or culture you belong to – you’ll be totally engrossed in its aura.

To experience Kolkata Durga Puja, ideally you should be in town at least a week before the festivity starts. So you can take a tour of the city and see how the festivities begin. If that’s not feasible, there are still a lot of other ways to appreciate it— all night long!

Here are some of the best experiences you can indulge in during the Durga Puja days in Kolkata.

Catch potters create magic

In Kolkata, the idols of Goddess Durga are handcrafted with much love and devotion and the end result is so amazing that even a slight glance at these idols can mesmerize you. And if you see the effort that goes into creating them, you’ll enjoy them even more. In Kolkata, it’s not difficult to do that because there’s a whole area dedicated this craft of idol making — Kumartulli – located in the north of Kolkata, about 30 minutes drive from the town center. The name literally implies “potter’s place” and, as it is suggested, the region was settled by a group of potters. There are now around 150 potter families living there. If you go there on the occasion of Mahalaya (about a week before Durga Puja begins) you will be able to see the eyes drawn on the statues in the auspicious ritual called Chokkhu Daan.

 

Witness Kola Bou Bath

 

The invocation of the divine presence of Goddess Durga into the idols marks the commencement of the Dugra Puja. The rituals begin in the early morning, before dawn. It starts with the bathing of a banana tree in the Hooghly River. The banana tree is dressed like a newlywed bride (known as “Kola Bou”, the banana bride) in a sari, and is used to transport the goddess’s energy. Bagh Bazar, Prinsep and Ahiritola ghats are the best places to attend the ritual.

 

Added divine experience: Bonedi Puja

While Kolkata’s government Durga pujas tend to get all the attention, the traditional Bonedi Bari pujas in the city’s palatial ancient private houses are also worth a visit. The houses belong to wealthy aristocratic zamindar (landowner) families who have been carrying pujas for centuries. They spread throughout Kolkata (as well as other significant cities in Bengal). Two of the most famous are Sovabazar Raj Bari and Rani Rashmoni Bari in northern Kolkata.

 

Witness worship in many forms

The Kumari Puja is another significant ritual that’s performed during the Durga Puja festival. During the festival, Goddess Durga is worshiped in various forms. In this ritual, she’s worshiped the form of an innocent young unmarried virgin girl. This serves as a reminder that the goddess and her energy are omnipresent in all beings.

 

You can’t skip pandal hopping

The highlight of Durga Puja is no doubt visiting the many different displays (pandals) of Goddess Durga, each with a unique theme or decorative style. This activity is commonly referred to as “pandal hopping”. There are thousands of pandals in Kolkata so it’s only possible to visit a fraction of them — and even then it requires a bit of strategic planning as they’re spread out all over the city. You’ll find the most well known ones in north and south Kolkata, which is conveniently connected by the Metro railway. The most popular time for pandal hopping is in the night when they’re lit up. If you go during the day, you can avoid much of the crowd.

 

Immerse yourself in the divine dance

After the evening rituals on Ashtami, it is traditional for the devotional Dhunuchi folk dance to be performed in front of the goddess Durga to please her. This is done by holding an earthen pot filled with burning coconut husk and camphor. Drummers lead the dancers with beats that vary in speed. Smoke, sound and rhythm engulf the atmosphere. It is intense and intoxicating! Men and Women both participated in the traditional dance. This dance has become so popular that people have begun to organize competitions.

 

Gobble on everything delicious

It’s never better time to sample Kolkata’s renowned Bengali cuisine than Durga Puja. The festival is not regarded to be complete without meat! You’ll discover a broad range of them all over the place — in the streets, in the pandals, and in specialty Bengali restaurants.  Pandal hopping is going to get tired, so eating while you’re out and about is a must. The food given to the tourists of the pandals is called bhog (offerings to the god that are distributed). It is frequently made up of mixed vegetable curry, a sweet dish, a fried product and chutney. Kolkata’s Bengali restaurants have exclusive Durga Puja menus packed with genuine delicacies— both buffet and a la carte. Bengal sweets are also eaten with much craze and fervour.

A cherishable ending

On Dashami, the last day of Durga Puja, the festivity begins with married women putting red sindoor (powder) on the idols of Goddess Durga. They then smear it on each other. In the evening, the idols are immersed in the water. One of the most popular immersion points is Babu Ghat (centrally located near Eden Garden), although you’ll be able to catch the action at any of the ghats along the river. You can either head to Red Road and watch the Durga idols being taken in procession to the ghats as devotees chant, “Aasche bochor abar hobe!”(It’ll happen again next year!).

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Indian Streets that speak http://www.indianfrontiers.com/indian-streets-speak/ Sun, 01 Sep 2019 07:49:38 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2838 “The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” -Robert Doisneau It’s the diversity in the people of India that makes this nation so vibrant and culturally rich. However, it’s not just the people that make Indian culture unique it is also its streets. […]

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“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” -Robert Doisneau

It’s the diversity in the people of India that makes this nation so vibrant and culturally rich. However, it’s not just the people that make Indian culture unique it is also its streets. Just like at every custom & tradition that unfolds on this land is unique every street of India also has its own essence and vibe. These roads stand out not only in its landscape beauty but also the stories that revolve around it.

Indian streets are known worldwide for their uniqueness and relevance in history. So it is not only its landscape but also its historical background that make these streets stand out.

Over time, although these streets have changed in appearance, however, their old world charm remains intact. So, let’s know more about some quirky streets of India and why you must explore them at least once.

Commercial Street, Bangalore

 

One of the busiest markets of Bangalore, this jumble of lanes is one of the most frequented centers for people for all kinds of stuff. This busy market offers some best deals which are often secured after good bargaining. The market boasts of numerous stalls for apparels, antiques, accessories and books, etc.

Located almost a kilometer away from the famous MG road in Bangalore, Commercial Street is most popular amongst the college students while locals and travelers too throng the place for the best stuff at a reasonable price often achieved after thorough haggle.

Moreover, there is a good range of eating joints selling lip-smacking food from Bhutta (Corn Cob) to Bhel Puri and from Pani Puri to Sev Puri. Thus one hardly needs any reason for having a day out at Commercial Street.

 

Hazratganj, Lucknow

Popularly known as ‘Ganj’, Hazratganj got its name in 1842. Hazrtaganj was called ‘The Mall’ during the British Raj, and is now the heart of the city Lucknow. This street is synonymous to the city’s identity of ‘Nawabo ka sheher’.

Called ‘The Mall’ during British Raj, Hazratganj is now a major landmark of the city, synonymous to the city’s identity of ‘Nawabo ka sheher’. When the British took over the city of Lucknow after the first war of Independence in 1857, they modeled Hazratganj after Queen Street in London.

In 2010, after nearly 200 years, this place went through a makeover. The buildings were painted in a uniform color and stone pavements, Victorian-style balustrades and benches were added to improve the architecture.

 

Mall Road, Shimla

Housing all major government offices till date, Shimla’s Mall Road is still the most popular road of hill-top India. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Shimla, the Mall Road enfolds a range of restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, banks, offices and shops. People can stroll around the mall road to enjoy the scenic views of the naturally beautiful surroundings.

A lot of people gather at the Ridge and Scandal point on Mall road to meet and talk with friends, see the views of the Himalayan range and to do some shopping. The Mall road is connected to the Ridge at the Scandal point, where a statue of the nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai has been erected.

 

Connaught Place, New Delhi

Famous as Rajiv Chowk or CP, Connaught Place is the place you cannot afford to miss when in Delhi. It is the heart of the city and the former location of the British Raj headquarters. It is counted among top heritage structures in the city. A frenetic business hub, it is centered on a ring of colonnaded Georgian-style buildings of shopping stores, vintage cinemas, Indian restaurants and bars. There you can also garner some moments in peace at the Sikh temple Gurdwara Bangla Sahib – known for its reflecting pool, or pay a visit to Jantar Mantar, a 1700s observatory with huge astronomical instruments.

 

Park Street, Kolkata

Retaining its old world charm and equally appealing to add to the modern beauty, Park Street in Kolkata is one of the most popular and oldest streets in India. It is also called ‘Food Street’ or ‘Street that never sleeps’. This street has been the main recreation zone in the city for people since the British era. Many clubs, restaurants and hotels are situated there making it a lively street.

 

Colaba, Mumbai

Probably the oldest market, Colaba was established in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later taken over by the British. Colaba constitutes The Gateway of India, Leopold Café, Hotel TAJ Mahal and Colaba Causeway. The old-world charm and modern attractions of this place make it a wholesome experience for explorers, especially for architectural lovers.

So if you are looking forward to an extensive tour of India, do not miss out on these culturally rich and vibrant streets.

 

 

 

 

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An Architectural Wonder Four Times The Size Of Buckingham Palace. http://www.indianfrontiers.com/architectural-wonder-four-times-size-buckingham-palace/ Sun, 30 Jun 2019 11:08:40 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2832 In the late 1890s, the royal family tuck away in Gujarat was welcoming with great pomp & show a young bride from Thanjavur. She was the beloved bride of Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III and the new Maharani (queen) of Baroda. And she was welcomed with an equally precious gift – the lavish Lakshmi Villas […]

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In the late 1890s, the royal family tuck away in Gujarat was welcoming with great pomp & show a young bride from Thanjavur. She was the beloved bride of Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III and the new Maharani (queen) of Baroda. And she was welcomed with an equally precious gift – the lavish Lakshmi Villas Palace as her new abode.

Vadodara is often called the cultural capital of Gujarat – the sanskaari nagari, in local vernacular. This vast city is influenced – both, architecturally and culturally – largely by the people’s most favourite maharaja who reigned over them – Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekward III. In the heart of Vadodara lies the Maharaja’s greatest vision: the Lukshmi Villas Palace. Spanning across 700 acres, the Lukshmi Villas Palace is about four times the size of the Buckingham Palace. It is also the largest private dwelling in India – and one of the most beautiful ones too. The present-day titular royal family of Baroda resides in the Palace now.

The former Baroda State was, alongside British India, one of the largest and richest princely states. So when he tried to construct a palace for his family, Maharaja Sayaji Rao made sure to take all the stops. He hired the slightly infamous architect Charles Mant and within days of his wedding, the foundation for Lukshmi Villas Palace was built. The palace, bathed in Indo-Saracen glory, boasts a merger of Islamic and Hindu architecture. It is not unknown that the Maharaja favored a straightforward dome design, an element of Islamic traditional architecture.

The Lukshmi Vilas Palace is not the only place for sporting lovely domes–Vadodara is sprinkled with ancient structures built in his time by the Maharaja, each with its signature dome. The most prominent instance of this is the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University and the various departments of this college situated across the town.

Past the sprawling lawns and the Italian water fountains, the beautiful red-sand pillars on the exterior of the structure welcome you into the Palace – an edifice reminiscent of a country-side European house, consisting of 172 rooms.

Among these, the Darbar hall is perhaps one of the grandest. When Sayaji Rao’s bride, Chimna bai came to Baroda, she brought with her an elaborate troupe of musicians, dancers and performers of Thanjavur. Thus, Bharat Natyam was introduced to Baroda. Many of these grand performances and other cultural events were witnessed by the Darbar Hall – a room boasting of Venetian mosaic floors and intricate interiors.

There was a time when India was but a mish-mash of princely states and colonial holdings – and during this time, the riches of the royals flowed in every direction. In Baroda’s heyday, the Maharaja invited guests from all over the country to his grand palace. The palace bustled with guests, relatives, children, a great number of servants – and of course, there was room for everyone. Every room in the Palace stood out. The Veena room (which is now used as a playroom by the princesses) was inspired by the Ajanta caves.

India was, once, a farrago of colonial holdings and princely states and it was during this time, that the riches of the royals streamed in every direction. During the time of Baroda’s heyday, the Maharaja invited guests from all over the country to his grand palace. The palace saw a large footfall of guests, relatives, children, and a great number of servants. The Veena room in the palace was inspired by the Ajanta caves. There is a Gulabi room, in hues of pinks, creams and beige which was used as a private Parlour for Maharani Chimnabai –is laced with murals of cupids and angels.

Apart from the bedrooms, the palace also extended an old school house in its backyard, with a functioning toy train to take the children to their lessons. An important part of the Lukshmi Villas property is also the Kirti Mandir, which is used for Durga Pujas and other celebratory events to this day.

There was a time when India was but a mishmash of princely states and colonial holdings–and royal wealth flowed in every direction during this moment. In the heyday of Baroda, the Maharaja invited visitors to his grand palace from all over the nation. The palace was busy with visitors, families, kids, a lot of servants–and there was space for everyone, of course. Every space was standing out in the Palace. The Veena room (now used by the princesses as a playroom) was influenced by the caves of Ajanta.

One can expect to create their way to the reception when they enter the palace from where they can gather audio headsets. The audio is accessible in multiple languages, from Hindi and English to Gujarati as well.

The Gaddi Hall is iconic as it holds the throne on which many kings took their rightful position earlier. With an overwhelming quantity of incredible paintings, the elaborately big room is embroidered. The pictures of Goddess Saraswati, Laxmi, Lord Krishna, among others, meticulously arranged, create a feeling of symmetry and equilibrium.

The Royal Armoury is located near the Gaddi Hall. Different types of weapons are hung and put in abundance. Swords, knives, shields, you call it – in this comparatively smaller space you can find everything. A dream place if you are a history aficionado, you can also find Shivaji Maharaja’s favourite weapons like the Khanjar and the Wagh Nakka.

 

The Darbar Hall, the biggest and likely most desirable room in the whole palace, is connecting to the Hathi Hall. Chandeliers, Belgian stained glass and big artworks embellish the interior of this giant space. Cultural performances also took place here. If you find the glamor of this specific room hard to picture, remember the set used for the song Deewani Mastaani from Bajirao Mastani. Although, the set used in the movie was fancier, both places carry the same prestige.

While exploring the cultural capital of Gujarat, you can simply not miss out on this place – it spellbinds you with its grandeur and historical charm.

 

 

 

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Spicing: the homemade art in India http://www.indianfrontiers.com/spicing-homemade-art-india/ Fri, 31 May 2019 11:12:55 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2823 In India, usually the food is heavily judged upon the balance of spices in it rather than anything else. This is the time of the year when the annual ritual of pickling onsets in India. Small green mangoes are cut, their flesh smeared with salt and turmeric and spices added: fenugreek, asafoetida, fennel, kalaunji and […]

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In India, usually the food is heavily judged upon the balance of spices in it rather than anything else.

This is the time of the year when the annual ritual of pickling onsets in India. Small green mangoes are cut, their flesh smeared with salt and turmeric and spices added: fenugreek, asafoetida, fennel, kalaunji and a dash of red chilli powder.

These will then pickle in oil and sunlight for a few days before the achaar is ready. This pickle of mango is similar to the one made in many other homes in Uttar Pradesh – the taste determined by the melange of spices women add through their experienced guess and not strict measurements.

However, in these dyas of convenience food, it is also possible find roughly a similar mix packaged and retailed as a generic “achari masala” that can be instantly added to pickles, vegetables, and meats by cooks who do not understand a basic thing about Indian cooking: how spices are used in specific ways depending upon the season, the region which the recipe belongs to, and most importantly, ingredients.

When my mother pickles red chillies in the winter, her spice mix changes: rai or brown mustard seeds replace fenugreek.

Since the main ingredient – chilli – is bitter, there is an instinctive understanding that you cannot add bitter fenugreek seeds to the mix. Instead, there is amchoor powder for tartness, coriander for a whiff of sweetness, crushed cumin and rock salt to balance the flavours and provide heat suitable for the winter chill. These specific ways in which we use our spices makes Indian food tough for beginners to cook. Anyone can follow recipes and pick up packaged masalas but creating regional and seasonal flavours requires a deep understanding of how spices are combined to balance tastes.

Like classic combinations in other cuisines – rosemary-potatoes, avocado-chilli and tomato-basil – Indian cuisines too have their own classic combinations.

This is something that is usually overlooked because as chef Manjit Gill says, “There are recipe books but no book that teaches the principles of Indian cooking.” Home cooks instinctively cook up traiditions combinations, which are based on Ayurvedic principles even if this knowledge itself is lost.

Combinations like potatoes with fenugreek seeds, green mango or okra with fennel, eggplant with onion seeds and fish with ajwain (carom) are all classic flavours of Indian cookery which every home cook instinctively knows.

If you study these at a deeper level, you realise they have come about as a result of balancing the heating-cooling doshas and as a result of balancing the heating-cooling doshas (ascribed to each ingredient in Ayurvedic texts) and as a result of balancing tastes (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, astringent and pungent).  In theabsence of this understanding, a cook may douse a preparation like eggplant (bitter) with garam masala laced with pepper and successfully kill it.

The art of Garam Masala

In India, garam masala is used as an ornamentation to spice up dishes. “Spices in Indian dishes are added at different stages of cooking. Less volatile and stronger spices are used at the start in a pounded or whole from when they are fried in oil to leech out the flavour. More aromatic ones like green cardamom are added at finish, fro aroma. This creates a sort of pyramid of smells,” says restaurateur and Chef Marut Sikka. What he is describing is the artful layering of flavours, almost like the construction of a perfume that is the hallmark of Indian food.

Garam Masala, which is always added at the finish and not while starting off a dish, may have been concocted as a hack to mask shortcomings in basic cooking, feel Sikka and Gill.

A combination of “hot” spices with a predominance of pepper originally, the masala may also have been concocted exclusively for heavier winter recipes such as meat stews to keep the body warm. It is interesting to note that traditional families in Old Delhi use different garam masala (made at home) in winter and summer. “Not all ingredients go into the masala for summer. Cloves, nutmeg and mace are not used in the summer because they have a warm taseer (efficacy).

The curry powder muddle

The combination spices have always escaped Western understanding. As a 19th century cookery book written by Henrietta A Hervey for English memsahibs (madams) gives a glimpse into the utter confusion around these. Hervey gives recipes for three curry powders – Madras curry powder, Bombay curry powder, corresponding to the three presidencies under the British raj. As we know, curry powder is an invention by the British. And going through the recipes, one will know how British knew just a little about regional cuisines.

For instance, the Madras curry powder mentions three quarter pounds of saffron as a key component. And since saffron is not intrinsic to south India, the logic doesn’t apply here. So, the recipes are somewhat similar with just tad differences in the proportions and addition of cinnamon in the Bengal recipe.

Fortunately, no one in India uses curry powder that much. And as every home and region in India uses its own mix of spices, the diversity in cooking is still retained. Such as the goda masala and sambhar powders and the east Indians’ bottle masala came up as conveniences.

Even the home cooks, who started to assembling and storing their own combinations of spices, still maintain their individual recipes which vary from home to home. However, the packaged retail versions will not only rob of India’s culinary diversity but also the understanding of spicing Indian minds are ingrained with. Therefore, if Indian cooking is to show up widely at global level, one key challenge is to demystify spicing and make the people at large understand the nuances and intricacies of spicing.

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Fatehpur Sikri: embark upon a tour of rich heritage and glorious past. http://www.indianfrontiers.com/fatehpur-sikri-embark-upon-tour-rich-heritage-glorious-past/ Sat, 04 May 2019 06:37:14 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2817 If you are looking forward to head to a destination in India which gives an enthralling dose of historical and architectural beauty, then Fatehpur Sikri must not miss your wishlist. Located at a distance of about 37 KM from the city of Taj, Agra, Fatehpur sikri is a perfect picturesque of the rich and royal […]

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If you are looking forward to head to a destination in India which gives an enthralling dose of historical and architectural beauty, then Fatehpur Sikri must not miss your wishlist.

Located at a distance of about 37 KM from the city of Taj, Agra, Fatehpur sikri is a perfect picturesque of the rich and royal heritage of Mughal era. Amidst the continuously modernising world, this place takes you to a whole new world of artistry of the Golden past of India.

As you enter the city, through a large gate, named Buland Darwaza- a 54 metre tall gate, you will be transported to a saga of India’s astonishing culture and heritage. Built with red stones, the city is a fond reminder of the past.

The city has an interesting anecdote behind its inception. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar during 1572-1585 AD. The childless Akbar, in crave of a son, went to the saint SalimChishti, who was residing at the then city Sikri, to seek his blessings.

Soon after this, the Emperor Akbar got blessed with a son. Thus, to show a gratitude to the Saint, the Emperor built his capital city. Since for the Emperor Akbar having a child was not less than a victory, he named it Fatehpur Sikri, meaning the ‘City of Victory’.

At present, the acclaimed Tomb of SalimChishti attracts thousands of people who seek blessings of the venerated saint or want to witness the awe-inspiring remains of the Mughal artistry. The well-maintained testimonies of the magnificent past, has made the city one of the prime tourist attraction of Uttar Pradesh.

The city is also adorned with some peppy and famous bazaars (markets), they are perfect for a shopping spree. The unprecedented grandeur and the vibrant bazaars (markets) of the city assures of a spell binding and an unforgettable experience.

The city is the finest blend of the splendid Indo-islamicarchitecture. Every corner speaks the valour and architectural intelligence of the Mughal Era. Its palaces are the remains of extravaganza of Mughals. Sitting on a rocky ridge, the city is a home to some magnificent structures and palaces. The prime attractions of the city are:

Diwan-e-KhasMeaning to be a ‘Hall of private audience’, it was used as a regal pavilion. The royal comrades used to assemble in the same hall to discuss the matters related to business, economical or other private affairs. It has mighty and richly carved pillar in the centre. You will find the kingly and imperial set up, adorned and built in Persian architectural framework, it perfectly portrays the royal era.

Diwan-e-aamforming an integral part of those kingly ancient times, this hall was meant for theaamgatherings viz. public gatherings and meetings. Situated in the heart of this city, it is an eye-grabbing and admirable structure. In stark contrast of the ornate embellishment of the diwan-i-khas, this hall was simple and sober. The Emperor Akbar used this place to interact with his subjects of common man to sort out their day to day issues.

Birbal BhawanBeing resident to the Birbal, one of the nine jewels of Akbar, this bhawan is the most fabled tourist attraction of the city. It is a notable monument among the amazing edifices scattered over the whole city. It connects ‘Hathi Pol’, a prominent city attraction via a screened pathway from the haram sara viaduct.

Ankh Micholi Treasury: Adding a great deal of value to the city, it stands to be one the eminent edifice in the city. It is a royal treasury of the then capital FatehpurSikri, during the reign of Akbar. Although the whole of it is a spectacular piece of architecture, but the Astrologer’s Seat, placed in the south western part of the structure, is a striking piece of architectural artistry. It probably seated the Akbar’s astrology Hindu Guru.

Salim Chishti Tomb: This tomb forms the phenomenal part of the city as the city was founded only because of the blessings of the saint, SalimChishti. Originally built with red stones is now entirely coveted in marbles. This white marbling tomb shines like a pearl among the rest of the red-stoned edifices. The pioneering feature of this tomb is the jalis or the latticed work which embellish the windows of the tomb.

Palace of Jodha Bai: As the name says, this place was the palace of Akbar’s Queen JodhaBai. It is a spellbinding concoction of the Rajput’s and Mughal’s architectural intricacies. The turquoise bricks, used in the roof of the palace, add to the beauty of the red-stones.

Panch Mahal: swayed by the architectural framework of the Buddhist temple, this palace was iused by the Emperor Akbar for relaxing his mind, away from his bustling kingdom. This placed was also used by his Queens to sight a full moon, which was a mesmerizing scene.

This place is a home to those awe-inspiring tales and eye-grabbing historical edifices that you cannot afford to miss. After all, a life left unconquered is a life not lived and what can be better than conquering the history.

 

Take a look at our package: Palaces, Forts & Beyond and explore the romance of India’s forts & palaces, their past glory, wars and warriors and garner a fascinating experience.

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Mumbai: a beloved home of Iranians http://www.indianfrontiers.com/mumbai-beloved-home-iranians/ Sat, 27 Apr 2019 05:54:15 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2813 Speaking a type of Mumbai language that can be seen mainly in Bollywood movies, “Mai paila seth hai jo apna girak ko bola hai ki maal kam leke jaao” (I am the only business man who tells his customers to buy less), Hassan Hajati explains why sometimes he convinces his customers to buy a tad […]

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Speaking a type of Mumbai language that can be seen mainly in Bollywood movies, “Mai paila seth hai jo apna girak ko bola hai ki maal kam leke jaao” (I am the only business man who tells his customers to buy less), Hassan Hajati explains why sometimes he convinces his customers to buy a tad less quantity so that it doesn’t go out of stock and more people can savour this delectable dessert.

Hassan’s Iranian Sweets Palace is a place where he sells a sweet made out of a 110-year-old recipe. And it opens only during the month of March to meet the Nouroz demands of the Parsis, Muslim Iranis and Zoroastrian Iranis in the city. Hassan is a thir-generation of the Irani Muslims.

The shop is located at a walking distance from the Old Persian style blue mosque – the Mughal Masjid, which was built 159 years ago in the Bhendi Bazaar. The Bhendi Bazaar is another symbol of lasting Iranians’ presence in Mumbai.

It was Hassan’s grandfather, Haji Ghulam Ali, who travelled to Indian in the year 1990 from the drought hit Central Iranian province of Yazd – in search of greener pasture just like many others.

Unlike other of his compatriots, Ali arrived here with enough money to set up his own tea house and sweets business. That time, there were some more Iranian-owned shops in the area selling baklavas but those wound up over the years.

This is a tradition, Hajati has kept going and his son is also interested in taking it forward. Although Hajati is reluctant to modern ovens or aluminium trays, he has a swanky website and encourages his customers to leave reviews and order in bulk on WhatsApp.

Moreover, Hassan supplies over a dozen varieties of Iranian nuts throughout the year. After the rial was weakened by the United States’ due to withdrawal from nuclear agreement with Iran and growth in reliance exports, the price of those Iranian nuts has rose.

He hopes the strict sanctions that were reinforced on the country during last year will soon come to an end. Hassan visits Iran annually right after Nauroz, to experience spring. And every time when he is in Iran, he always comes across such questions from someone there: “Agha, khun-e Amitabh Bacchan rafti? Salman Khan ra mi bini? (Agha, have been to Amitabh Bacchan’s house? Do you see Salman Khan?)

Some accounts reveal that migrations of Iranis started as early as mid-1700s. As Sunil Kavadi writes in his book Nakyavarch IRani (Irani around the corner) that the Zoroastrians form Yazd acquired from Parsis the fact that Mumbai was a land of promise and was soon followed by Irani Muslims.

There was an array of factors which kept bringing the Irani Muslims to India, including dry spells and famine, slumping economy under the Qajar rule and even an urge to escape the conscription of two years.

In most of the cases, families sent at least one son to India to earn who either set up work or got work at small restaurants.

With the rise of mills in Mumbai, a ready base sprung up fir thousands of hungry textile workers. Even Hyderabad and Pune have Irani pockets.

A misnomer based on a marker used to identify the Muslims among Iranis as “Mughal IRanis” in British-era documentation.

It was the British style of adding milk to tea which was adopted here, albeit in Iran black tea was prevalent.

Under the influence of Iran’s kahvekhane, these teahouses gradually became a hub of intellectuals and artists.

Many Iranians went back, when Mohammad Reza Shah visited India and called on the Iranians to return. Therefore, there are now likely 40 Iranian establishments left from among roughly 700 establishments which were there at that time. Sayed safari Ali, the owner of Lucky restraurant located in Bandra & the oldest Iranian still in the city’s food venture fabric, reckons that now some hundred families are remaining in the city.

There are many Mumbai Iranians who married women from Iran and have strong family as well as business ties in both the countries. They learnt Persian in schools and pick up bits of several Indian languages like their fellow Mumbaikars.

While some of them are simultaneously maintaining the tradition of selling Irani merchandise, others have opted for other professions.

Reza Kabul, who began his own architecture firm in the year 1988 out of mezzanine in Vorli venue of father’s Irani establishment’s empire, says – “India is his home and Iran is the motherland.”

Festivals, cultural events and tea still bind Iran together. Most who go out to explain the “haft-seen” – the seven times starting with the Persian letter ‘s’ which are arranged in a Nauroz table.

While most of them visit Iran for once every few years, for older Iranians like Lucky Resturant’s owner Safar Ali visits to the motherland have reduced. The 90 year old says “I have been tp Iran 5 times. Now I am contented here”. Adding in a poetic fashion, he says, “Wherever you go, the sky is of the same colour.”

 

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Discovered these 10 hidden historical gems of India yet? http://www.indianfrontiers.com/10-hidden-historical-gems-india/ Wed, 06 Mar 2019 07:04:30 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2790 India is a land with a rich past. As you set your foot in here, you will find remnants of this wonderful history unfolding at every turn. The history of India traces as early as 5000 years back when the first human settlement took place. From the great Mauryan Empire to the glorious Mughal Empire, […]

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India is a land with a rich past. As you set your foot in here, you will find remnants of this wonderful history unfolding at every turn.

The history of India traces as early as 5000 years back when the first human settlement took place. From the great Mauryan Empire to the glorious Mughal Empire, India has been home to some of the most magnificent rulers & reigns of the yore.

And this land still holds the testimony to the bygone era in the form of majestic monuments, forts, pillars, tombs, and ruins – with each of them narrating a story of valor, victory or love.

India has a vast collection of such historical gems, and while some are renown, some are still untouched by fame & glamour.

So, here we have tried to cover some amazing yet less-travelled historical places in India which are sure to intrigue you and arouse your wanderlust:

Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan

Located in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan, Kumbhalgarh is an iconic fort of Mewar. This fort is more of a mini fortified city. Originally, the fort is believed to have been constructed by the King Samprati o the Maurya Age. It was built by him during the 6th century due to a strategic significance. Kumbhalgarh is also known to have separated Marwar and Mewar from each other and was used to take refuge by the Mewar rulers in the times of danger.

The fort gives a vast exploration experience with 360 imposing temples. It also houses a sanctuary where you can take up heritage walks or indulge in adventure activities. The place is a perfect spot to explore and try out some amazing photography.

 

Osian, Rajasthan

Found in the Thar Desert, Osian is a small oasis housing many Buddhist & Jain temples. These temples date back to the 8th century. A few temples here remind you of the famous Khajuraho temples. Although the nearby sand dunes and monuments of Jodhpur overshadow the oasis, if you are a curious traveler, you would certainly hit the place.

 

Tughlaqabad, New Delhi

Do you want to witness how the ancient human civilization lived like? Then you must visit this Tughlaqabad, a ruined site of Mohenjodaro and Harappa civilization found in New Delhi.

Tughlaqabad was built by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq – Founder of Tughlaq Dynasty. The historic city of Delhi was established by him. The city was later abandoned in the year 1327. You can explore the several remarkable monumental structures and majestic stone fortifications surrounding the incomplete ground plan of the city. And you would be amazed by the level of architectural intelligence exhibited by the humans of ancient times. The city supposedly once has had around 52 gates of which only 13 are found today. The place is frequented by visitors for the purpose of sightseeing, photography and excursion.

 

Rabdentse, Sikkim                

           

If you love backpacking, this place would certainly impress you. Rabdentese is an ancient place in Sikkim. It served as the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814.

Presently, the ruins of the palaces and chortens (Buddhist shrines) are found here as the capital city was destroyed by the Gurkha army during their invasion. However, the major attraction of this place is Pemayangtse, one of the oldest monasteries in India. You can also catch splendid views of the Khanchedzonga ranges standing at the vantage point of this one-time capital city.

The Archaeological Survey of India has declared this fort to be of national significance. Several ruins of Buddhist culture can be seen here. These ruins are a part of the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in India. Along with historical remains, the place offers a lot of natural sightseeing.

 

Maluti Temples, Jharkhand

A collection of 72 extant ancient temples is located in a small town of Jharkhand – Maluti. These are terracotta temples with mural narrating the saga of Mahabharata and Ramayana. It is said that during the ancient times, devotees here used to sacrifice hundreds of goats in a ritual to woo the Goddess Kali.

According to ITRHD (Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development), Maluti were constructed between the 17th and 19th centuries. These temples were built by the kings of Baj Basanta dynasty inspired by Goddess Mowlakshi in their capital, Maluti. The temples here are dedicated to Lords Shiva, Vishnu and Goddesses Kali & Durga, while Goddes Mowlakshi is the tutelary deity. This site offers a lot to explore within its divine aura.

 

Aravalem Caves, Goa

Due to so many different picturesque beaches in and around it, Goa has become synonymous with beaches. This Indian state, however, has got many other attractions to explore, which usually go unnoticed.

One such historical place is the ancient Aravalem caves located in the north Goa, Bicholim. These caves are also knowns as Pandava cave owing to their link with Mahabharata. According to the legend of Mahabharata, the five Pandava brothers lived here with their wife, Draupadi. Another story tells that these caves are associated with the origin of Buddhism. So, if you are looking for a twist in your beach vacation in Goa, this place will surely mesmerize you with its rock-cut cave monuments and the waterfalls.

 

Basgo, Leh

Located at a distance of approx 40 KM from Leh, in a quaint town of Basgo, Basgo Monastery is a splendid Buddhist monastery. The monastery was constructed for the Namgyal rulers in 1680. Bazgo itself, however, was set up in early days of Ladakh and often find mention in the Chronicles of Ladakh. A palace was built in Basgo in the 15th Century.

The monastery is situated on the hilltop and its Buddha statue and murals are a major attraction. The complex also comprises of Chamchung, Chamba Lakhang, & Serzang temples. These temples are dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha.

The town of Basgo is itself a serene place where you can explore the sites, picnic with your friends or family or just enjoy some time in solace.

 

Rosary Church, Karnataka

Despite being one of the oldest historic sites, the Rosary Church in Karnataka sees less footfall. Rosary Church is a 200-year-old ruin built in Gothic architectural style. The nearby Hemavathi River manages to pull in few curious explorers annually. During the monsoon, the river overflows with water and eclipses the ruins. During the months of summer when the water in the river drains down, the ruins are out for sightseeing. It was constructed by French missionaries in the late 17th century.

 

Talatal Ghar, Assam

Talatal Ghar in Assam is the only building in the world that is constructed in Tai Ahom architectural style. It was built in the 17th century and is now in ruins. The monument spreads in a wide stretch, offering a wide expanse for exploration.

 

Lonar Crater Lake, Maharashtra

Lonar Crater Lake is a small meteor lake in Maharashtra. Several ancient temples and monuments, as old as the 6th century, surround the lake. The lake often sees Hollywood or Bollywood movie shoots. This lake is located at a distance of 140 km from Aurangabad, and the ambiance of the place is unbeatable.

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Unveiling the origin of India’s most loved cuisine –Biryani http://www.indianfrontiers.com/unveiling-origin-indias-loved-cuisine-biryani/ Mon, 25 Feb 2019 06:29:15 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2784 India is a land where at every turn you discover a whole new and wonderful food with unique flavours. Whether it is the Chola-Bhatora of the North or the Dosa of the South, India is indeed a land with wide range of cuisine. One dish, however, which unites every corner of this diverse nation and […]

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India is a land where at every turn you discover a whole new and wonderful food with unique flavours. Whether it is the Chola-Bhatora of the North or the Dosa of the South, India is indeed a land with wide range of cuisine. One dish, however, which unites every corner of this diverse nation and salivates the mouth of every foodie is – Biryani.

Briyani is one such dish for which Indians go crazy. Its mere mention is enough to strike a friendly conversation among a group and listen to the opinions about in which eatery it is served the best. Biryani has not only swayed Indians, but westerners coming to the sub-continent too relate quite well to it. Hardly there is any Indian restaurant which does not have Biryani on its menu.  However, do we really know enough about this dish as much as we love it? Did biryani really originate in India?

So, let us know how this drool worthy dish became a staple part of Indian cuisine.

The term biryani is derived from Persian word ‘birian’ which means ‘fried before cooking’. The origin of Biryani draws not from one but many stories pertaining to different regions.

If we refer to K.T. Achaya’s – ‘A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food’ and turn to the page which mentions about Biryani, it states that: “A spicy dish of meat cooked with rice, referred to by this term in the 13th century. Numerous variations occur all over India.”

We must know the chicken was first domesticated during the Indus Valley civilisation and from there it travelled to Europe. Archaeologists, however, have discovered ovens that looked quite like tandoors (a cylindrical clay or metal oven usually popular in North India). So, does that imply that tandoori dishes we gobble on are much older than we actually think them to be?

Also, while the tradition of rice in other parts of the world is comparatively less documented, India has some records of how our sumptuous rice dishes emerged. The origin of rice in India traces back to the time of Alexander the Great who arrived in India around 326 BC. Until then nobody in Europe had ever heard of rice. The rice in India was found by Alexander’s Greek Army who might have taken it back with them.

Moreover, the Western View says that it was Arabs who took rice all over the world. To prove the theory right, Paella, a Spanish dish, is the evidence of it as it originates from the rice dish of Arab cuisine. It is believed that Arabs planted rice in Spain and before that Spanish did not know about rice. Even in Italy, it was the Muslim travellers and traders who brought rice along with them and which is why rice only features in a very few Italian dishes like risotto.

A pack of Biryani tales…

Coming back to the origin of Biryani, there are not one but plenty of stories which tell its genesis. As per one legendary fable, it is believed that invader Taimur Lang, or Taimur, the crippled man from Kazakhstan brought biryani to the North India.

Another story that revolves around biryani’s creation is that Begum Mumtaz Mahal, in memory of whom Taj Mahal in Agra was built, was once pondering over providing a wholesome meal to feed the army. Then, the Begum came up with an idea of meat and rice being cooked together and that is how biryani came into being.

A part of biryani’s history considers that biryani was brought to India from Persia by the Mughals during their reign in India. Consequently, biryani established itself as an integral part of Indian Muslim cuisine in cities especially like Lucknow, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Another segment considers Arab traders as purported carriers of Biryani who crossed Arabian Sea to land in Calicut, and created the Calicut Biryani. The Calicut Biryani is lighter and softer in comparison to other versions of Biryani and is served with papads (Papadom – a thin, crisp, disc-shaped wafer from India fried in coconut oil) and Vinegar pickles.

Biryani has gained such an enormous popularity that different communities have shaped their own versions of it. Among all, the Awadhi or Luckhnawi biryani is considered to have reached the zenith. It is also the earliest instance of Mughlai biryanis in India. When biryani travelled to Awadh, the cooks here added more aroma to it and changed its cooking style, making it drier, yet more flavoursome.

Lucknow biryani is undoubtedly one dish which Lucknowites boast off all the time. Even visitors who come to explore this city never go back without gorging on Biryani. Awadhi Biryani is also referred to as ‘dum biryani’ because of its method of preparation, where – first rice and meat are cooked separately, then layered together and lastly the pots are sealed with a dough in order to infuse and cook in its own aroma and steam. The biryani is called ‘Pulao’ by the people as for them there’s no distinction between Biryani & Pulao and only Hotels call it Biryani.

As the legend has it, in 1856, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled from Lucknow to Calcutta upon annexation of Awadh (Oudh) by British and henceforth the Biryani travelled with him from Lucknow to Calcutta. This led to the birth of Calcutta Biryani (Kolkata biryani) – characterised by being mildly spicy and comes with the variant of a hard-boiled egg (referred as ‘deem’ in Bengali) and boiled-potato, the Bengali staple apart from the meat. The expensive cost of meat led to potato being used as a substitute – a distinctive feature of Kolkata biryani. It is said that at one time, in Calcutta, the biryani paved its way into the homes of poor as they could not pay for meat daily.

 

The widely craved Hyderabadi Biryani also has a citation in history. When Biryani reached the state of Hyderabad, the sour flavours of Deccan were infused in it. It is believed to have been created in the kitchens of Nizams of Hyderabad. Hyderabadi Biryani is considered as a melange of Iranian and Mughlai cuisine. It is considered that Aurangzeb on his intrusion of the south appointed the nizam-ul-mulk (Prime Minter) who later as the Asaf Jahi ruler became the Nizam of Hyderabad – which is self explanatory, how biryani came down to South India from the North.

There exists a notable variant of Hyderabad Biryani known as ‘Arcot Biryani’, which entails use of smaller grains of rice variety.

So, how did biryani permeated the other parts of India like Mysore or Malabar?

The biryani made on the Malabar Coast is one of the country’s best found biryani. Although it varies a lot from the biryani you find in Lucknow or in Delhi. This difference is in terms of taste and looks. However, it is recognisably a biryani as the rice and meat are cooked separately.

The signature method of biryani is rice and meat cooked separately.

The Mysore Biryani owes its traces to the Tipu Sultan of Karnataka who brought it to Mysore.

So, the standard theory suggests that Biryani was introduced in India by the Mughals or Arabs just through different routes. Nevertheless, certain questions still remain unanswered. Like, why do Malayalis use the Persian term ‘biryani’ if they believe it is something they created on their own?

There could also be a possibility that Indians, on their own, have age old traditions of cooking rice and meat together.

Different stories circulating around Biryani from different regions and each claiming this dish to be its own, leaves so much to explore by historians and foodies alike. Biryani is one dish that fascinates the most and has no other equivalent in Indian cuisine.

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Unique Christmas Celebrations of India http://www.indianfrontiers.com/unique-christmas-celebrations-india/ Sat, 01 Dec 2018 11:33:51 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2772 Christmas is one festival that has become a part of Indian social fabric and is celebrated all over India as if it belongs to each community be it Hindu, Muslims or Sikhs. It has taken a form of a social festival rather than religious.

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Christmas is one festival that has become a part of Indian social fabric and is celebrated all over India as if it belongs to each community be it Hindu, Muslims or Sikhs. It has taken a form of a social festival rather than religious. In this article we have tried to cover some of its unique celebrations across India and also how Christmas influences its food and music during the festive period…..

Christmas in Kochi

Christmas celebrated in Kochi (also known as Cochin) is known for three reasons. First, the famous Cochin Carnival coincides with the festival. The carnival begins before Christmas and ends in the New Year. Second, singing of Christmas carols is not limited to churches alone. The singing commences before Christmas and continues up to New Year’s Eve. Third, on New Year’s Eve, Santa Claus’ mannequin is burnt in Kochi which showcases the burning of the past and complimenting of the new. A big Santa’s mannequin is also burnt on beach by the organisers of the Cochin Carnival.

On this occasion, if one also wishes to witness the age old charming Indo-European church service, then he should attend the Midnight Mass at Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica. Another church that takes you back into history is Saint Francis Church. Once, at the site, Vasco Da Gama, a famous Portuguese explorer, was buried. Then, one should also try the family Christmas breakfast that consists of traditional beef stew which is eaten with bread or appam (a kind of pancake). It is the head of the family who is responsible for serving the stew. A number of families in Kochi also brew wine on this occasion. Some of them make wine in excess for commercial reasons.

Christmas in the Indian State of Goa

You may not know, but the most exciting Christmas celebrations happen in the Indian state of Goa and it is also the most favourite of the festivals celebrated in the state. During Christmas one will find the main streets, lanes and by-lanes bustling with people, old and young, men and women and even transgender who come out to celebrate the festival of joy that marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Old women, referred to as aunties, distribute sweets to their neighbours and friends around. In fact, the festivities are more intensely experienced in the old areas of the state’s capital, Panaji (also known as Panjim). These areas constitute what is known as the Latin Quarter of Goa. The traditional houses built in the 1800s and coloured in pastel shades along the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Panaji are brightly lit up with traditional Christmas decorations that include the Christmas paper star, ribbons, banters and other wall hangings. If one wants to get a real feel of the Goan Christmas that one should visit the Venite Restaurant and enjoy a sumptuous dinner just like the locals and quite non-touristy do on the eve of Christmas. After the dinner comes the most awaited part of the festival, the Midnight Mass at Saint Sebastian’s Chapel where thousands of Christians and non-Christians gather to celebrate the birth of the Lord. After this Mass which is a sight to behold, there comes another phase which may be witnessed nowhere else in the world, when people greet each other in multiple languages such as Portuguese, Konkani and English. When one walks through the streets, lanes and by-lanes of Panaji, there is a social norm when people display on the tables set outside their houses for serving Christmas cakes and coffee to all the passer-bys and not only to the ones whom they know.

Christmas in the Indian State of Meghalaya

The beginning of Yule time in the city of Shillong is essentially marked by selling of holly by the women from nearby villages. They can be spotted selling the same in baskets made of hollow stems of plants such as bamboo at the busy intersection of Motphran. During the Christmas season, the shopping activity at Police Bazaar, the main market of the city, gains momentum. One can be there either to shop or to witness the adorned main intersection located nearby. Here, traditional foods such as doh jem (a preparation of meat), putharo (rice cakes cooked by steaming), jadoh (a preparation of rice and meat) and doh sniang nei-iong (a preparation of pork and sesame) constitute an integral part of the Christmas celebrations. Home cooked versions of them are par excellence. Even so, their counterparts can be enjoyed in a local eatery. Next, the special food preparations from Garo are mainly pork based. They include wak pura, chambil wak and khappa. A local Garo sweet dish, sakin gata (a cake preparation of sticky rice) is particularly enjoyed during the Christmas. Also, during this festive season one can expect serving of, almost across Shillong, a few varieties of cakes with tea.

Carol singing of Shillong is extremely famous. Not only Khasi version of the traditional English Christmas songs, but also certain original compositions can be enjoyed here. Then, the festival of Christmas is celebrated in the Garo Hills in a unique manner. Every village in the region constructs its own phasa, i.e., a structure resembling a hut, which acts as the centre for the celebrations.  The villagers gather here to sing Christmas songs in Garo to the traditional drums’ beats. The area celebrations are also well-known for tall Christmas trees.

Christmas in the National Capital Territory of Delhi

People of Delhi usually visit Sadar Bazaar for economical Christmas shopping and Khan Market in order to witness the festival decorations.  While local Christians bake Christmas cakes at their homes, others have to depend on the many confectionaries selling them. Talking about the cakes prepared at home, first their ingredients are bought from Khari Baoli. Next, the component items are mixed well at home. Thereafter, the mixture is taken to small bakeries for baking. Nevertheless, one can also enjoy this homemade version of the cake by simply contacting certain suppliers for the purpose.

One should visit the Cathedral Church of Redemption on Christmas Eve for the Midnight Mass. Besides being a heritage site, it is situated in the President’s Estate. Cakes and coffee are served after the Service. The foods associated with the festivals of North India influence the Christmas preparations in Delhi. Thus, one can expect to enjoy gujiya (a kind of pastry) Indian version of a puff pastry), a dish particularly associated with the north Indian festival of Holi, during the Christmas season. Then, at this time of the year Mughal cuisines take priority over the delicacies of the amalgamated Indo-Gangetic culture of the northern belt of India. That is why Yakhni Pulao (a kind of pilaf) is considered as an important Christmas dish.

Christmas in the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry

There are a few very old shops in Puducherry (also known as Pondicherry) famous for Christmas shopping. Certain local food manufacturers from Auroville are particularly known for their Christmas cakes and the associated assorted varieties. While in Puducherry, the French influence can be felt everywhere as the place was once ruled by the French. Thus, on the occasion of Christmas, many French restaurants serve the relevant specialities. Concurrently, one can also come across French products being sold outside the big church of Puducherry.

Christmas in Mumbai

Mumbai (also known as Bombay) is hit by the Christmas festivity much ahead of the event. By early December, one comes across shops selling Christmas stuff flooding the city locations of Bandra’s Hill Road, Malad’s Orlem and the neighbourhoods of Borilvali’s IC Colony. They can be spotted selling plastic trees, Santa hats and various shapes of marzipan. During the season, a comprehensive view of certain churches such as Mount Mary’s Basilica in Bandra, Holy Name Cathedral in Colaba, Gloria Church in Byculla and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Chembur offers a fascinating display of the local Christmas celebrations. Then, through witnessing carol singing in the city’s churches during evenings, one can also become a part of the early celebrations. Interesting Hindi, Marathi and Konkani versions of the carols can be enjoyed in a number of churches.

Formally, Christmas celebrations in Mumbai start after the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The Services are held at vast grounds by certain churches that yearly witness a large crowd. In order to stay within the 10 pm deadline for loudspeakers’ usage, they start their Services at 8 pm. One should try arriving at the venue much before as the seats get quickly filled. Then, on Christmas day, all the churches in Mumbai remain open for Services almost the entire morning. One need not regret, in case he, on the occasion, cannot become a part of a local family lunch or dinner. He can purchase a ticket for a night-long Christmas dance, dress well, and get himself a dancing partner. All the clubs in the city organise the event. Nevertheless, in order to experience the associated true Christmas spirit, one should contact and accompany a member to the Catholic Gymkhana on Marine Drive, the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santacruz, or the Bandra Gym.

Christmas in Kolkata

Christmas celebration in the city of Kolkata (also known as Calcutta) is a unique blend of various local Indian ways of celebrating the festival. The commencement of the Christmas season in the city is marked by the commercial exchange of festival decorations at stalls set in New Market. Although mouth-watering varieties of Christmas cakes are sold by several good confectionaries of the city, yet the cakes of Nahoum and Sons are considered by many as unparalleled. The Anglo-Indian families of Kolkata additionally prepare tasty treats such as Rose Cookies and Kulkuls (a kind of sweet snacks). In order to enjoy these homemade items one either needs to be acquainted with such a family or should be able to persuade someone belonging to the like family to offer the same for a certain amount of money.

In fact, one can easily buy such goodies from the residents of the area of Bow Barracks, largely occupied by Anglo-Indian families, in Kolkata. These families also arrange a week-long celebration of the festival in the area where all are welcome irrespective of their religious backgrounds.

Kolkata is also known for clubs.  Unlike other cities of India where the club members are essentially the ones who come from a wealthy background, several clubs in Kolkata have members belonging to the middle-class as well. Christmas parties are held in almost all of them. Except at Dalhousie Institute which has a number of Anglo-Indians as its members since inception, the Christmas party at many clubs is generally held on Christmas Eve. At Dalhousie Institute, the party celebrations are held after the Midnight Mass. On this occasion, a visitor can also, by getting in touch with one of the members of the clubs, become a part of the Christmas party. The state government of West Bengal has been, since past few years, arranging celebrations extending from Christmas to New Year at Park Street. Then, certain institutions and restaurants like Mocambo and Peter Cat at old Park Street are flooded with merrymakers. Also, a round the year popular breakfast hub at Park Street known as Flury’s is a must-visit on Christmas and New Year.

Christmas in Bilaspur

Until the last generation, every Anglo-Indian family of the city of Bilaspur had been associated with Indian railways. In fact, in the past, many Anglo-Indians in the country served Indian railways. Once, an old institute or club of the city was run by the Anglo-Indian Association of Bilaspur. It housed a dance hall and had adequate provisions for playing games such as billiards, snooker, cards and others. Then, the celebrations of Christmas and New Year were held at an impressive level in the institute. Recently, Indian railways took over the place and converted it into one of their offices.

Till date, Christmas Ball is arranged by the Association. Then, during the ball, the music associated with Jim Reeves and country songs is still played in the background and ladies attend the event dressed up. Also, old Anglo-Indian cherished eats such as mulligatawny soup, yellow rice and ball curry are served at this social event. A visitor can also become a part of the Christmas celebrations associated with similar old railway colony clubs provided he contacts a member and hands out to him around Rupees 400.

Christmas in the Indian State of Jharkhand

In the town of Ghatsila, Christmas is, more or less, a silent event. There are two churches located in Moubhandar, namely, Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church and Grace Union Protestant Church. On the occasion of Christmas, both the churches not only are beautifully lit, but also play recorded Christmas songs in Sadri and Hindi. To listen to such pleasing compositions would be a remarkable experience for someone familiar with the English versions. Then, on the occasion of the festival delicacies such as different varieties of cakes and arsa pitah (a sweet dish) are prepared. Their counterparts, however, of fruit and plum cakes can be relished at the ICC Bakery. The bakery also, on request, prepares other festival specific dishes. Then, picnics are arranged at certain locations near Ghatsila such as the Subarnarekha river bank, Burudih Dam, Galudih barrage and Purnapani. While in town, one may consider visiting them. Christmas celebration in the city of Pakur is almost similar to the one of Ghatsila except that the festivity here is easily communicable.  Must-visit house of worship of city is the Bengali Methodist Church and its surrounding area of the Jidato Mission campus.

Some Traditional Indian Christmas Foods

Once, on the occasion of Christmas, the dining tables of the families of Kochi-in the state of Kerala-were almost occupied by duck curry prepared in vinegar, potatoes and coconut milk, pork roast, a fried ‘chicken roast’, koorka ularthiyathu, i.e., Chinese potates and peanuts, pomfret in coconut milk, red rice, plum cake and appams. Nowadays, across India, unique and distinct delicacies are prepared in the households of various Indian communities. The platter, usually, consists of an exceptional blend of the festival specific traditional regional and international foods. Notably, the Christmas food of Syrian Christians of Kerala is influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese, British, Arabic and perhaps Chinese cookeries. Then, the Indian chefs also draw on inspiration from their respective family methods to prepare relevant culinary delights.  Next, the local festive dishes from Goa in India are known for their richness. They include shrimp pilaf with prawn wafers and pork roulade with roast potatoes.

Today, plum cake has acquired the status of being the characteristic Christmas food in India. Besides being gifted to India by the British, the dish exceptionally cuts through the many diverse communities of the country and unites its citizens in the spirit of Christmas. Then, it is also a popular confectionery item of the country besides crunchy kulkuls, cashew-based marzipan, guava cheese, rose cookies and coconut stuffed neurios (curved sweet puffs stuffed with coconut). In fact, Allahabadi Christmas Cake of Bushy’s bakery in Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad) is the noteworthy version of the plum cake from India. It is prepared from petha (a dessert made from pumpkin), murabba (a kind of sweet fruit jelly), ghee (a kind of clarified butter), fruit peels, nuts and garam masala (a mixture made from spices such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamom).

At Mangaluru (also known as Mangalore) in Karnataka, on the occasion of the festival, mainly coconut flavoured rice laddoos (a kind of Indian sweets made of rice and coconut), jaggery and cardamom powder are served. Then, the local communities of Mumbai are known for the occasional serve of Mangalorean pork curries such as pork bafat and indad. Next, during the festive season, Goans, East Indians of Mumbai and Catholics from Mangaluru offer traditionally a platter of homemade sweets known as kuswar to guests and loved ones. However, in the recent years, commercial variety of kuswar has gained prominence. East Indian kuswar typically includes milk cream, date rolls and thali sweets (sweets served on a metal plate).

Many of us know that turkey is the most popular Christmas food item worldwide. Similarly, Christmas food preparations in Goa is characterised by the inclusion of pork. Here, during Christmas lunch, primarily, pork sorpotel (a pork dish)-following cooking, it is kept aside for a month to develop flavour-or vindaloo (a hot spicy curry) is served. In addition, food items such as sanna (a spongy, fermented rice bread), prawn pulao (a prawn pilaf), chicken cafreal (a kind of spicy chicken food), stuffed pomfret or mackerel with recheado masala (a masala paste for stuffing), beef or chicken roulade and an array of cutlets may be included in the meal.

Next, on Christmas, at the dining tables of the Catholic East Indian community, young roasted pig stuffed with chorizo, bread, vegetables and liver holds the spotlight. In fact, the Christmas dishes of Mumbai share a lot in common with their Goan counterparts. Despite the situation, there exist certain minor differences, such as the use of a unique blend of almost thirty spices known as bottle masala. The cause of such subtle differences may be attributed to the dissimilar cultural backgrounds of the places. While the former bears a mixed influence of the English and the Portuguese cultures, the latter, primarily, displays the influence of the Portuguese culture.

Distinct Christmas food items are prepared by each tribe of the state of Nagaland. However, the delicacy of pork barbecue or pork curry is, on the festive occasion, cooked unanimously by all the tribes. The preparation of this common delicacy includes the usage of fresh bamboo shoots, kidney beans, akhuni (a fermented soybean food) or anishi (colocasia) with a yam base. Another version of the dish is prepared through treating fish, meat and rice stuffed in bamboo vessels with steam for a considerable period of time. Following this, other Christmas specialities of the state include Naga rice soup and dry bamboo shoot salad.

Christmas Songs of India

During Christmas, the church choirs across India can be usually witnessed singing a certain number of hymns in one of the regional languages of the country.

Till date, many Indians associate Christmas music with Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolf, O Little Town of Bethlehem and Mary’s Boy Child. Other, but little known, compositions are also seldom heard. The little common belief of a majority of Indian Christmas songs being almost a reproduction of their Western counterparts is maintained amongst the countrymen. However, the truth is far away from this held opinion.

In the local churches, throughout the year, supplementary divine music can also be enjoyed in the regional languages. Yet, the same almost does not hold true with regards to the songs sung on the occasion of Christmas.

As a matter of fact, traditional Christmas songs are, until the present time, enjoyed across the world. In India, novel relevant compositions are in moderate demand. Two reasons can be attributed to the fact. First, it is hard for one to part from the traditions associated with the festival and second, being a yearly celebration, none feel dissatisfied hearing the relevant customary songs again.

Next, Christmas is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the Indian states of Nagaland and Mizoram. In these states one can hear some of the best church choirs of the country. Their brilliance is majorly ascribed to the weekly and, at times, daily proper practice.

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Apostle St. Thomas in Chennai (Madras) http://www.indianfrontiers.com/apostle-st-thomas-chennai-madras/ Tue, 13 Nov 2018 07:18:32 +0000 http://www.indianfrontiers.com/?p=2755 Historically speaking, Saint Thomas was the first person who introduced the Indians to the faith of Christianity. He was one of the twelve disciples of Lord Jesus Christ. On reaching India in 52 AD, he first stepped on the Indian soil of Malabar Coast. In the present day Chennai, St. Thomas is almost forgotten[..]

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Many letters were written by a subordinate priest, now, Rev. Father P.J. Lawrence Raj to Catholic bishops in anticipation of a response. Upon witnessing failure, he instead wrote to offices publishing religious periodicals on Christianity.

Historically speaking, Saint Thomas was the first person who introduced the Indians to the faith of Christianity. He was one of the twelve disciples of Lord Jesus Christ. On reaching India in 52 AD, he first stepped on the Indian soil of Malabar Coast. In the present day Chennai, St. Thomas is almost forgotten. The letters written by Fr. Raj serve as an attempt in solving this problem.

In Chennai, on a small hill known as St. Thomas Mount that looks down at the Chennai airport, Fr. Raj wrote the letters. It is believed that St. Thomas was murdered at the same site by a group of Hindus. They killed him as he attempted Indians consider Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.

Fr. Raj remarks that in India St. Thomas stands as a great example of a true Christian. That is why he feels so connected to him. Nonetheless, Indians still doubt the saint’s close connection with their country.

During his thirty six years of service, Fr. Raj served at some of the finest churches of Chennai. The series includes Santhome Basilica, where St. Thomas is buried; Velankanni Church of Mother Mary; and Little Mount Church, wherein he is currently serving. Little Mount Church is believed to be the site where St. Thomas hid from his murderers in a cave.

In Chennai, the apostle is believed to have stayed and preached the gospel for more than thirteen years. In fact, many constructions in the city, including roads, churches and hospitals are named after him. However, the festivals dedicated to him no longer draw thousands of people. Instead, they are overshadowed by other festivals such as the popular Velankanni festival.

Fr. Raj thoughtfully says that the Indians do not know what happened in the period between the events when St. Thomas was put to death and the first arrival of the Portuguese, who were primarily devotees of Our Lady, in India. However, after this period, the Tamils’ devotion to Our Lady became strong. Then, in the 1970s when the Velankanni Church came into existence at Besant Nagar in Chennai, this devoutness became stronger. Also, number of people from Tamil Nadu shares a similar attachment with either St. Francis Xavier or other saints of the recent times such as Mother Teresa. It is the common man from Tamil Nadu who largely neglected the apostle instead of the regional priests. Nevertheless, the natives of Kerala have continued, since more than two thousand years, to remain attached to St. Thomas. In fact, the Malayalis like to be called as St. Thomas Christians.

Efforts made by Fr. Raj to bring back the almost lost glory of the apostle to the Roman Catholic community of Chennai have been aggressive in nature. Similar efforts carried over by him, but at a high level, are manifested in the tasks of renovation. For instance, Santhome Basilica was renovated by him during the early 2000s. St. Thomas is buried in a room under the floor of this church. According to Fr. Raj, the tomb is symbolic of the first preaching of the gospel in India. The renovation work was carried out for Rupees 67 lakh in order to make the privileged church more visitors friendly. Likewise, he is trying to renovate Little Mount Church where he is presently serving. He also renovated St. Teresa’s Church located in Nungambakkam.  In fact, a large number of various tasks relevant to the work of renovation were carried over ceaselessly by him even when he faced allegations of dishonestly using the provided funds for the purpose.

At Little Mount Church, an elderly little man known as D’Cruz is in the pursuit of the same cause. He claims to be connected with St. Thomas in an unparalleled way. Then, he is proficient in four languages.

D’Cruz serves as the local guide of Little Mount Church. We know that the church is believed to be the site linked to the cave wherein the apostle hid from his murderers. The guide remarks that the existing narrow opening in the cave was originally not open. However, it did open after the apostle offered a prayer to Lord Jesus Christ. Then, at the site, while guiding someone to the cave, D’Cruz takes occasional stops to point the spots where St. Thomas placed his hand, foot and knee.

The grace of Lord Jesus Christ in the guide’s life is expressed by him in his dialogue of the miracles happened in his lifetime and his arrival at Little Mount Church. He also expresses his gratitude for Mother Mary. The faith of D’Cruz is portrayed in his mention of the Holy Cross and the holy water of the fountain that satisfied the St. Thomas’ thirst during his last hours on the earth.

D’Cruz remains always mindful of his duties at Little Mount Church. He not only prioritises various tasks well, but also deals with them appropriately.

Fr. Raj’s efforts are being carried over well at the fundamental level by D’Cruz. Another Anglo Indian, Aubrey Laulman also works almost as a guide at St. Thomas Mount Church with the same objective. After getting his daughters married, he started with the work in 2010. He recollects the unforgettable moment when upon trembling on the steps that led to St. Thomas Mount, he felt a gentle and irresistible push to go ahead and start the work associated with the revival of the almost forgotten apostle in the region. He also showcases to the visitors a miracle in the form of a cross cut by the apostle using his hands alone at the site of St. Thomas Mount.

Laulman states that during the period when St. Thomas was in India, he carried out the noble work of spreading the gospel and performing miracles in the public with the grace of the Lord.

Unlike the present times of satellite dishes, people then prayed a lot. His words, spoken with delight, echoed in the church.

While D’Cruz and Laulman are trying to make St. Thomas relevant among the visitors in their respective churches, Fr. Raj is focusing, in other ways, on the purpose of making everyone on the planet aware of the significant contribution made by the apostle to India. The parish priest remarks that after taking over Little Mount Church two years ago, besides starting the renovation work at the site he made The Feast of St. Thomas an eleven days long festival instead of the then prevalent three-day event. He is also trying to make the celebration as popular as the festival of The Feast of Our Lady, celebrated after Easter.

In order to witness this relation of the apostle with the Indian sub continent region, one should visit, in addition to the Indian state of Kerala, the three important churches located in the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai. Truly, Little Mount Church, St. Thomas Mount Church and Santhome Basilica stand as unique testimonies of this relationship.

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