Sunday, February 5, 2012

Maharashtrian Food



Maharashtrian (or Marathi) cuisine is cuisine of the Marathi people, those from the state of Maharashtra in India. Maharashtrian cuisine covers a range from being mild to very spicy dishes. Wheat, rice, jowar, bajri, vegetables, lentils and fruit form important components of Maharashtrian diet. Popular dishes include puran poli, ukdiche Modak,batata wada and "Kande-pohe".


Maharashtrian meals (mainly lunch and dinner) are served on a plate called (thali). Each food item served on the thali has a specific place. The bhaaji is served in the plate on the right hand side while the chutney, koshimbir are served from left going up the periphery of the circular plate. The papad, bhaji are served below the koshimbir with the rice and poli served at the bottom of the circle closed to the diner's hand. The puran is served at the top in the inner concentric circle. The amti, rassa is served in separate bowls placed on right hand side of the diner. Water is placed on the left hand side. It is considered ill mannered to use left hand while eating.
The staple dishes of Maharashtrian (nagpur)cuisine are based on bread and rice:
  • Ghadichi Poli or chapati - unleavened flat bread made of wheat, more common in urban areas.
  • Bhakri - bread made from millets like jowar and bajra, form part of daily food in rural areas.
The bhaajis are vegetable dishes made with a particular vegetable or a combination of vegetables and requires the use of Goda masala, essentially consisting of some combination of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies and mustard. Depending on the caste or specific religious tradition of a family, onion and garlic may not be used in cooking. For example, a number of Hindu communities in Maharashtra and other parts of India refrain from eating onion and garlic during Chaturmas (broadly equates to the rainy monsoon season).
A particular variant of bhaaji is the rassa or curry. Vegetarians prepare rassa or curry of potatoes and or caulifower with tomatoes or fresh coconut kernel and plenty of water to produce a soup like preparation than bhaaji. Varan is nothing but plain dal, a common Indian lentil stew. Aamti is variant of the curry, typically consisting of a lentil (tur) stock, flavored with goda masala, tamarind or amshul, jaggery (gul) and in some cases coconut as well. One of the masalas that gives Maharashtrian cuisine its authentic flavor is the goda (sweet) masala or kalaa (black) masala.
Non-vegetarian dishes mainly use chicken, mutton (mainly goat), fish and other seafood. The Kolhapuri taambda rassa (red curry) and pandhra rassa (white curry) of chicken and mutton from the southern city of Kolhapur and the varhadi rassa or (varhadi chicken curry) from the Vidarbha region are especially well known throughout Maharashtra. The coastal regions of Konkan are more famous for the fish and seafood dishes.
A typical Maharashtrian lunch or dinner usually starts with Poli (chapati), accompanied by one or more bhaaji(s) (cooked vegetables) and a koshimbir(vegetable salad) along with some sides(usually pickles, Chutneys, or papad (Poppadom)). This is usually followed by a second course of varan(lightly or unspiced Daal preparation), aamti (spicy Daal preparation) or rassa with rice. As with most of Indian cuisine however, each region and /or community has its own quirks, preferences and variations of the above general format.
Koshimbir is very common and healthy addition to the plate. Typically made from raw vegetables mixed with yogurt and ground roasted peanuts (Danyache Kut). Raitas made with different types of vegetables such as cucumber or carrots are variants of koshimbir.


There are lots of snack , Sweets and side dishes in Maharashtrian cuisine. Some quintessentially Maharashtrian dishes are Pohe, Vada Paav, Upma, Chivda, Surali Vadi, Misal Pav,Pav Bhaji,ThaliPith, Sheera, Khichadi, Moda,Lonache (Pickle),SolKadi,Alu Wadi, Kanda Bhaji , Puran Poli, GumabJaam, Shrikhand, Kheer, Basundi



Bharatnatyam Dance

Bharatnatyam is one of the most popular classical Indian dances. Bharatnatyam is more popular in South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Bharatnatyam dance is almost 2,000 years old. It is believed that Bharatnatyam was revealed by Lord Brahma to Bharata, a famous sage who then codified this sacred dance in a Sanskrit text called the Natya Shastra. The Natya Shastra is one of the fundamental treatises on Indian drama and aesthetics. Natya Shastra divides dance into two distinct forms- nritta, and nritya. In nritta, focus is on mastery of abstract hand gestures and movements, whereas the dancer employs a complex system of hand signals and body language to depict emotional expressions in nritya.

The Bharatnatyam dance flourished in the Hindu temples of South India. The temple dancers (Called Devadasis or servants of god) flourished under royal patronage and religious devotion. The Devadasi system became an integral part of South Indian temple ritual. Slowly and gradually the Devadasi system went into disrepute due to economic and social conditions attached to it. The credit of reviving and popularizing the Bharatnatyam in its present form goes to Rukmini Devi, who gave it new life and respectability. Bala Saraswati, the queen of Bharatnatyam also deserves accolades for her work and efforts to popularize Bharatnatyam.

At present Bharatnatyam is an immensely popular classical dance form of India. The present form of Bharatnatyam dance was evolved by Poniah Pillai of Tanjore and his brothers. Formats of Bharatnatyam consist of Alarippu (invocation), Jathi Swaram (note combinations) Shabdam (notes and lyrics), Varnam (a combination of pure dance and abhinaya) lighter items like Padams and Javalis (all erotic) and finally the thillana (again pure dance). Bharatnatyam is considered the mother art of most of the other classical dances of India and inspires many art forms like sculpture, painting, and icon-making.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bhagat Singh

Born: September 27, 1907
Passed Away: March 23, 1931

Contributions
Bhagat Singh was among the prominent revolutionaries who shaped the base of a grand national movement. Following his execution, on March 23, 1931, the supporters and followers of Bhagat Singh regarded him as a "Shaheed", "martyr".

Life
Bhagat Singh was born on 27 September 1907 at Banga in Lyallpur district (now Pakistan) to Kishan Singh and Vidya Vati. From his early childhood, Bhagat Singh was imbued with the family's spirit of patriotism. At the time of his birth, his father Kishan Singh was in jail. His uncle, Sardar Ajit Singh, was a great freedom fighter and established the Indian Patriots' Association. He was well-supported by his friend Syed Haidar Raza, in organizing the peasants against the Chenab Canal Colony Bill. Ajit Singh had 22 cases against him and was forced to flee to Iran. Bhagat Singh was considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of Indian Nationalist Movement. He became involved with numerous revolutionary organizations.

Kishan Singh enrolled Bhagat Singh in Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School. At a very young age, Bhagat Singh started following Non-Cooperation Movement called by Mahatma Gandhi. Bhagat Singh had openly defied the British and had followed Gandhi's wishes by burning the government-sponsored books. Following the violent incidents of "Chauri Chaura", Gandhi called for the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation movement. Unhappy with the decision, Bhagat Singh, isolated himself from Gandhi's nonviolent action and joined the Young Revolutionary Movement.

He was pursuing B.A. examination when his parents planned to have him married. He vehemently rejected the suggestion and said that, if his marriage was to take place in Slave-India, my bride shall be only death." Singh later joined the Hindustan Republican Association, a radical group, later known as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. He returned to his home in Lahore after assurances from his parents that he would not be compelled to get married. He established contact with the members of the Kirti Kisan Party and started contributing regularly to its magazine, the "Kirti". In March 1926, the Naujawan Bharat Sabha was formed with Bhagat Singh, as its secretary.

On 30 October 1928, an all-parties procession, led by Lala Lajpat Rai, marched towards the Lahore railway station to protest against the arrival of the Simon Commission. Stopping the procession, police made a lathi charge at the activists. The confrontation left Lala Lajpat Rai with severe injuries and also led to his death. As an avenge to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh and his associates plotted the assassination of Scott, the Superintendent of Police, believed to have ordered the lathi charge. The revolutionaries, mistaking J.P. Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, as Scott, killed him instead. Bhagat Singh quickly left Lahore to escape his arrest. To avoid recognition, he shaved his beard and cut his hair, a violation of the sacred tenets of Sikhism.

In response to the formulation of Defence of India Act, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association planned to explode a bomb inside the assembly premises, where the ordinance was going to be passed. On April 8 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb onto the corridors of the assembly and shouted 'Inquilab Zindabad!' The bomb was not meant to kill or injure anyone and therefore it was thrown away from the crowded place. Following the blasts both Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt courted arrest

Trial and Death
The British authority, while interrogating them, came to know about their involvement in the murder of J. P. Saunders. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were charged with the murder. Singh admitted to the murder and made statements against the British rule during the trial.

While in jail, Bhagat Singh found that the authorities were following a dual policy in treating the prisoners. The criminals of foreign origin were treated better than Indian political prisoners. As a protest, he along with some fellow prisoners declared to "go on hunger strike". The strike continued for over a month and finally the British had to accept before their conditions.

Bhagat Singh along with other revolutionaries found responsible for the Assembly bombing and murder of Saunders. On March 23, 1931, Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. Singh was cremated at Hussainiwala on banks of Sutlej river.

Lata Mangeshkar


Lata Mangeshkar (लता मंगेशकर, born September 28, 1929) is one of the best singers of the Hindi film industry. She is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recorded artist in the world. It is estimated that she has more than 30,000 solo, duet and chorus backed songs in 20 different languages from 1948 to 1987. Now, it must way over 40,000! Lata Mangeshkar was born on 28th September, 1929 in a place called Indore. Her father Dinanath Mangeshkar was a renowned classical singer himself. Lata was introduced to music at a very young age. The life history of Lata Mangeshkar is truly fascinating. Read this short biography of Lata Mungeshkar.

Lata Mangeshkar was very young when her father passed away, thus making the family dependant on Lata. To take care of her family's economic situation, Lata acted in as many as 8 films from 1942 to 1948. She debuted as playback singer in a Marathi film named Kiti Hasaal (1942). Unfortunately the song was edited out. Her first Hindi playback was for the film Aap ke Sewa Main (1947) but she did not get noticed. At that time, the film industry was ruled by female singers who had heavier and huskier voices like Noor Jehan, Shamshad Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali. While auditioning for the movie Shaheed (1948), she was rejected on the account of her thin voice! But Ghulam Haider saw the potential in her and gave her a chance to sing in the film Majboor.

The song Dil Mera Toda finally got her noticed and it was touted as her breakthrough song. In 1949, she had four major hits from the films Barsaat, Andaaz, Dulari and Mahal. The song "Aayega Aanewala" from Mahal was a huge hit and Lata secured a firm position in the industry. The husky voices of all other singers became obsolete in front of the high pitched voice of Lata Mangeshkar. The music industry had a huge makeover with the arrival of Lata Mangeshkar. By the late 50's, the younger sister of Lata Mangeshkar known as Asha Bhonsle also came into the scene and they both were touted as the unbeatable voices of the industry.

Lata rose to fame rapidly and made her indelible mark in the industry. She has sung with famous singers like Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, etc. She has perfected almost every genre of music. Her success and determination made her one of the most powerful women in the industry. She refused to sing for the great composer S.D Burman due to some misunderstanding and also stopped singing with Mohammed Rafi. Her power was so immense that they had to come back to her. She actually monopolized the music industry and every music director wanted to work with her. She understood the requirement of each song and sang flawlessly.

Lata Mangeshkar has been honored with innumerable awards but the one that truly deserves a special mention is that she is the only second singer in the non-classical category (after M.S Subbulakshmi) in India to have received the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna. She has received three national awards and eight Filmfare awards after which she stopped accepting awards in order to promote new talent. She continues to sing every now and then for Hindi movies and perform live. Truly a living legend, Lata Mangeshkar has a talent that is second to none. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taj Mahal


Famous as one of the wonders, the Taj Mahal at Agra, India, is epitome of true love. Taj Mahal was built by the famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal. The architectural beauty and magnificence of the Taj Mahal has never been surpassed. The Taj Mahal is said to be the most beautiful monument built by the Mughal rulers and it represents the zenith of the Mughal architecture. Built entirely of white marbles, the beauty of the Taj Mahal is beyond description. The beauty of the Taj Mahal has been aptly summarized by the famous English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, as "Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones."

The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan married Arjumand Banu Begam, better known by the name Mumtaj Mahal, in the year 1612 AD. Mumtaj Mahal was Shah Jahan's second wife. After their marriage, Mumtaj Mahal became her husband's comrade and counselor. Mumtaj Mahal became an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan on all his journeys and military expeditions and an inspiration behind Shah Jahan's acts of charity and benevolence. In the year 1631 the cruel hands of destiny snatched Mumtaj Mahal from Shah Jahan. To immortalize the memory of Mumtaj Mahal, Shah Jahan decided to build a monument of eternal love. This monument of eternal love is none other than the spectacular and magnificence Taj Mahal.

A beautiful location on the banks of the river Yamuna was chosen and the foundation of the Taj Mahal was laid down. The master architect of the Taj Mahal was Ustad Isa. He was one of the most renowned Islamic architects of his time. Taj Mahal, the much-celebrated saga of royal love was brought to life by competent and skilled artisans from places like Delhi, Kannauj, Lahore, Multan, Baghdad, Shiraz and Bukhara. The construction work of the Taj Mahal began in 1631. More than 20,000 workmen, sculptors and master craftsmen worked painstakingly for 22 years to carve out the most famous symbol of eternal love, the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was built entirely in white marbles and the material was brought in from all over India and central Asia. The Taj Mahal complex was finally completed in 1653 at a cost of 32 Million Rupees (approx USD 68000) on the banks of river Yamuna in Agra, the capital of the Mughal monarchs.

The Taj Mahal stands on a raised and square platform with its four corners shortened, forming an unequal octagon. Interlocking arabesque concept is the architectural design that has been used in the construction of the Taj Mahal. In this style each element stands on its own and perfectly integrates with the main structure. The central dome of the Taj Mahal is fifty-eight feet in diameter and rises to a height of 213 feet and is flanked by four subsidiary domed chambers. There are four graceful, slender minarets in the structure of the Taj Mahal. Each of these minarets is 162.5 feet each. Precious gems and stones were used for decoration and calligraphy purposes.

The main archway of the Taj Mahal is a wonder in itself. This archway is chiseled with passages from the Holy Quran and bold scroll work of flowery pattern. The Taj Mahal mausoleum is a part of a vast complex comprising of a main gateway, an elaborate garden, a mosque (to the left), a guest house (to the right), and several other palatial buildings. The Taj Mahal stands at the farthest end of the Taj Mahal complex, with the river Yamuna behind it. The large garden contains four reflecting pools dividing it at the center.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

National Anthem of India

The national anthem of India, Jana-gana-mana, was composed by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore and was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on January 24th 1950. Jana-gana-mana was first sung on 27th December, 1911 at the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress. The songs, Jana-gana-mana, consists of five stanzas. The first stanza constitutes the full version of the National Anthem. Playing time of the full version of the National Anthem is approximately 52 seconds. The national anthem of India is as follows-


जन गण मन अधिनायक जय हे
भारत भाग्यविधाता
पंजाब सिन्धु गुजरात मराठा
द्राविड़ उत्कल बंगा
विन्ध्य हिमाचल यमुना गंगा
उच्छल जलधि तरंगा
तव शुभ नामे जागे
तव शुभ आशीष मांगे
गाहे तव जयगाथा

जन गण मंगलदायक जय हे
भारत भाग्यविधाता
जय हे, जय हे, जय हे
जय जय जय जय हे!


Here is Tagore's English rendering of the stanza (Indian national anthem) - "Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people, dispenser of India's destiny. Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat and Maratha, of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal it echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, Mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea. They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise. The saving of all people waits in thy hand, thou dispenser of India's destiny victory, victory, victory, victory to thee." 
 
 




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