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Culture

Music and Dance          Cuisine          Shopping

 

Music and Dance

Indian music (Hindustani in the north and Carnatic in the south) has been evolving as part of India’s culture for centuries. Aspects of musical from such as tonal intervals, harmonies and rhythmical patterns are the unique products of a wealth of musical traditions and influences; they are also very different from those familiar in the west. Much of the music recalls Indian fables and legends, as well as celebrating the seasonal rhythms of nature. Indian dancing, similarly unique and timeless, is also widely performed throughout the country, either at major festivals and recitals, or at the many cultural shows which are staged in hotels.
 

Music Festivals
The following is a list of the major music festivals in India :

  • Sangeet Natak Akademi - New Delhi.

  • January: Tyagaraja - Tiruvayyaru, near Thanjavur.

  • March: Shankar Lal - New Delhi.

  • August: Vishnu Digambar -New Delhi.

  • September: Bhatkhande - Lucknow.

  • October: Sadarang - Calcutta.

  • November: Sur-Singar - Bombay.

  • December: Tansen - Gwalior. Music Academy - Madras. Shanmukhananda - The Music, Dance, and Drama Festival, Bombay. The visitor may also be lucky enough to witness dancing at a village festival or a private wedding.

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Cuisine

The unforgettable aroma of India is not just the heavy scent of jasmine and roses on the warm air. It is also the fragrance of spices so important to Indian cooking - especially to preparing curry. The world "curry" is an English derivative of "kari", meaning soice sauce, but curry does not, in India, come as a powder. It is the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed. Like an artist’s palette of oil paints, the Indian cook has some twenty-five spices (freshly ground as required) with which to mix the recognized combinations or "masalas". Many of these spices are also noted for their medicinal properties. They, like the basic ingredient, vary from region to region. Although not all Hindus are vegetarians, you will probably eat more vegetable dishes than is common in Europe, particularly in South India. Indian vegetables are cheap, varied and plentiful and superbly cooked.
 

Broadly speaking, meat dishes are more common in the north, notably, Rogan Josh (curried lamb), Gushtaba (spicey meat balls in yoghurt), and the delicious Biriyani (chicken or lamb in orange flavoured rice, sprinkled with sugar and rose water). Mughlai cuisine is rich, creamy, deliciously spiced and liberally sprinkled with nuts and saffron. The ever popular Tandoori cooking (chicken, meat or fish marinated in herbs and baked in a clay oven) and kebabs are also northern cuisine.
 

In the south, curries are mainly vegetable and inclined to be more hot. Specialities to look out for are Bhujia (vegetable curry), Dosa, Idli and Sambar (rice pancakes, dumplings with pickles and vegetable and lentil curry), and Raitas (yoghurt with grated cucumber and mint). Coconut is a major ingredient of South Indian cooking. On the West coast there is a wide choice of fish and shellfish; Bombay duck (curried or fried bomnloe fish) and pomfret (Indian salmon) are just two. Another specialty is the Parsi Dhan Sak (lamb or chicken cooked with curried lentils) and Vindaloo vinegar marinade. Fish is also a feature of Bengali cooking as in Dahi Maach (curried fish in yoghurt flavoured with turmeric and ginger) and Malai (curried prawn with coconut).
 

One regional distinction is that whereas in the south rice is the staple food, in the north this is supplemented and sometimes substituted by a wide range of flat breads, such as Pooris, Chappatis and Nan. Common throughout India is Dhal (crushed lentil soup with various additional vegetables), and Dhai, the curd or yoghurt which accompanies the curry. Besides being tasty, it is a good "cooler"; more effective than liquids when things get too hot. Sweets are principally milk based puddings, pastries and pancakes. Available throughout India is Kulfi, the Indian ice cream, Rasgullas (cream cheese balls flavoured with rose water), Gulab Jamuns (flour, yoghurt and ground almonds), and Jalebi (pancakes in syrup). Besides a splendid choice of sweets and sweetmeats, there is an abundance of fruit, both tropical - mangoes, pomegranates and melons - and temperate apricots, apples and strawberries. Western confectionery is available in major centres. It is common to finish the meal by chewing Pan as a digestive. Pan is a betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamon.
 

Another custom is to eat with your fingers but remember only of the right hand ... Besides the main dishes, there are also countless irresistible snacks available on every street corner, such as samosa, fritters, dosa and vada. For the more conservative visitor, western cooking can always be found. Indeed, the best styles of cooking from throughout the world can be experienced in the major centres in India. Tea is India’s favourite drink,and.many of the varieties are famous the world over. It will often come ready brewed with milk and sugar unless "tray tea",is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular..Nimbu Pani (lemon drink), Lassi (iced buttermilk) and coconut milk straight from the nut are cool and refreshing. Soft drinks (usually sweet) and bottled water are widely available, as, are ’Western alcoholic drinks. Indian beer and gin are comparable with the world’s best, and are not expensive. Note that Liquor Permits are required in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
 

The variety of Indian cooking is immense, it is colourful and aromatic, it can be fiery or not as desired and it is inexpensive even at the top class hotels. No wonder, then that it is now the third most popular cuisine in the world nor will it be any more surprising when it becomes the first.

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Shopping

The Indian craftsman has been perfecting his art for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from generation to generation. Each region has its own specialities, each town its own local craftsmen, its own particular skills. The results is a consummate blend of ancient skills and modern aesthetics. Silks, spices, jewellery and many other Indian products have long been famous and widely desired, and merchants would travel thousands of miles, willingly enduring the hardships and privations of the long journey in other to make their purchases. Nowadays, the marketplaces of the subcontinent are only 9 hours away, and for fabrics, silverware, carpets, leatherwork, antiques the list is endless India is a shopping paradise. Goods are exotic, attractive, beautiful hand-crafted and excellent value for money. Half the fun when buying goods in the bazaars is the bargaining, and you can always check for reasonable prices at state-run emporiums. Below are some of the best buys, either for the souvenir hunter or the connoisseur.

FABRICS :
One of India’s main industries, silks, cottons, and wools rank amongst the best in the world. Of the silks the brocades from Varanasi are among the most famous variety; other major centres include Patna, Murshidabad,Surat and  Kanchipuram. Rajasthan cotton with its famous "tie and die" design is usually brillantly colourful, while Madras cotton is known for its attractive "bleeding" effect after a few washes. Throughout the country may be found the "himroo" cloth, a mixture of silk and cotton, often decorated with patterns. Kashmir sells beautiful woollens particularly shawls.

CARPETS :
India has one of the world’s largest carpet industries, and many examples of her ancient and beautiful craft can be seen in museums throughout the world. Kashmir has a long history of carpet making, influenced by the Persians. Pure wool and woven and silk carpets are exquisitely made, and can be bought for a fraction of the cost that one would pay in the west. Each region will have its own specialty; such as the distinctive, bright coloured Tibetan rugs, available mainly in Darjeeling.

CLOTHES :
Clothes are very cheap to buy, and can be tailor made in some shops, usually very quickly. Choose from an unmatchable range; silks, cottons, himroos, brocades, chiffons, chignons, touched with streaks of silver and gold thread, set with sequins or semi-precious gems...

JEWELLERY :
Particularly of Rajasthan (Kundan), is traditionally heavy and stunningly elaborate. Indian silverwork is world-famous. Gems can be bought and mounted. Apart from diamonds, other stones include lapis lazuli, Indian star rubies, star sapphires, moonstones and aquamarine. Hyderabad is one of the world’s leading centres for pearls.

HANDICRAFTS AND LEATHERWORK :
Once again, each area will have its own specialty; the vast range includes fine bronzes, brasswork (often inlaid with silver), canework and pottery. Papier Mache is a characteristic Kashmir product, some decorated with gold leaf. Marble and alabaster inlay work, such as chess sets and ornamental plates, are a specialty of Agra. Good leatherwork buys includes open India sandals and slippers.

WOODWORK :
Sandalwood carvings from Karnataka, rosewood from Kerala and Madras, Indian walnut from Kashmir. These are often exquisite and make excellent presents.

OTHER BUYS :
Foods such as pickles, spices and Indian tea, perfumes, soap, handmade paper, Orissan playing cards, musical instruments- anything that takes your fancy.

NOTE :
It is forbidden to export antiques and art objects over 100 years old, animal skins or objects made from skins.

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  Information provided by Department of Tourism. Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Government of India.

 

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