Holi – bura na mano Holi hai!

When it comes to festivals and celebration, India and its countrymen are second to none. The uniqueness is not in just the festivals, but also in the way they are celebrated. Every festival of India, I repeat, each and every festival of India swathes the country in beautiful lights our vivid colours. Every light and colour have its own significance for every festival. And one such amazing and interesting festival is the very special, festival of Holi.

Holi is the Indian spring festival of colours. As per the Hindu Calendar, it is celebrated on the Phalgun Poornima (Full Moon) which as per the English calendar may come in the month of February or March. As most Indian festivals Holi is celebrated as a triumph of good over bad.

The main theme of the festival is to apply bright radiant colours to one and other symbolizing elimination of social inequality.

Legend:

There are numerous legends and stories surrounding this festival but one that stands out is the burning of the demoness Holika. She was the sister of King Hiranyakashipu and aunt of Prahlad. Prahlad was a true devotee of Lord Vishnu and his devotion was not appreciated by his father. In a feat of anger, he decided to end Prahlad’s life and instructed Holika to take little Prahlad on her lap and sit on a stack of wood. Thereafter the King instructed his men to set fire to the stack. Holika would not be burnt as she had a special garment that protected her against fire. But owing to his devotion, Prahlad was least affected by the fire and it was Holika who perished.

Hence at the eve of Holi there is bonfire which signifies the scorching of all that is evil.

Rang Panchami- Day of colours:

Holi - Indian Festival

The next day is celebrated with colours and water being applied and thrown at each other as a way of celebrating the victory of the virtuous. Gulaal (pink coloured powder) being the predominant colour while the primary colours follow suit.

No Indian festival is complete without a special treat. Thandai a kind of milk smoothie mixed with bhang leaves is the main attraction for adults as it is said to give you a kick.

Holi is one festival where a little mischief is forgiven as the tagline itself says ‘bura na mano Holi hai!’. Having said that, every individual needs to take care that every celebration is for enjoyment and not for exploiting someone’s peace of mind.

Rich history of the Mughal era: A fortress of red sandstone

Though the most notable Mughal architecture in India is the Taj Mahal the Mughals have a long history of building strong fortresses of red sandstone that bore proof of their power and love for architecture.

Agra Fort:

Agra Fort

  • In the midst of invasion and fortification of the victor Mughals, the Agra fort was built. It is also known as the Agre ka Lal –Qila, ‘Fort Rouge’ or ‘Qila-i-Akbari’.
  • It was constructed as a show of the Mughal might and resilience. Today, it stands as the pride of the former Mughal Capital Agra.

Amber fort:

Amber fort:

  • Constructed by Raja Shri Maan Singh JI Saheb a trusted general of Emperor Akbar and one of the designated Navratnas (Nine gems) of Akbar’s royal court. Its construction began in the year 1592.
  • Like most Moghul forts this fort also has the public and private halls- the Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khas respectively. The public hall was where Emperor Akbar listened to the grievances of his subjects. In the private hall, he held meetings with the ministers, special guests, and friends.
  • The most integral part of the Amber fort is the Mirror Palace better known as the Sheesh Mahal. The famous Bollywood song ‘Jab Pyaar Kiya to Darna kya’ from the film Mughal-e-Azam was shot in this very palace, of course with a lot of special permissions and time constraints.

Red Fort:

Red Fort - India

  • When the capital of the Mughal empire was shifted to Agra by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638 he laid the foundation of the Red Fort.
  • The Red fort was better in every way from the Agra fort as it’s plan was pre-conceived based on the mistakes and destitutions faced by Shah Jahan in the Agra fort.

The trip to north India warrants a visit to all three forts. They entry fee is reasonable for all and there are special discounts for students and children. India has a rich collection of Forts and monuments. Every single of the architecture represents a special part of history that and has been important for the country. Every wall, door, brick has its significance that one may understand only when he/she visits the place personally. This a rich and royal heritage collection of pride and honour has been something Indians boast about, but there is very little that is done by the Government of India and its citizens to preserve them. While there are a few organizations that have kick started drives to attack the issue but without proper promotion and backing even these fail to some extent.

The spice of Malvan

Malvani cuisine comes from the Konkan belt that connects Maharashtra and Goa. It is dominated by varieties of fish preparations, chicken and lamb recipes. In the city of Mumbai, you can find the (so-called0 Malvani cuisine at various places but mostly all of them fail to represent the exact version of the authentic. Having said that, there are some which do a great job and are close to the actual Malvani cuisine.

Restaurants and eateries have stereotyped Malvani cuisine. It is believed that Malvani cuisine is all about meat and offers hardly any vegetarian delicacies. Also, the inclusion of coconut in food makes the dish Malvani. All of that is not at all true. Malvani food has a lot on offer for vegetarians and it does have a lot of coconut but the way it is used differs. Here is an insight into the tasty world of Malvan.

Traditional recipes:

  • Malvani recipes are greatly influenced by Maharashtrian and Goan cuisine. You will find a beautiful inclusion of flavours from both these states in Malvani dishes. Though there are delicious chicken and lamb recipes fish is an integral and predominant part of the Malvani cuisine. Being a coastal region the sea yields juicy prawns, shrimps, mussels, oysters, and clams apart from the usual catch- pomfret, mackerel, seerfish etc.
  • The preparations are similar to that of South Indian coastal recipes, the only difference being the fiery nature of the Malvani dishes may not suit everyone’s palate.
  • Traditional Malvani recipes include generously portions of coconut milk, raw jackfruits, ginger, garlic, red chilies, cumin, coriander seeds, Pepper, cardamom, etc.
  • Conversely, on the vegetarian side, the ‘Konkanastha Brahmin’ style of cooking is less spicy but equally tasty.
  • The sweets are incredibly scrumptious and unique in both flavour and texture. The dudhi (bottle gourd) and banana halwas, Kesaribhat (Sweet Saffron Rice), Pineapple sheera, Chickpea flour laddoos are few of the many tasty sweetmeats that Konkan has to offer.

Local restaurants

  • There are a lot of mango, orchards and cashew nut plantations in the area and you will find a lot of farm to table cooking. Also, the local restaurants and ‘khanavals’ (dhabbas) are known to serve authentic cuisines.
  • As you enter the city side you can call for regular preparations but even there you will not miss the authentic Malvani twist added to your Chicken Biryani or tikka masala!

When you plan a trip to the Konkan side make sure you return with rich ingredients like cashews, raw mangoes, jackfruits which can be used not only in Malvani but other preparations too.

 

Beauty of Taj Mahal

What by day is one the most spectacularly crowded tourist spots in Agra, India, is an alluring sight at night. A breath-taking personification of beauty that makes it one of the nation’s treasured monuments. The symbol of love ordered to be constructed in the memory of his beloved Mumtaz Mahal by Emperor Shah Jahan. It’s the history of Taj Mahal that adds a soul to its magnificence.

The Taj Mahal of Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its Construction was essentially completed in 1643 but its complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653. To build this masterpiece, it cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2017 would be approximately 53 billion rupees. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

Viewing the Taj during the Day:

The shades of Taj vary from dawn to dusk. As the sun rises the color of this majestic structure changes from soft gray to dazzling yellow. Finally, when it comes into the morning light your eyes cannot help but endlessly gaze into its creamy silvery girth.

The Taj is sheer artwork on the canvas of a royal landscape. It is one of the most magnificent gestures of all times in the history of love.

The creative intentions of the creators may elude us but every aspect of the Taj works in unison to create a perfect embodiment of beauty, grace and endearing devotion.

Viewing the Taj at Night:

One of the many functions of the Archaeological Survey of India is to protect the monuments and sites of national importance. It is they who decide the structure and visiting hours of the Taj at night.

On a single night, only about 400 people in batches of 50 can visit the Taj and that too for only 30 minutes each between 8:30 pm to 12:30 am IST.

Though the rules of visiting the Taj are more stringent during this time it is well worth. As basking in the night glory of this grand stature is an experience in itself.

Be sure to look at the Full Moon (Poornima) calendar when you are planning a visit to the Taj. You may not be allowed to capture the moments as electronic devices are banned during night visits. But the surreal view would not be so easily forgotten.

The Taj Mahal has been one of the most talked about monuments all over the world. It truly deserves a (well-deserved) place in the list due to the significance and also its beauty. On a lighter note, Taj Mahal has also been an identification mark of India all over the world. And by that, we mean, in most of the Hollywood movies, the folks use a Taj Mahal reference to establish an Indian sentiment.