Mysore, locally known as Mysuru was the prominent city of Karnataka prior to Bangalore. This mystical and mythological city derives its name from the buffalo headed demon Mahishasur who is known to have been slain atop the Chamundi Hills by Goddess Chamundeshwari, an avatar of Parvati. The 10 day dussehra festival is organized every year to celebrate this victory of the good over the evil. The city can boast of its rich past given to it generously by the dynasty of the Wodeyars, which has created such an appealing charm about the city that it can enthrall tourists even to this day.
Culture of India is a complex phenomenon. In its broadest sense, it includes everything a society does. It can also be limited to a particular social class (working class culture) or genre (literature, music). Still it’s always near to impossible to define what exactly a popular culture constitutes. Contrary to what may appear from outside; to Indians, there is no such thing as Indian culture in sense of a uniform manner of doing something. There is little common between the Punjabi culture with its emphasis on having fun and the Bengali culture with its emphasis on intellectualism. In the south, a person from Kerala finds the food from Andhra too spicy for their tongue. The seven states in the northeast are home to thousands of tribes and regions, each boasting of a rich history and unique culture. So the term ‘culture of India‘ has little meaning, unless it’s used an amalgamation of a score of different cultures within the country. Nonetheless, it is thought that the culture of India stems from its ancient history from the amalgamation of the Aryan nomads that migrated from the Central Asia through Afghanistan and settled in India with the natives of the valley of the Indus River of Dravidian descent.
India has to be one of very few countries in the world where one can legally stand on the street and have a cannabis drink without being arrested. The reality is that, cannabis so ingrained in the culture of India that the authorities are unable to criminalise it fully. Although selling of cannabis is prohibited in India, it’s readily available and no attempts are made to arrest the sellers. In fact, cannabis plants are native to India and are often a nuisance in many Indian gardens and fields across the country.
Bhang (cannabis, marijuana) is made from the buds and leaves of female cannabis plant. Through production and selling of cannabis is illegal in the country, bhang remains legal at some places due to cultural and religious reasons. In my home town of Patna, you’ll fine women selling bhang goli (bhang balls) on the streets at the famous Patna Market.
Hindu holy men have used marijuana for centuries and they believe that it’s the best way to worship and understand Lord Shiva, one of the powerful gods of the Hindu trinity. In addition, according to the Vedas, the cannabis plant was considered as one of the many sacred plants.
Hindi is an Indo-European language which its roots in Sanskrit. It is spoken widely in India; in fact, it is thought that more than 60% of the population of India are able to speak Hindi or at least understand it. It is one of the many official languages and is the national language of the Republic of India. Hindi is the official language of the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
Learning Hindi is perhaps beyond the scope a traveller but it’s quite possible to learn some words and phrases. Although, leaning Hindi is not that hard at all but English speakers might find it a little challenging since Hindi has 11 separate vowels and 35 consonants.
But don’t let this trouble you; most Hindi speakers don’t speak the standard Hindi anyway. I myself speak Hindi with a Bihari accent which is sometimes subject to ridicule in India. My personal opinion is that the worst Hindi speakers are from Delhi itself.
A little local knowledge can go a long way. Here’s some the common Hindi phrases and words that you must learn if you wish to communicate with the locals in India, at least in Hindi speaking regions of India.
Some Hindi phrases and words useful for travellers to India. Listen to me speaking in Hindi, pay careful attention to the pronunciation. If you want a complete list of Hindi words and phrases for your travels to India then you might wish to buy “Essential Hindi Words And Phrases For Travelers To India” on Amazon.
Delhi happens to be one of the most visited places in India. It happens to be one of the most historical capitals of the world. In Old Delhi, you’ll find forts, mosques, Mughal monuments that represent India’s history. On the other hand you’ll find government and civil buildings, embassies of the world and many newly constructed temples and other attractions.
One such attraction of Delhi is the Old Fort known as the Purana Qila in Hindi. The Purana Qila is a must see for those interested in the history of the city and India in general or those interested in historical monuments. You can get to hear a show in the evening that explains the history of the entire city of Delhi.
By Marie McCarthy
This is another installment from my e-book, Travels in India, the tales of my first trip to India in 2011. In this segment, I’m in Jodphur, taking a day trip to buy a dhurry and search for the tradititional Bishnoi villages.
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I had seen photos of the Bishnoi traditional villages near Salawas and wanted to have a look. Prem had never been there and got directions from the hotel. As it turned out, it would have been better to have gone on one of the two or four-hour Bishnoi village jeep tours that the hotel could have arranged. I didn’t see anything like what I’d seen on the internet, but I had an interesting day all the same.
I wanted to visit Salawas because I’d read on the internet that Salawas is known for weaving dhurries. I wanted to see them being made and of course to buy one or two. Salawas was close to the Bishnoi villages and only about 25 kilometers from Jodhpur.
There were no road signs for either the Bishnoi villages or Salawas, but it was easy to tell when we were drawing close. Signs popped up offering dhurries for sale. The first one I saw had three attractive dhurries hanging outside, and I asked Prem to stop. As we were getting out of the car, the owner, who had been sitting across the street, dashed over to greet us. He was smallish and thin with a unibrow and a big smile.
I am happy to talk about my own state of Bihar. The more I learn about this state, the more I fall in love with it. The history of this great state to Bihar is essentially the history of ancient India. Its capital, Patna (ancient Patliputra) built by Ajatashatru in 490 B.C. as a small fort later became the capital of Magadha that stretched from Eastern India to Afghanistan. It was from here that the mighty Indian empires such as the Nandas, Mauryans, Sungas, Guptas and Palas used Patliputra as their capital. During the reign of famous Indian king called “Ashoka the Great”, the city became one of the biggest cities of the world. It was the Afghan king, Sher Shah Suri who made Patliputra the capital of his empire and changed its name to what is called “Patna” today.
Bihar is well known as the land of monasteries, which is well evident from its name itself, which is derivation of the word “Vihara”. The serendipity of the state offers a pleasant escape from the humdrum monotony of city life. The temples, monasteries, mosques, and mausoleums of Bihar boast of a great historic past, which are related to the all major religions of India like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism Sikhism and Islam. The holy river Ganga flows wide and deep through the enriched plains of Bihar, and passes through the middle of the state from west to east. The other important rivers of the state are Kosi and Gandak which flow from the north, and river Sone which flows from the south join the Ganga.
The crowning glory of the state is its cherished linkage to the ‘Light of Asia’ Lord Buddha. The state boasts of special tourist attraction known as the Buddhist circuit, which is linked to the trail of the pilgrimage undertaken by Lord Buddha. The special circuit begins at Patna, the capital city, where you can view the exclusive Buddhist sculptures and the terracotta urns that contains ashes of Lord Lord Buddha at Patna museum. The trail then passes through Vaishali, Nalanda, Rajgir, Hills of Gridhrakuta and finally Bodh Gaya. All these places have special connection to the life of Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavira.
Corruption in India is a story that can be traced back to the ages of king’s rule even before India got independence. In fact corruption has its birth in Indian history before the British rule was established. In olden days corruption prevailed as a means to accomplish immoral tasks such as bribing a cook to poison the King or a member of the royal family, to disclose the royal secrets, etc. But today corruption in India is everywhere; it is a means to get things done whether it is getting the right things done on right time or to speed up the process of the work or as usual getting the wrong things done.
India is a tropical country and you are likely to meet the heat throughout the year in most parts of the country. Dirt, grim, pollution, sweat, sunburn and exhaustion become inevitable in the summer for us Indians. But if you are a tourist to India and do not come from one of the tropical countries then it is essential that you know about the weather and place you are travelling to. The summer in India approaches around May 20 to July 20 where the temperatures are extremely hot that can go up to 40 degree centigrade while 45-50 degrees in some parts of Central India. Nonetheless, you can still have great fun under the sun and find some cool ways of having fun in India while beating the heat with some of these handy tips when visiting India in the summer.
Tips to keep cool in the Indian summer
Visit amusement parks
Water sports and amusement parks in metro cities and other major cities offer loads of fun along with adventure and at the same time allows you to sooth your sweat glands.
Wonderla near Bangalore, Essel world and water kingdom near Mumbai which together form the Asia’s largest amusement park, the Ocean Park yet another sought after water park near Hyderabad and Fun and Food Village in Gurgaon (near Delhi) are some of the water parks in India that meet the international standards and allow you to soak yourself in the water. This is a perfect way to beat the heat while having fun and adventure.
India is not only a great holiday destination but also has mouth watering dishes to offer. Apart from a large number of vegetarian dishes, India has large number of chicken dishes that can be considered the best in the world. No wonder, more Indian restaurants than ever before are coming up all over the world. Although, many people in India are vegetarians, there is significant appetite for chicken dishes. In fact, some of the best chicken preparations are from India.
It is thought that the domesticated chicken came to India around 2000 BC ago from the South East supposedly from Malaysia where it was first domesticated from the fusion of 2 varieties of foul. It is from India where the chicken was then exported to Africa and Europe. It then went to the Americas with the Spanish adventurers. Thanks to the British colonialism, the great culinary traditions of India, chicken dishes in particular were then exported to the rest of the world that still continues to rule the world.
Badami, situated in Bagalkot districtof Karnataka, was once capital of mighty Chalukya Empire, but is now famous as tourist destination for its historical monument – The Badami Caves. These caves are considered to be the most spectacularly carved caves found in South India. The four major caves, hewn out of the hill at great height, are temples dedicated to different deities of Hindu and Jain religion. They are considered to be places of utmost importance by the architectures and archaeologists, for the reason that these caves hold significant clues to the styles followed by the south Indian architectures of past. The caves were carved out of the Deccan sandstone that is abundantly available in the area, during the 6th century, under the rule of Chalukya Empire. The color of the Deccan sandstone is believed to have given the place its name, i.e. the color of Badam which means almond in local dialect.
The Red Fort (known as the Lal Qila in Hindi) is an old fort complex located in Delhi. It was constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who also constructed the world-famous Taj Mahal, in the 17th century. The fort served as the residence of the Mughal emperor, his acolytes and their families. It was also the place from where the emperors ran their vast empire. Currently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage, the fort complex serves as a tourist spot and is a powerful symbol of the Indian Republic. The prime minister addresses the nation from this complex on the Independence Day each year. Today the Red Fort is seen as the symbol of the seat of power of government of India. The Red Fort is heavily guarded and has been a subject of a terror attack in 22 December 2000 by Lashkar-e-Taiba (one of the most militant terror outfit in South Asia).
After gaining popularity among teens practising extreme sports at the risk of their own lives in South Africa, Russia, Germany and other European countries; train surfing has arrived in India. Hanging outside the trains is not new to Indian citizens, as it is a necessity for them at times when the trains are overcrowded and next available train is not scheduled for hours. Train surfing is different in a way, that instead of hanging there with their hearts in their mouths, these youth treat it as wave surfing, skiing or bungee jumping and enjoy it to the fullest even at the cost of risking their own lives.
There are many winter destinations even in a tropical place. The scene is so true for a country like India. Come the summer and everybody has plans for one or the other hill station or snow adventure. The cool high altitude places puts the unbearable heat of the plains on somewhere forgotten and absolute bliss of the welcoming winter is on. It feels like somebody is constantly humming lines like these on back of his mind:
“”The rest is where
“I” is either satiated
Here, I avow
My “I” is merged
In the Pristine of Nature
I am at rest now
Even if it is
Just for a while!””
Such places, kind of which the poet is talking about, might include the following:
Lying on the way to Badrinath, Auli is a popular winter destination in Uttarakhand, more popular for its adventure of Ski. Bugyal is the local name for the place by which locals will brag about it. The meadow is also a part of popular trekking trips. Apart from Ski and Trekking, tourists can also enjoy views and boating in the artificial lake. Being surrounded by pilgrimages like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Joshimath, Nandaprayag, Rudraprayag; Auli is a must visit for tourists and pilgrims alike. April is best season to visit but skiing is good in November.