Culturama September 2015

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culturama your cultural gateway to india

September 2015 Volume 6, Issue 07 Rs 40

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Dear Madras... Just how (much) can you love this southern capital? An expatriate counts the ways


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Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian

Dear Readers, Language separates us. Language can also form great bonds. ‘Aaee ye, sari dekhiye.’ The call to ‘Come, see the saris’ by a shopkeeper in Kanyakumari, at the southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu, was in Hindi. Yet, his first language was Tamil – like mine. When I asked him why he had assumed that I was a Hindi-speaking person, he pointed to my salwar kameez and my hair, left loose, which he had taken to to be ‘modern’ – that is, North Indian. When I delved further, I realised that he and most other store owners spoke at least eight Indian languages in perfect accent, with enough ‘show off’ knowledge to attract the visitors who flocked to this tourist spot to see the merging of the green Arabian Sea, the blue Bay of Bengal and the grey Indian Ocean. I narrated this story to Dr. Sumantran, former Chairman of Tata Motors and the brain behind the TATA Nano. His

comment was: ‘Linguistic prowess was always the result of mercantilism.’ I had an ‘aha’ moment. We all like to do business with people we like. Speaking the same lingo, or even attempting to, forms an instant bond. Last month, I travelled to New Delhi to meet leaders in the national capital. Whilte trying to get past a gatekeeper in a government office, the breakthrough came when I recognised the South Indian accent of a Delhi politician’s Executive Assistant. I switched from Hindi to Tamil – lo and behold! I found myself in the foyer of a top power office in the capital the next day. A final story on the power of language: You might have read our cover story on Dr. Kiran Bedi last month. I reached her office early and was waiting for her to arrive. I was discussing with a South Indian colleague in private (I thought) as to where we could take her photograph. As soon as I uttered the words in Tamil, Dr. Bedi’s Punjabi assistant looked up from her laptop and quipped, ‘I can understand everything you are saying. I studied in Coimbatore!’ Literally speaking, language is the wedge and glue of our nation. As the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu prepares to welcome delegates from around the world for the Global Investors Meet, this is a good caveat to keep in mind – when we meet new people, let us speak ‘their’ language, literally or figuratively, and make them feel ‘at home’. Ranjini Manian Editor-in-Chief globalindian@globaladjustments.com

Managing Editor Yamini Vasudevan Sub-Editor Shefali Ganesh Business Head Archana Iyengar Creative Head Prem Kumar VP Finance V Ramkumar Circulation S Raghu Advertising Bengaluru Meera Roy Chennai Sindhuri Rajkumar/ Delhi/NCR Neha Verma Mumbai/Pune Arjun Bhat To subscribe to this magazine, write to circulation@globaladjustments.com or access it online at www.culturama.in Chennai (Headquarters) 5, 3rd Main Road, R A Puram, Chennai – 600028 Telefax +91-44-24617902 Email culturama@globaladjustments.com Bengaluru 17/16, Ali Asker Road, Off. Cunningham Road, Bengaluru – 560 052 Mobile +91 99869 60316 Email culturamablr@globaladjustments.com Delhi-NCR 1414, DLF Galleria Tower, DLF Phase IV, Gurgaon, Haryana – 122009 Mobile +91-124-4389488 Email del@globaladjustments.com Mumbai #1102, 11th floor, Peninsula Business Park, Tower B, SB Road, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013 Tel +91-22-66879366 Email mum@globaladjustments.com Published and owned by Ranjini Manian at #5, 3rd Main Road, Raja Annamalai Puram, Chennai – 600028, and printed by K Srinivasan of Srikals Graphics Pvt Ltd at #5, Balaji Nagar, 1st Street, Ekkattuthangal, Chennai – 600032 Editor-in-Chief Ranjini Manian Disclaimer Views and opinions expressed by writers do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s or the magazine’s.

Commemorating 20 years of learning, sharing and promoting Indian culture at Global Adjustments With 10 hand-picked snippets about each of the 29 Indian states, this book is a collector's item. Visit www.globaladjustments.com to read the book for free. For bulk orders, write to info@globaladjustments.com.

This animated video is a guide to the unique cultural markers of all 29 states, as well as a mnemonic tool to help you remember them in alphabetic order. View the 29 States video at www.globaladjustments.com


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Cover Image Advisory Board Members N. Ram is an award-winning journalist and former Editorin-Chief of The Hindu. He is Director of Kasturi & Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu. Suzanne McNeill lived in India for seven years before returning to Scotland. She is a freelance writer and graphic designer. Marina Marangos is a lawyer, but enjoys travel and writing. She lived in India for four years before moving to Australia. www.mezzemoments.blogspot.com G. Venket Ram is an acclaimed photographer and the creative mind behind many a Culturama issue. www.gvenketram.com

Contributors Susan Philip is a freelance writer based in Chennai, and the editorial coordinator of Culturama’s various coffee table books. Jen Mullen is a language graduate, who has lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and India. Akhila Ravikumar is an architect and interior designer who has worked on several major projects, and built the Global Adjustments’ headquarters in Chennai. She is an avid traveller and India aficionado. Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was a spiritual teacher, author, and interpreter of Indian literature. In 1961, he founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press in California. Devdutt Pattanaik is the Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and a writer and illustrator of several books on Indian mythology. Visit www.devdutt.com

Letters to the editor Dear Editor,

I have been reading Culturama for the past two years and love it. It is a truly professional in layout and also has very interesting content. Martina Mullins, Scotland

Dear Editor,

Culturama has brought out the work and contribution of Kiran Bedi very well. Her dedicated work has made her a person to look up to. The articles – ‘Make in India – Coming a full circle’ also were interesting to read. Great work! K.R. Ganapathy, India

The vibhuti or sacred ash reminds us of the principle of ‘ashes to ashes and dust to dust’. The kumkum or vermillion powder represents creation. By wearing a pinch of both on the forehead, one is reminded of the transient nature of life. Picture by Linda Graeble.

ERRATA In the article ‘Call of the Almighty’ in the July 2015

Dear Editor,

The collection of press clippings from India’s Independence Day in the August issue of Culturama was very well put together. It was very interesting to see the different newspapers and their reports from so long ago. Remy Fourtet, France

issue, we had stated that ‘Eid-ul-Fitr is the only day when Muslims are forbidden from fasting'. It has been pointed to us that, along with Eid ul Fitar, fasting is prohibited on the day of Eid ul Azha (Zuha or

Dear Editor,

Culturama is proving to be a useful resource for me to talk to my seven-year-old about India – well done! Pradeep Chakravarthy, India

Bakrid) as well. We regret the error and thank Mr. Mohammed Asaf ali khan for pointing out the error to us.

culturama – Subscribe Now! Get your copy of Culturama as a hard copy or as an e-magazine visit www.culturama.in to subscribe For other enquiries, e-mail us at culturama@globaladjustments.com or call us on +91-44-2461 7902


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Contents 62

Myth & Mythology

There is evidence of journeys made by sages from the North to the South, but where they physical or metaphorical?

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Holistic Living

The mind is often the culprit behing excessive indulgence in food and drink – but how does one control the urge to overeat?

Regulars 12 In Focus

Music and dance hold pride of place in Tamil Nadu, with classical and folk forms having their own long-standing traditions.

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Ten for the Road

Trivia about an Indian state – featuring Mizoram this month.

26 Feature India’s business communities have maintained the tradition of passing knowledge and skill to succeeding generations, which has in turn strengthened their presence and reach.

India’s Culture 08

Short Message Service

Short, engaging snippets of Indian culture.

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Festival of the Month

Celebrate Janmashtami and Ganesh Chathurthi – when we celebrate the birthdays of Lord Krishna and Lord Ganesha, two of India’s favourite Gods.

Journeys Into India 42

Trivia

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India Writes

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India Now

A space for discussing the best from India’s world of literature.

A recap of events, people and places that made news in the past month.

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Picture Story

We observe the streetside vendors’ day-to-day lives and pick up some key lessons on entrepreneurship and management.

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India Diaries

An expat writes a love letter to Chennai – or Madras, as she call it.

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Look Who’s In Town

Expats in India share their views about life in India.

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Calendar of Events

See what’s going on in the main cities and suburbs.

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Give to India

Featuring worthy NGOs and charitable organisations across the country.

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At Global Adjustments

Two new programmes, specifically designed to help youngsters, were launched by the India Immersion Centre.

Relocations and Property 68

Space and the City

Property listings in Chennai. Explore the districts of Tamil Nadu by learning more about their unique specialities.

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Seeing India

Explore age-old traditions and the rich heritage of the royal family of Travancore.

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Expatriate Photo Competition

The 18th Annual Beautiful India Expatriate Photo Competition is now open for entries. FInd our more details about the categories, the special theme for this year and the last date for submissions.


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by Suzanne McNeill Short cultural snippets for an easily digestible India

Art, Craft, Textile Kanchipuram silks The richest and most opulent saris woven in India are those from the historical weaving centre of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, 45 miles from Chennai. Kanchipuram raw silk saris are characterised by their heavy weight and stiffness, the lustre of their classic shining colours, and the wide zari borders and pallu (the decorative end of the sari that is usually draped over the wearer’s shoulder), which must contain a mix of at least 40% silver and 0.5% gold. These are woven with motifs of the sun and moon, peacocks, mangoes and leaves. Any auspicious occasion is incomplete without a Kanchipuram sari, and these saris are favourites for a wedding.

Photo: Karla Kivlehan, Germany

Words: Bath Bath is a word used in several Indian languages and dialects, and has multiple meanings. In Hindi, where it is also written as baat, the word means to ‘talk’ in the phrase ‘Mein aap se baat karna chahta hoon’ (meaning ‘I would like to talk to you’). However, context is all-important, such as in the phrase ‘Kya baat hai’ – which could mean both ‘Awesome!’ and ‘What is the matter?’ In the Kannada language, the word refers to the cooked rice in a dish such as bisi bele bath, a traditional ricelentil-vegetable recipe from Karnataka, and has slipped across the border to enter the Tamil lingo as well. Meaning ‘shower’, the word has entered many of India’s local languages from the English word ‘bath’. Taking a morning bath is an important daily ritual in Hinduism.

Food and drink Jigarthanda – Madurai Madurai’s favourite summer drink, jigarthanda, is sold from small stalls and pushcarts across the city. Recipes differ, but essentially the base of the drink is a jelly made from almond gum or kadal paasi (a vegetarian substitute for gelatin) soaked and chilled overnight. Chunks of the jelly are put into a glass that is then filled with cold, thickened milk, sugar syrup, rose essence and colouring. Traditional nannari sherbet is often used in place of rose essence, and a dollop of ice cream on top is a luxurious touch. Many of the ingredients are believed to have natural, cooling properties, and even the name bears this out (jigar means heart and thanda means cold).


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il

do Bruck, Braz

Photo: Arman

Urban Adventure Koyambedu Market in Chennai Photo: Karla Kivlehan, Germany

Interpretations The belief in the ‘evil eye’ is very common in India. The evil eye is thought to be rooted in jealousy, and a malevolent look has the power to transfer misfortune. Numerous ways to ward off the evil eye have evolved in Indian culture. One way is by painting demon faces on melons and pumpkins, or, as in this example, on elaborately carved wooden masks, which are placed in homes and offices, and especially on new construction sites. A person who looks at the place with envy will be distracted by the evil eye, and their jealousy is deflected and cancelled out.

Spread out over a square kilometre on a site west of central Chennai, Koyambedu is an enormous wholesale and commercial vegetable, fruit and flower market, one of Asia’s largest. The complex contains more than 1,000 wholesale and 2,000 retail shops. Business begins with deliveries at 3 a.m. and by 4.30 a.m. the city’s traders have made their daily purchases. Vendors sit surrounded by huge baskets of different vegetables, backed by stacks of gourds, watermelons and cabbages. Mangoes, apples, pomegranates, guavas and oranges are among the more familiar produce in the colourful fruit market, stacked artfully in pyramids and geometric lines, whilst the flower market displays great heaps of marigold, rose and jasmine heads, ready for stringing into garlands and hair decorations.

He/she lives on Lala Deen Dayal (1884–1905) The foremost photographer of his day, Lala Deen Dayal was born in Uttar Pradesh in 1844. He trained as an engineer and entered government service, but his skill as an amateur photographer quickly attracted the patronage of the state’s officials. Dayal set up studios in Indore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. He became court photographer to the Nizam of Hyderabad and worked for the Viceroy of India. He took lavish and crisp images of Maharajas in their luxurious palaces, British and India soldiers and the processions of the Delhi Durbar, as well as studio shots of young princes, Rajput chiefs and memsahibs. Dayal created an enormous and meticulously catalogued archive of work, and exhibitions of his work continue to draw crowds today.


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In Focus by Susan Philip

Connoisseurs of

Culture

Music and dance are an essential part of Tamil culture and lifestyle. We explore the main classical and folks traditions of this southern state

Often referred to as the ‘cultural capital’ of India, the southern state of Tamil Nadu has maintained its links to its tradition and heritage despite modernisation and an increasingly cosmopolitan population. From the famed ‘December Music Season’ in Chennai to folk performances, music and dance are literally the lifelines of the state.


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MUSIC Carnatic Music

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music takes on a lighter form. There is also a central pièce de résistance, which showcases the creativity of the performer – a sort of three-piece suite called raagam-thaanam-pallavi. Raagam is the part where the musician chooses a certain scale or raag, and improvises on it without words, but with free-flowing vowels, without rhythm. It is abstract music and portrays a certain mood of the raaga. The second component, thaanam, is quasi-rhythmical. It is not completely free-flowing, but it is not like a song either, confined by rhythm, words and so on. It is something in-between, and has a rhythm-like cadence. The vocalist keeps repeating the syllables like taa, nam, tom and aa in different, highly creative combinations, and calms and centres the listener. The final component, pallavi, is the composed form – comprising words rhythm and refrain.

Folk Influences

Carnatic singer Sudha Ragunathan performing at a concert.

Indian classical music is based on raaga – the sequence of notes or keys, and taala or beats – which indicates the rhythm, giving structure to the raaga. Just like the seven-note major scale of the Western system, the Indian musical scale also has seven notes (known as saptaswara). Their longer names are shortened to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. Indian classical music has a common form that is subdivided into Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian) styles. Carnatic music is part of the rich cultural heritage of South India and the genre includes songs in Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Carnatic music raagas consist of five, six or seven notes in ascending and descending scales. There are 72 melodic combinations or melakarta raagas, and there are many variations of these called janya raagas. Taala (rythm) and pallavi (imagination) are two important aspects of Carnatic music. Out of 108 possible taalams (beats), only a few are commonly used. Recitals have their own governing principles. The opening piece is a brisk varnam, followed by an incantation to the Gods; short kritis (songs) are woven into a pattern of raagams and taalams. The main composition will include a raagam, taalam and pallavi, and together they test the performer. During the last part of the recital, the accompanists (the violinist and percussionists) exhibit their improvisation skills as the

Folk music is quite popular, especially in rural areas, and elements of the different styles are sometimes used in film music. Apart from local custodians of the tradition, contemporary enthusiasts such as Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan and Pushpavanam Kuppuswamy have worked to revive popular interest in Tamil folk music. The urumee melam is one of the more popular forms of folk music in rural Tamil Nadu, and the ensemble is most often played with an urumee (double-headed hourglass-shaped drum) and the nadaswaram (a double-reed wind instrument). The rural hill tribes of Tamil Nadu each have their own folk traditions – the Pulayar, for example, perform melodies called talams, which are said to come from the cooing of birds. Each talam is named after a deity – including ‘Kunhanada talam’, ‘Mangalanada talam’ and ‘Karaganachi talam’. Villu paattu is another popular folk music form that appeals to rural and urban communities alike. The main singer is accompanied by a chorus, musical instrument and a main instrument known as the villu (a bow that is fixed with bells). As the main singer narrates a tale, accompanied by some lively songs, the villu is struck in time to add a cheerful chime to the song.


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Festivals Thyagaraja Festival: Saint Thyagaraja (born Kakarla Thyagabrahmam; May 4, 1767 to January 6, 1847) was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music. A prolific composer, he was highly influential in the development of the classical music tradition. Thyagaraja along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri formed what is commonly known as the ‘musical trinity’ of Carnatic music. Thyagaraja’s kritis or raagas in praise of Hindu Gods and Goddesses are sung by leading South Indian musicians every January at ‘Thyagaraja Aradhana’ – a music festival held at the temple built in his memory in Thiruvaiyaru, a small village in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district. December Season in Chennai: The Tamil month of Margazhi, which begins on December 15 and ends with Pongal (the harvest festival) on January 15, is considered sacred as it corresponds with the time of dawn for the Gods. As classical music is regarded as the traditional form of worship, Margazhi is celebrated as the month of music and dance. In the late 1920s, the tradition of holding music concerts in Chennai during Margazhi was set, and music sabhas (associations) across the city started holding kutcheris (concerts) and other cultural events during this period. At present, an estimated 2,000 artistes take part in over 300 concerts held in a span of 30 days in Chennai, which comprise the ‘December Music Season’. Kutcheris, lecture demonstrations, harikathas (stories rendered through song), and award/title ceremonies fill the month, making Chennai a temporary abode for many scholars, students, patrons and fans.

Each year, from mid-December to mid-January, Chennai hosts close to 300 classical concerts and cultural events, with an estimated 2,000 artistes taking part in the festivities. illustration: Maniam Selven

Name to Know M.S. Subbulakshmi Born on September 16, 1916, Subbulakshmi was the second of Subramania Iyer’s three children. Subbulakshmi learnt Carnatic music from Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, and, subsequently, Hindustani music under Pandit Narayanrao Vyas − both teachers and musicians of national repute. She gave her first stage performance aged 10, when she sang a Marathi song at the Madurai Sethupathi High School. She cut her first record when she was 10. A year later, she sang at the 1,000-pillared hall in the Tiruchi Rockfort Temple. At the tender age of 13, she struck her first high note − the Madras Music Academy, which normally hosts only experienced musicians, invited the young girl to perform. She wowed her audience then, and continued to do so till the end of her life. The venues of her recitals include the United Nations General Assembly (United Nations Day, 1966), the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama (1963), Carnegie Hall, New York (1966) and Royal Albert Hall, London (1982). She sang in many languages, including Tamil, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati. She was the first musician to be conferred India’s highest civilian honour − the Bharat Ratna. She was also the first Indian musician to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award.


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Bharatanatyam dance brings together subtle eye and head movements and hand gestures. Photo: Bosciano Michele, Italy

DANCE The beautiful art of Indian dance was compiled, classified and codified by Sage Bharata more than 2,000 years ago in his treatise Natya Shastra or ‘The Science of Dance’. This manuscript is considered to be an encyclopaedia of this art form. It contains 36 chapters and deals with 11 aspects of dance in detail, including the history and origin of Indian dance. On the basis of the principles laid down by Bharata in his Natya Shastra, seven major classical dance styles evolved in different regions of India – one of which is the much beloved Bharatanatyam from Tamil Nadu. The others are Kathakali and Mohiniattam from Kerala, Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, Odissi from Orissa, Kathak from Uttar Pradesh, and Manipuri from the northeastern state of Manipur. Bharatanatyam is a confluence of four words – bha or bhava (expression), ra or raaga (music), ta or taala (rhythm) and

Photo: Inni Singh

Bharathanatyam


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Name to Know: Rukmini Devi No woman born into respectability had given a bharatanatyam recital in Folk dancers get ready with their dummy horses for the ‘poikkal kudirai attam’ (‘dummy horse public, until Rukmini Devi, dance’). Photo: Diana Grieger, Germany the beautiful young wife of a middle-aged Englishman, natyam (dance). The name also evolved from Sage Bharat, believed to have authored the ancient G.S. Arundale, danced at a Theosophical Society Indian treatise called Natya Shastra, which describes the codes governing this dance form, among convention in 1935. It had always been danced other things. The dancers wear colourful costumes made of silk saris with gold zari (thread) in the temples by the work. The pleats in these costumes open out beautifully into a skirt when the dancer performs handmaidens of the Gods, complicated footwork. The dance is a combination of subtle eye and head movements and hand the devadasis, but had sunk into disrepute when the gestures called mudras. Bharatanatyam has its place in Indian mythology as well. It is the dance dancers were encouraged of Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja. Also, Indian myths are full of stories of heavenly nymphs to perform in private and acquired patrons. Rukmini performing Bharatanatyam in heaven. Historically, it can be traced back to the Chola period. It Devi was inspired by the first recital on a public stage flourished as an art form in temples under the devadasis (literally, maids who serve the Lord). by two devadasis in Chennai in 1926. The performance Folk Influences had been encouraged In Tamil Nadu, there is a tradition associated with the coming of the monsoon – karagattam by several scholars and is a well-known folk dance, with men and women balancing beautifully decorated pots on their music lovers determined to demonstrate the classical heads. A convention that goes back several hundred years, it has traditionally been performed nature of the dance form, but it was not until Rukmini in honour of Mariamman, the Goddess of Rain, usually in the Tamil month of Aadi (mid-July Devi danced that a wider to mid-August). Kaavadi Aattam is another folk dance form that was derived from the ancient public, shocked though they were, began to recognise pilgrims’ practice of carrying offerings tied on either end of a long stick, balanced on their the dance as a classical shoulders. To lessen the boredom of the long travel they used to sing and dance in praise of art form.

the gods. In the Poikkal Kudirai Aattam (‘dummy horse dance’), the dancer fixes on a life-size toy figure of a horse on his/her hips and dons wooden legs so that the legs look like the hooves of the horse. The dummy is made of lightweight materials and the cloth at the sides of the dummy swings to and fro, covering the legs of the dancer. Therukoothu or street dances are usually conducted during village festivals in the Tamil months of Panguni and Aadi. In this all-male dance, make-up and costumes are considered very important, as men play the female roles as well. The performance involves storytelling, songs, dance and dialogues.

Dance Festivals The Indian Dance Festival is an annual event conducted by Tamil Nadu Tourism at Mamallapuram. The natural sea shore ambience against the backdrop of this world heritage site brings in a large number of visitors from across the world. The show celebrates the spirit of Tamil Nadu’s arts and highlights the traditional dance forms of the state.

There was, nevertheless, resistance to children from the upper strata of society learning bharatanatyam. To show them the way, Rukmini Devi founded Kalakshetra, a haven of art, in 1936. Here, adopting the ancient Indian gurukul technique where teachers and students live in the most austere conditions and study and work, the students helping each other to bring to perfection what their teachers taught, she made dance respectable.


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29 Indias: One Nation, published by Global Adjustments, has 10 hand-picked snippets about each of the Indian states. Read the book for free at www.globaladjustments.com. Global Adjustments has created an animated video that captures the cultural markers of all 29 states: http://tinyurl. com/m734xsm

Ten for the Road by Susan Philip

Mizoram

Explore the 29 states of this fascinating subcontinent. This segment will set out a collection of interesting, bite-size facts from each state – this month, we look at Mizoram

1.

How the Land Lies: The name of the state translates to ‘Land of the Hill People’ – and Mizoram, in the Northeast, is just that. It shares its borders with two other countries – Bangladesh and Myanmar. Aizawl, perched at a super-high 4,000 ft above sea level, is its capital.

2.

Political Pressures: At one time, each of the collection of villages in the region functioned as a small state in itself, and was under the dynastic rule of chieftains. Post independence, Mizoram was carved out of Assam. It was declared a state in 1986, and the process was formalised the following year.

3.

Past Glories: A group of people from various tribes in Mizoram believe they are Bnei Menashe, the sons of Menasse, one of the 10 ‘lost’ tribes of Israel. A significant number have migrated to Israel and integrated with the Jewish culture.

4.

Ethnic Fingerprint: As much as 95 percent of the people of Mizoram are of tribal origin, making it the Indian state with the highest concentration of tribal population. Lushais, Kukis Pawis, Raltes, and Himars are some of the tribes.

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Culture Quotient: If you want to shake a leg, Mizoram might be the right place. The Cheraw tests the performers’ nimbleness like no other. Women have to step between and out of pairs of bamboo poles held almost at ground level and closed and pulled apart by men in time to rhythmic music.

6.

Personality Plus: He was an Englishman, but the Mizos considered him special. He was Capt. T.H. Lewin, District

Commissioner of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. His nine-year sojourn in the region earned him the sobriquet ‘Thangliana’ which means ‘greatly famous’. Capt. Lewin wrote the first Lushai book. 7.

Sights to See: This scenic state abounds in breathtaking waterfalls, serene lakes, forested mountains, mysterious caves and memorial stones. If you plan your visit in March, you can catch the amazing Chapchar Kut Spring Festival. However, note that visitors, even domestic ones, to Mizoram need an ‘inner line permit’. (For more details, visit http://www. mizoram.nic.in/more/entry.htm)

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Tasty Treats: Mizo cuisine makes use of a lot of vegetables, but meat or poultry is added to most vegetable dishes. Vawksa, a type of smoked pork, is very popular here. And so is wine made from the Labrusca grapes.

9.

Crafted with Care: Weaving is a traditional craft, and the intricate designs that the women produce on their looms have been handed down from generation to generation. If there’s one item that is typically from Mizoram, it is the khum-beu – a ceremonial hat woven out of cane and lined with smoked Hnathial leaves that is completely waterproof.

10.

Worshipfully Yours: Christianity is the predominant religion of the state, and Christmas is a major event. Music runs in the veins of the Mizos, and the choirs of this state are famous – they sing traditional English carols and hymns as well as songs composed in the local language, set to traditional tunes.


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India writes

iREAD Thirukkural

Translated by Dr. M. Rajaram

Reviewed by Yamini Vasudevan

Said to have been written between the 3rd and 1st century BC, Thirukkural is one of the most important texts in Tamil literature. Authored by a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher named Thiruvalluvar, it consists of 1,330 couplets (each couplet is known as ‘kural’ in Tamil) that are grouped into 133 chapters of 10 couplets each. Broadly divided into three segments – that are roughly translated to refer to ‘virtue’, ‘wealth’ and ‘love’ – the book provides guidelines to handle all aspects of life from family to business, and administration to personal discipline. In this translation, Dr. Rajaram has provided the kural in Tamil, with a translation and brief explanation of the couplet in English. For example, under the chapter ‘Earning Wealth’ are 10 homilies, such as: ‘Wealth not earned with love and grace Must be eschewed as evil at once.’ The meaning follows: ‘One must give up all the wealth earned without kindness and goodness as evil’. Another kural in the same chapter exhorts one to ‘Gain wealth to destroy enemies’ pride No sharper steel is found.’ In other words, ‘One should earn wealth as there is no sharper weapon than that to ruin the arrogance of foes’. Similarly, across the book, the reader is given a wide range of teachings – with the understanding that he/she should pick and apply those that are apt for the life situation. There is no reference to any specific religion, language or community – especially in terms of superiority or otherwise. This makes the book relevant for people from all countries and backgrounds – and it is for this reason that the book is also referred to as the ‘Universal Veda’.

About the Author Thiruvalluvar, a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher, is thought to have lived between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century BC. He was born either in Thiru Mylai (present-day Mylapore) in Chennai, or in Thirunayanar Kuruchi, a village in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu. Jains, Buddhists and Shaivites claim him as their own. He is also referred to as Theiva Pulavar (‘Divine Poet’).

About the Translator Dr. M. Rajaram is an officer in the Indian Administrative Service, and holds post-graduate degrees in English Literature and Education, and a PhD in Human Resource Development. Some of his other books are Changing Faces of School Inspection, Who Will Bell the Cat? and Towards Quality in Educational Administration.


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Global Wellness Series

Skin Matters Dr. Nidhi Singh, Consultant Dermatologist of Global Health City, Chennai talks about the dangers of using skin-lightening products.

We are born with constitutive skin colour which is genetically determined and it darkens with time due to ultraviolet light exposure and other environmental factors. Avoiding sunlight exposure along with regular and proper use of sunscreens before going outdoors can help us stay close to our constitutive skin colour. If sunscreens are not used regularly the skin lightening attained through various skin lightening agents may progressively disappear after stoppage of the agent. Usually the skin lightening agent does not lighten beyond our constitutive skin colour. If any agent is lightening beyond our constitutive skin colour then we need to be cautious about the dangerous side effects of “complete loss of pigment�. Thus, the use of skin lightening agents ideally should be reserved for treatment of abnormal skin pigmentation. Abnormal pigmentation of skin could be due to varied conditions like melasma, post acne pigmentation, pigmentation around the eyes, cosmetics or medication induced pigmentation and many other reasons. Sometimes hormonal disturbances lead to generalized pigmentation. Pigmentation especially facial pigmentation affects the emotional well being of individuals and may require cosmetic camouflage. In some cases treatment may require laser therapy. Healthy skin irrespective of whether a person is dark or fair is beautiful.


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India now by Susan Philip

The month that was

As we enter a new month, we quickly recap the events, people and places that made news in the past month

Business Matters PIO CEO Pichai Sundararajan, whom the world knows better as simply Sundar Pichai, has been named the CEO of the new avatar of Google. Sundar spearheaded the launch of the supersuccessful Chrome browser, and, in the seven years since, rocketed to his present position. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke for the whole nation when he congratulated the mild-spoken, Chennai-born tech-whiz who is also blessed with extraordinary managerial skills.

Politics and Polity

Q. Sundar Pichai is only the latest in an impressive list of Indianborn achievers who are now heading some of the world’s biggest corporations. Two of the best known are Indra Nooyi and Satya Nadela of PepsiCo and Microsoft, respectively. Recently, another Person of Indian Origin (PIO) made news when he was chosen to head NetApp. Can you name him?

Midnight’s Children 2.0

A. George Kurian.

Just past the stroke of the midnight hour on August 1, around 15,000 Indian citizens were born. Not literally, but figuratively. Neighbours India and Bangladesh have been trying to better define their common border for several decades, and the exercise reached fruition when talks between the heads of both nations resulted in many parcels of land changing hands and people in border areas getting to choose which country they belonged to. Inclement weather did not dampen the celebratory mood on both sides, and officials of India and Bangladesh hoisted their respective national flags in their newly demarcated territories as the historic agreement took effect.

Arty Happenings

You may have wondered why the Indian State of West Bengal is so named, despite being located in the east of India. It was originally part of the huge province of Bengal during the Colonial era. The British bifurcated it into East and West Bengal, triggering protests. To cut a long political story short, after many convolutions, the eastern half eventually became the nation of Bangladesh, but the distinguishing term ‘West’ is still in use in India.

Weaving a new story August 7 has been designated ‘National Handloom Day’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the first celebration of the day, held in Chennai, and made an impassioned plea to give this skill the importance, respect and value it deserves, and to rekindle the world’s interest in handlooms from India. Mr. Modi also launched the India Handloom logo and gave away awards to weavers. Q. Textiles have always played a great part in the history of the subcontinent. Two special types were particularly sought after by traders from the West, who ended up colonising the subcontinent. And another was a pivot of the Swadeshi (self-sufficiency) movement spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi, the chief architect of India’s unique struggle for freedom from the colonists. Can you name them? A. Calico, muslin and khadi, in that order. Calico takes its name from Kerala’s Calicut, the Anglicised version of Kozhikode, while muslin comes from Masulipatnam in present-day Andhra Pradesh.


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Awards and Accolades

End of an Era

A signal honour

A teacher and a President

Talking of textiles, cloth and clothes, they are the things that put Anshu Gupta (pictured below), founder of Goonj, an NGO, among this year’s Magsaysay Award winners. Gupta has been recognised for his “creative vision in transforming the culture of giving in India, his enterprising leadership in treating cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor, and in reminding the world that true giving always respects and preserves human dignity.” (Whistleblower Sanjiv Chathurvedi, currently Deputy Secretary, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was the other Indian on this year’s list of winners). The prestigious prize, given by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation in memory of the third president of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, honours individuals or organisations in Asia displaying the selfless service and transformative influence that marked the late Filipino leader.

The world mourned the passing of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, known by many epithets, including ‘Missile Man of India’ and ‘People’s President’. As these appellations imply, he was a man of many parts. A renowned scientist, thinker and author of many inspiring books, he did much to endear himself to the masses during his stint at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of the President of India. Although his career as a space scientist has received much publicity, perhaps it is less well-known that he used his scientific knowledge to ease the lives of the disabled and the ill. He collaborated with doctors to fashion lightweight, lowcost calipers for those affected with polio, as well as India’s first fully indigenised affordable stent for cardiac patients.

Sports Spots Pushing the boundaries

Q. The UN has declared Dr. Kalam’s birthday, October 15, as World Student’s Day. Dr Kalam was the 11th President of India. The country remembers its first Vice President, who went on to become its second President, by commemorating his birthday, September 5, as Teacher’s Day. Who was that President? A. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

The first All-woman Transcontinental Road Expedition from Delhi to London is in progress. Flagged off on July 23, the three-woman team is expected to reach their destination in 55 days. Their 15,000-km route will take them via various countries, including Myanmar, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland, Germany and France. The three women, Nidhi Tiwari, Rashmi Koppar and Soumaya Goel, all from Bengaluru, are travelling in one vehicle, without a backup. They are seeking adventure, and to promote off-road driving – travelling through uninhabited areas, non-tarred roads, rocky and forest terrain, braving difficulties and danger. They call themselves Women Beyond Boundaries – a sure sign that Indian women are liberating themselves from the shackles of tradition. Ladies wanting to take a break from their mundane chores and go places, visit http://www.viceregaltravels.com/women-exp.aspx

RIP India also bid goodbye to M.S. Vishwanathan (also known as MSV; pictured on top left), prolific and popular composer of Tamil film music, and Dr. Suniti Solomon, who detected India’s first AIDS case, during the month that was. Dr. Suniti Solomon’s contributions to AIDS research and MSV’s evergreen compositions in Tamil and other South Indian languages as well as in Hindi, live on.


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Feature by Suzanne McNeill

Trading Places

Visitors to India may be unaware that many of the most prominent commercial brand names on the goods they purchase are in fact family names. More than half of India’s listed companies are run by families that hail from traditional business communities

Business communities in India are a remnant of the caste system. Certain classes and communities of people have been traditionally involved in different fields and have acquired skills that are passed down from generation to generation. The extended or joint family system also played a role in developing India’s business communities, functioning as a very effective support system both in the personal and the business spheres. Members of a community or family pooled their talents and resources for the greater good, with the wisdom and experience of the older generation a guide and support for the younger members. Critically, entrepreneurs could call on the capital generated by previous generations, and support if new ventures failed.


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In Marwari businesses, children, siblings and in-laws often help run their companies’ operations.

While India was a trading nation long before the Europeans arrived in the 17th century, the rise of an indigenous, entrepreneurial class in India was accelerated by the development of markets in raw materials under colonialism: the financing of the export trade in commodities such as textiles, dyes, saltpetre for gunpowder, and tea was in the hands of merchants from distinct business communities who had substantial credit and trade networks across the country. It also enabled these business communities and families to move into industry when opportunities arose. Such opportunities encouraged traders to gravitate overseas and some Indian business communities still have a sizeable presence across South-East Asia, for example. Others migrated in times of economic downturn, creating successful businesses in their new environments. The younger members of successful family businesses are often encouraged to study overseas, particularly at prestigious Ivy League American colleges, and then come home to take over the reins of the business. It is noticeable that more daughters are taking their place in family-owned firms, once the preserve of the sons of the families. The emphasis on community means that many of India’s business houses have endowed philanthropic and charitable trusts. The economic reforms of the 1980s and 90s changed India’s business environment exponentially, opening

up the country to new industries such as electronics, IT, communications and biotechnology. Many first-generation entrepreneurs without particular community affiliations have entered the field, and the business world has become more inclusive. Families businesses and communities still thrive, however. Here’s a guide to some of India’s best known business communities.

The Marwaris Hailing originally from Rajasthan, the Marwaris’ innate flair with numbers and commercial acumen combined with a lack of work led to the community’s diaspora that is now present in every region of India. It is a community that has always followed fundamental business principles that emphasise close oversight and financial control allied to a flexible style of management and an awareness of changing trends. They have built a reputation for finding opportunity wherever their self-made and mobile people land. The Marwaris believe that it is critical for companies to maintain family ownership, and, in Marwari companies, children, siblings and in-laws often help run the operations, whilst fellow Marwaris are favoured if relatives are unavailable. Community networks are said to be extensive. One of the best known enterprises from this community is the Aditya Birla Group, which was founded by G. D. Birla


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(1894–1983) who began his career in the jute business in Calcutta. Soon he ventured into other enterprises, building up a huge empire that encompassed sugar and paper mills, tea and textiles, cement, chemicals, rayon, the Hindustan Times newspaper, Hindustan Motors and the aluminium producer Hindalco. One of the largest multinational conglomerates in India, the Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla is a fourth-generation member of the family. Another shining example, the Bajaj Group, was founded by Jamnalal Bajaj (1889–1942). Born into a poor Marwari family in Rajasthan, Bajaj was adopted as a grandson by a distant relative, and rigorously trained in his grandfather’s trading business in book-keeping and buying and selling commodities. Bajaj Auto, the Group’s flagship company, manufactures motorcycles, scooters and auto-rickshaws. Jamnalal’s great-grandson Rajiv Bajaj now runs the company. The Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, a resident of the United Kingdom, is another Marwari from Rajasthan.

The Khatris Known as government administrators, the Khatris from the Punjab evolved into traders and financiers with historical overseas links in Burma, Russia and Central Asia. The community’s most prominent business family is the Mahindra family. Mahindra & Mahindra was founded by two brothers in 1945 to trade steel, and by the 1960s was manufacturing and exporting jeeps and utility vehicles. By the 1990s, the business had expanded into financial services and IT. Now called the Mahindra Group, the chairman and managing director is Anand Mahindra, grandson of the company’s co-founder. Another prominent Khatri family owns the Thapar Group of Companies. This was founded by Karam Chand Thapar (1900–1963), who started his career as a coal trader in Calcutta then moved into textiles, sugar, banking and paper manufacturing.

and community networks. Well-known Jain businesses include Arvind Mills, the flagship company of the Arvind Group, which has been producing textiles since its founding in 1931, and is the world’s fourth largest manufacturer of denim. The company was founded by Kasturbhai Lalbhai (1894–1980) and his brothers. The company has, over the years, expanded into brands and retail. Another Jain family has risen to prominence as owners of Bennett, Coleman and Co., a media empire, which includes The Times of India, the world’s biggest selling English language newspaper.

The Gujaratis Gujarat has had a long tradition of overseas trade, and Gujarati business houses have existed in East Africa since the 13th century. Overseas migration to countries around the Arabian Sea such as Yemen, Oman and Bahrain was not uncommon. During the period of economic decline in the 1920s and 1930s, many Gujaratis picked up the trade connection that had existed for 2,000 years between Gujarat and Africa and migrated to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, often to white-collar jobs. During the 1950s and 1960s, radical Africanisation programmes in these countries displaced these communities, and many left for Britain and the States. Another port of call since the 1960s is Belgium, where Gujarati businessmen have continued a historical tradition of trading in the jewellery business, particularly diamonds. The diamond trade in Antwerp, the world’s biggest trading hub for rough diamonds, is now dominated by Gujarati Jains. This mercantile culture produced many self-made men who have formed successful family

This religious community is widespread in India and is one of the country’s most prosperous business groups. Documents belonging to European merchants from the 17th century describe dealing with Jain traders, noting the extent of their contacts, the variety of commodities they dealt with, and their command over liquid capital. Many Jains were moneylenders and acted as brokers; they were a vital link between the big trader and the primary producer. European trading companies, unable to speak local dialects and unfamiliar with local conditions, came to depend more and more on brokers, and often turned to the Jains to finance their purchases. The Jain community branched out into money transfer, making use of their pan-Indian family

Photo: India Tourism, Chennai

The Jains

One of India’s long-standing business communities, Gujaratis have had a long tradition of overseas trade.


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businesses. The Walchand family established the Scindia Steam Navigation Company in 1919, a company which has since come to dominate all private shipping carried on by Indians. A formative spell working in Yemen was the starting point for Dhirubhai Ambani to begin his entrepreneurial career, exporting spices to the Gulf States and importing polyester yarns. Reliance Industries, now one of the world’s biggest conglomerates, was born. During the 1980s, Reliance expanded into petrochemicals, and oil and gas exploration, and then diversified further into telecommunications, IT and logistics.

The Parsis The Parsis are entrepreneurs whose contribution to India has far exceeded their size in numbers. India’s Parsis are descendants of the Zoroastrian community who fled from Iran in the 8th to 10th centuries. Initially agriculturists, they metamorphosed into a business community as they moved to Bombay (as Mumbai was known) in the 19th century. Highly educated and not bound by the social distinctions of the Hindu community, the Parsis became the point of contact between the British and the rest of the Indian population. As brokers to the East India Company, they oversaw Bombay’s rise as a business hub, managing India’s opium sales to China and ploughing the profits into cotton mills, shipping and banks. They are now among India’s top corporate dynasties, with a hand in everything from padlocks to five-star hotels. The Wadias came from Surat, an important west coast seaport. The East India Company secured the services of the Wadia family to build docks and ships in Bombay in 1736, establishing Bombay as a major trading port. The Wadia Group, whose chairman, Nusli Wadia, is a direct descendant of the company’s 18th-century founder, owns Bombay Dyeing, the textile flagship of India, Britannia Industries and GoAir, a low-cost airline. The Godrej brothers began manufacturing padlocks and safes in 1897, after reading a newspaper article about rising crime rates in Bombay. Now the business operates in sectors as diverse as real estate, appliances and furniture. From the Parsi community hails India’s greatest industrialist, J.N. Tata (1839–1904) who began his career in

Photo: Steve Browne & John Verkleir/Creative Commons

While Many first-generation entrepreneurs without particular community affiliations have entered business world, which has become more inclusive, Families businesses continue to thrive in India

Initially agriculturalists, Parsis metamorphosed into a business community when they moved to Mumbai in the 19th century.

the textile trade. A pioneer, J.N. Tata identified three areas key to India’s industrialisation: steel, electricity and scientific research. He laid the foundations for Tata Steel, now the world’s fifth largest steel company, the Tata Power Company Ltd., India’s largest private electricity company and the Indian Institute of Science. Current chairman Cyrus P. Mistry is a member of the Tata extended family, and a long-time stakeholder in the Group.

The Telugus Long part of the pre-modern era power struggle in Central India, the Reddys emerged as a dominant landowning and political community in the region. In the postIndependence period, they expanded their activities into new spheres of the economy and have thrived in construction and healthcare. G.V.K. Reddy founded GVK, a Hyderabadbased infrastructure conglomerate, from his father’s small construction firm. GVK builds highways and power plants and is responsible for India’s major dam construction projects. Apollo Hospitals was started in Chennai in 1983 by Pratap Reddy and is now one of the largest health care providers in Asia. Currently, the group business is run by his four daughters. Another member of the Reddy clan, B. Nagi Reddy established Vijaya Hospital, one of the first multi-specialty hospitals, in Chennai 10 years earlier. G.M. Rao has developed his family’s commodities trading business through a series of acquisitions that has now enabled him to enter the business of energy and infrastructure and become India’s leading infrastructure asset developer.

The Tamil Brahmins The Brahmin community is Hinduism’s traditional priestly class, so their inclusion in an overview of India’s


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business communities may seem surprising. However, the South’s reputation as an engineering hub was built on the companies founded by Tamil Brahmin entrepreneurs. T.V. Sundaram Iyengar (1877–1955) founded Tamil Nadu’s first bus service company, T. V. Sundaram Iyengar & Sons, later branching out into trucks, automobile services and rubber retreading. The group, now called TVS, has over 50 companies in its fold, extending from the motor industry to financial services, and is a leading automobile distribution company in India. The chairman is Suresh Krishna, grandson of the founder, and all the group companies are run independently by fourth-generation family members. Another industrialist from the Brahmin community was Sivasailam Anantharamakrishnan (1905–1964), who founded and led the Amalgamations Group of industries. This has become one of India’s largest light engineering conglomerates, focusing on engine components.

The Malayalis Chennai’s status as the headquarters of the Indian automobile industry is also built on the entrepreneurial flair of the Malayali community. The Madras Rubber Factory (MRF Ltd) was founded by K. M. Mammen Mappillai (1922– 2003), who came from a Syrian Christian family in Kerala. The company started out making balloons, before moving into the manufacture of tread rubber and tyres. The company is run by the founder’s two sons.

The Chettiars We finish this overview with one of India’s most wellknown business communities, the Chettiars from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu. The Chettiar signature is

Photo: India Tourism Chennai

Photo: Cassia Reis, Brazil

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Photo: Gemmarie Venkataramani, The Phillipines

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(Clockwise from top left) Inside a Chettiar home – the hub of the family and business; the Madras Rubber Factory was founded by a Malayali Syrian Christian community in Kerala; the South’s reputation as an engineering hub was built on companies founded by Tamil Brahmin entrepreneurs.

on everything, from manufacturing to banking, fertiliser and films. They started as traders of salt, rice and other commodities, but their primary asset was their knowledge of numbers and their integrity, and so they expanded into moneylending. The Chettiars are considered to be among the pioneers of organised banking in India, credited with introducing the concept of double entry book-keeping. They gave the country institutions such as the Indian Overseas Bank. In the 19th century, the Chettiars began trading and lending overseas. They became important bankers in Burma and to this day there is still a small Chettiar community in Singapore. From small-time companies to big business conglomerates such as the Chennai-based Murugappa Group, the Chettinad Group, AVM Studios and the MAC Group, Chettiar families have interests in manufacturing, banking, hospitality, fertiliser, films, paper, pharmaceuticals, sugar, food and several others sectors.


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Picture Story by Team Culturama

Business As Usual When talking about entrepreneurship and business management, one doesn’t need to look to multinational corporations or big business houses for examples – the principles are exemplified even by street-side shopkeepers and traders. To demonstrate this, we have picked a range of trades that are prevalent across cities and towns in Tamil Nadu – and none of the owners, we are sure, have had ‘training’ in their respective trades

Efficiency is seen at its best here – fuel, manpower and time are used in the best possible manner to transport the stock to the desired destination. (Of course, no marks are given for safety compliance.) Photo Silvia Ricanek, Germany


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Much like a stock market trader, the mobile coconut seller watches the crowds around the beaches, parks and residential areas. When business dips, he takes a call on whether he should wait for an upswing in demand or pedal towards greener pastures. Photo Naomi Sonnenberg

The man selling bamboo flutes and plastic horns frequents temples and wedding and function halls – places where young children are found in plenty. And, much like the Pied Piper, he plays a haunting tune on the flute to lure his ‘customers’. Photo Gülsüm Imecer, Germany-Turkey

Despite there being several fruit vendors, the business is run like a cartel – and there are marginal price differences. Towards evening, the vendors begin to offer discounts on the perishable wares, and savvy shoppers move in for a bargain. Photo Ligang Chen

There is no user manual for ‘kolam’ tubes that are used to create decorative patterns using rice flour. The seller will help you learn, and provide you with flour to practise before you make the final purchase. Photo Thomas Brouns, USA

The question of built-in obsolescence is not applicable to these nylon baskets. By weaving the brightly coloured strands into tight knots and the tapestry of knots into a basket, the lady is creating a product that will stand the tests of time, usage and weather. Photo Naomi Sonnenberg


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The lighthouse at Marina Beach – one of Chennai's best known landmarks. Photo: Rafael Nobre

India Diaries by Jennifer Mullen

An open letter to Madras “I confess that before I came to you...I wasn’t sure if I was going to like you or that we would have anything in common....But, like being asked out on a date by someone who is notyour usual type, we met and took each day at a time”

Dear Madras, I hope you don’t find me overly familiar by calling you by your old name, but we are friends now, aren’t we? As I prepare to bid you farewell, I wanted to put pen to paper and voice a few of the thoughts about how it has felt to spend a year in your company. Madras, I confess that before I came to you 12 months ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like you very much or that we would have anything in common. I claimed to be a well-travelled citizen of the world, but I didn’t aspire to move to a place I’d heard was dirty, fraught with risks and sometimes downright misogynistic. I admit I was scared that walking your streets would make my nice shoes grubby and was afraid of being constantly accosted by the outstretched hands of poverty and desperation. But, like being asked out on a date by someone who is not your usual type and accepting out of curiosity, we met and took each day at a time.


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Madras, at first I found you strange and utterly frustrating. As I stood in a pool of my own sweat, your incessant honking sounds, smelly drains and shameless littering irritated me to the core, so I hid inside the safe air-conditioned cocoon of my car and luxury hotels. I was exasperated that a lot of your people, particularly the taxi drivers, did not understand the Queen’s English. Madras, you felt so foreign, I wondered if any of my fellow British had actually been here at all. But then, Madras, you started to surprise me. During Diwali at Parry’s Corner we were surrounded by a gang of cheering youths. Instinctively, I recoiled and held on to my bag; but all they wanted was to strike grinning poses for photos wearing my sun hat and give my husband huge affectionate man-hugs. On that day, the cheeky smiles of street kids, who never asked us for one rupee, started to melt my cynical preconceptions away. I challenged you by eating food off banana leaf plates or samosas from street vendors, waiting for the tell-tale cramps of Delhi-belly to send me sprinting down the road, like a cartoon character being chased by a swarm of angry bees. In fact, the only food-related damage I experienced was the first time I attempted to cook daal and scalded my nose with the steam from the pressure cooker, as I’d forgotten to put on the little stopper-like instrument they call a ‘weight’. Madras, you then started to intrigue me. As one stares at a Where’s Wally? book amongst a cityscape of litter, traffic chaos and half-built houses, I started to notice the exquisite little details that make up your character. I stopped seeing the rubble and observed brightly coloured Dravidian temples. I paid no more attention to the walls of endless vehicles and noticed the bells adorning the horns of bullocks pulling mango carts on the East Coast Road. I was no longer bothered by cracked footpaths, as I was too busy taking in the vivid kolam. Although admittedly, when Iooking up at the smiling billboards of ‘Selfie Pulla’* Vijay and the earnest gaze of political figures, I could never quite fathom where Kollywood** ended and the corridors of power began. It was then, Madras, that you started to impress me. I admired the women on construction sites, whose sarees glittered as they made their way gracefully through the dust with eight bricks on their heads. I respected the dedication of

It is not uncommon to be given a spontaneous ‘man-hug’ by strangers. Photo: Jennifer Mullen, Australia

all the parents who transported their children to school every day by motorcycle, with them still arriving scrubbed, braided and immaculate. I applauded the discipline of our driver, who, every month, managed to send a large portion of his meagre monthly salary home to his native village. Madras, what I admired most was that despite the chaos and harsh circumstances, people were forging ahead with their lives, always smiling. They are clearly so proud of you, their city. Madras, life as an expat here is transient and, just as the monsoon comes and goes, I too must move on. I thank you for opening my eyes to many aspects of your culture. I will continue to eat your masala dosa, dance to the Kollywood tunes I have come to love and keep in touch with so many of the amazing people who became my friends. But, Madras, I shall not say ‘goodbye’ as it sounds too final; instead, I’ll borrow your language and say ‘poitu varaen’, which, of course, you know means ‘I will come again’.

* ‘Selfie Pulla’ is the title of a popular Tamil film song that stars a famous actor named Vijay. ** ‘Kollywood’ is the term given to the Tamil film industry; it is derived from Kodambakkam – an area in Chennai that is home to film production.


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Look Who’s In Town Chennai

The Chennai Connection American Evelyn Mueller, spouse of the deputy Consul general – German Consulate in Chennai, tells us about what she likes best about India and Indians Evelyn Mueller’s first brush with India could be described as ‘aromatic’ – interestingly, it occurred not in India but in Gabon, West Africa. The aroma of the food cooked by her Indian neighbours made her wish that they would invite her to the meal! India Impressions Before moving to Chennai, we lived in Minsk (capital of the Republic of Belarus). The Indian Ambassador’s and

the Deputy Ambassador’s wives were my close friends. They gave me a lot of information about Indian culture, places of interest to visit, cuisine and people. I have lived in different parts of the world where there are large populations, but India tops the list. However, India did not intimidate me and I do not have fears about exploring Chennai. India on a plate I was always a fan of Indian cuisine. Wherever I lived, I always had an Indian restaurant ‘hangout’. However, to my surprise, South Indian food is a little different from the dishes I have tried so far. It is spicy but very delicious. I tried dosas and idlis for the first time, along with the coconut chutneys. I can’t really compare Indian cuisine here to the food back home as the spices used in cooking are different. Wanderlust So far, I have been to Mammallapuram (Mahabalipuram), Puducherry (Pondicherry), Coimbatore and New Delhi, all of which were enjoyable. I hope to go to Rajasthan, Jaipur and Kerala, about which my friends have told me. Culture Vulture India is a diverse country and that is the reason behind the availability of a variety of entertainment options. I have enjoyed local concerts performed at the Madras Club, or a local production of a play by Agatha Christie. There are also live bands playing at hotels and different film festivals. I was once invited to give away the awards to participants of an Indian dance recital. The dances were very different, and the movements, the use of their eyes and the energy exerted was impressive. What I would like in India As any idealist, probably for a reduction in the disparity between the rich and the poor. Secondly, I would like a change in the position of women – towards equality. I am taking home... Probably the patience that Indians exhibit, even while driving in the most stressful situations! Nothing bothers them and they just go about their business.

Take

Best Indian Friend: Too many to mention, but one is my driver Jai Favorite Indian Food: Gulab jamun Favorite Hangout Spot: My terrace, from where I can see the Bay of Bengal Intolerable India: The concept of (not) being on time Loveable India: Hospitality – Chennai is the place where I was welcomed the most by locals

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Look Who’s In Town Mumbai

Flavours of Mumbai Manjula Gunawardena, Head of Risk at the National Australia Bank, is looking forward to her first Diwali in Mumbai. She has been living in the city for six months and is hoping to explore more of it in the days to come. India Impressions I had searched for necessary information on Google before moving to India. Our relocation advisors have been very helpful in helping us identify housing needs and settling down. The National Australia Bank also organised a cultural transition programme for us. Until you get here, everything you hear and see doesn’t seem real. My impressions of India were derived from what I had seen on TV and the Internet (I had not visited India previously). I realised that India is very different from Australia from the simplest of things (such as traffic) and that it has a far greater population that Australia. I realised the magnitude of implications these have on everyday life only when I got here. What was previously a mere statistic is now a reality. India on a Plate I’m starting to enjoy Indian food and the different flavours a ‘simple’ meal can contain. I do miss some food

Australian Manjula Gunawardena compares the ‘real’ India she is living in with the one she has seen on television

from Australia, but, after some searching, you realise that some of these items are available right here in Mumbai. Wanderlust I am yet to explore Mumbai fully; I am looking forward to the programmes at the National Centre for Performing Arts. I have just settled into the Mumbai lifestyle and am finding my way around here. I think it’s now time to explore the beauties this country has to offer. What I would like in India Less poverty and more housing. I am taking home... The family structure that is prevalent in India – it is surprising to see how the next generation actively cares for the older one.

Take

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Best Indian friend: Veena Best Indian food: Tandoori food. Favourite hang-out spot in India: The Oberoi Hotel Intolerable India: (Lack of) phone connectivity Loveable India: The people’s hospitality


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Trivia by Team Culturama

Of Capital and Commerce Did you know that Tamil Nadu has the highest number of applications (50) for the Geographical Indication mark? We highlight the many jewels in the crown of this ‘rich’ state – cities known for their industry, agricultural produce and unique art Hub Of Industry Known as the ‘Manchester’ of South India, Coimbatore is a Tier-II city that is a hub for manufacturing and small-scale industries. From wet grinders and auto components to cotton production and textiles, this city literally makes it all. In fact, the ‘Coimbatore wet grinder’ has won a Geographical Indication (GI) mark. Coimbatore also supplies a large percentage of the country’s pumps. Not only is the city known for its industries but it is also slowly gaining fame for educational institutions that are drawing students from across the country.

Silk City

Photo: Marlene Wiegreffe, Germany

The southern town of Kanchipuram is historically known as a place of learning, and it continues to be a centre for Vedic studies. It is also considered as one among of the sacred places for Hindus. Mention Kanchipuram, however, and it is silk saris that first come to mind. For more than 500 years, Kanchipuram has been churning out some of the best silk saris in the country. Traditionally woven by hand, with gold zari or threads, the Kanchipuram pattu (silk) is especially sought after by brides-to-be. The ‘Kanchipuram silk’ has earned a GI mark as well.


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Towering Temples Famed for the towering Meenakshi temple and many others that have bestowed on it the moniker of ‘temple city’, Madurai is especially known for its fragrant jasmine flowers. The city is said to have been known for the flowers as early as 300 BC, when Tamil poets mentioned Madurai’s delicate malli (jasmine). A story from the Sangam period says that a Tamil king named Pari gifted his royal chariot to a jasmine creeper, so that it would not go to waste on the hard forest ground. The ‘Madurai malli’ has a GI mark.

All Dolled Up

Yellow Gold Located in the northern part of the state, Erode is a world renowned market for turmeric. In fact, the price of turmeric across the country is set from this central market. Erode’s fertile soil also makes it a top supplier of cotton in the state.

Steel City Salem city goes by many names, of which the favoured one is ‘Steel City’ – derived in large part from the presence of the Salem Steel Plant, which manufactures stainless steel. Salem has a large deposit of magnesite, bauxite and iron ore deposits, making it the preferred destination for steel manufacturers. The city is also one of the largest cultivators of mangoes in South India.

Thanjavur (formerly known by its anglicised name, Tanjore) is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of South India for the copious paddy harvest it produces. It is also famous for its ‘Tanjore paintings’, which depict Hindu Gods and scenes from epics. The specialty of the paintings is that they are adorned with beaten gold leaves and semi-precious stones. The art form was influenced by the Marathas, who invaded South India in the 16th century. The Tanjore painting, said to last for generations, has a GI mark in its name. Yet another GI mark from this region is for the unique terracotta dolls – or ‘Thanjavur thalai aattu bommai’ (literally ‘head nodding dolls’), are made from three detachable parts. The parts – legs, body and a head – are delicately balanced on each other by means of hidden metal hoops that create the ‘dancing’ effect.

Driving Business

Cracker Capital The name of ‘Mini Japan’ was bestowed on Sivakasi for the comparison it elicits for its industrious nature. This is where close to three-fourths of India’s firecrackers is manufactured. The other mainstay industries in the town include manufacturing of matchsticks and printing.

The centrally located town of Namakkal is well known as one of India’s largest egg production centres. There are many poultry farms in this town and they produce as much as 3 crore eggs a day. Namakkal is also a preferred destination for the heavy vehicle body building industry – trucks that are made here are sent across the country, and the industry provides employment to a large majority of the population who are drivers. So much so that Indian truck major Ashok Leyland has a driver training institute based at Namakkal.


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In God’s Own Country


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The Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Photo: Roberto Faccenda /Creative Commons

Seeing India by Akhila Ravikumar Traditions and mythological symbols come alive at the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram The southern state of Kerala is often associated with scenic backwaters, elaborate Kathakali dances and a plethora of varied spices. Rich in culture and history, Kerala is said to have been created when Sage Parasurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu threw his axe across the sea and caused the water to recede up to the point where the axe fell. It is to this land that I recently made a trip – and, rather than relax on a boat in the backwaters, I visited an ancient temple that is regarded as one of the holiest shrines for Hindus – and found myself marveling over the deep reverence for tradition and culture that its caretakers and followers maintain.

The Abode of Vishnu Thi-ru-van-antha-puram, (or Trivandrum as it was called by the British), is the southern-most district of Kerala, the state’s capital city. The name derives from the words ‘Thiru Anantha Puram’ or the ‘City of the Holy Anantha’ – so named after Anantha, the many headed cosmic serpent, that acts as a bed for Lord Vishnu (the Preserver of the universe, according to Hinduism). Lord Vishnu, seen in the act of reclining on Anantha, is the chief deity in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple – regarded as one of the most important temples in Hindu tradition. The temple was built by King Marthanda Varma of the Travancore Royal family in 1745, when he shifted his capital from Padma- nabha-puram (currently located in the state of Tamil Nadu) to Thiruvananthapuram. The vast temple complex is today a centre of attraction for the pious, the tourist and the merely curious. And we were extremely lucky to have had a fulfilling darshan (view of the divine). The statue of Vishnu ( the Preserver of the universe in Hindu mythology), which shows him in a reclining position, is 18 feet long – and is viewed in three parts, through three separate doors. Each part of the statue, as seen through the


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(Clockwise from top left) Little stretches of scenic serenity abound in the Kudhira Maligai Palace; the finest elements of Kerala’s architecture are to be seen in the Palace; the 122 carved rosewood horse-brackets give the name to the Kudhira Maligai (‘Horse Mansion’) Palace. Photos: Akhila Ravikumar

doors, depicts different timelines. Through the first door, you see the head with his right arm stretched out protectively, touching a lingam (a symbol of Shiva – the Destroyer of evil). This depicts the need to let go of the past and the destruction of past mistakes. The second door reveals the mid-section – with a divine lotus emerging from Vishnu’s navel. The image of Brahma (the Creator of the universe) seated atop the lotus symbolises creation and innovation. Through the third door, one sees the feet, with Bhoodevi (Mother Earth) seated near them – thus symbolising the preservation and maintenance of the present. The temple is about 3,000 years old and belongs to the royal Travancore family. Even today, the temple is closed at certain times so as to allow the royal family to pray in privacy. In what was a lucky coincidence, we (my friend and I) had a glimpse of the current Queen, wearing the traditional white-and-gold mundu (a long, unstitched piece of cloth, similar to a sarong) tied at chest level, over a blouse, in a traditional knot. She was followed by her attendant, who


carried a massive, cream-coloured umbrella – which made me reminisce about the works of royal painter Ravi Varma. Apart from the massive statue of Vishnu, the 300,000 stone carvings of mythological gods all around the temple area are unbelievably beautiful. All this, apart from the palace and museum, which have stunning art and artefacts of their own. A traditional dress code is followed within the temple to this day: Women must wear saris; men must wear dhotis and be bare-chested. This discipline is for body and mind to be focused on the divine. If anyone comes in other attire, they can buy bits of white fabric in shops outside the temple and tie them around their waist, sarong-style. Footwear, cell phones and umbrellas are best left in your car. Security is extremely strict – this is not surprising, as this temple is rumoured to have a half-kilometre-long basement vault filled with gold jewellery.

A Tribute to Craftsmanship Nearby, 122 carved rosewood horse-brackets give the name to the Kudhira Maligai (‘Horse Mansion’) Palace on the Southeast side of the Padmanabhaswamy Palace. (Do remember to buy the tickets – at Rs. 15 for entry and Rs. 30 for use of a camera – to gain entrance or you will be going back and forth between queues as we did). The Palace was built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma as a tribute to Kerala’s craftsmanship and to the 3,000-year legacy of the royal family. The Kudhira Maligai is an example of traditional Kerala architecture, with its typical sloping roofs, overhanging eaves, pillared verandahs and enclosed courtyards. Intricate carvings adorn the wooden ceilings, with

Photo: India Tourism Chennai

108 Ways to Worship the Lord

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Photo: Roberto Faccenda / Creative Commons

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The Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is regarded as one of the 108 temples that are regarded as must-visit by Tamil Brahmins who worship Lord Vishnu. Collectively known as Divya Desams (Divya means ‘premium’ and Desam means ‘place’), these temples are specifically mentioned in the works of renowned Tamil saints known as the Azhvars. Of the 108 temples, 105 are in India, one is in Nepal, and last two are outside the earthly realms. Only holy souls are given the privilege of visiting the final two temples.

each room having a distinctive pattern. It is said that the palace was constructed by 5,000 workers in four years. The palace is made from teakwood, rosewood, marble, and granite. The roof of the palace is made of wood and 42 beams support the carved patterns. The roof itself is supported by granite pillars. The main 16 rooms of the palace are constructed in 16 different patterns. In all, the palace contains 80 rooms, of which 20 were opened for visitors in 1995. The floor inside the palace is made of egg whites, charcoal, and limestone, which make it cold and smooth even in hot weather.


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Coconut husks are creatively stacked to form retaining walls; (right) photo negatives are placed within a frame to create screens. Photos: Akhila Ravikumar

A long, winding route leads to the exhibition halls – here, one gets to see yet another creative use of the versatile coconut, the husks of which are stacked to form retaining walls. The carved stone pillar colonnade, with low slung roofs and exquisite rose wood rafters and intricate carving would pique anyone’s architectural interest. The larger than life statues that depict Kathakali dance poses, which are over 250 years old, startle us with their presence. They depict gods and demons – varying from Hanuman (the monkey god known for his strength and wisdom) to Ravana (a demon with 10 heads). Another room housed an array of instruments used by practitioners of Kalaripayatu (a martial arts form); yet another had weapons of war. Paintings by European and Russian artists depicting the various heads of state in conference with Travancore royalty, brought to life scenes that from a long gone past. Large photo negatives were cleverly placed as translucent panels within a window frame to create screens. The crystal throne and the ivory throne are special exhibits, as were the many chandeliers and urns imported from Europe and China decades ago. On further enquiry (and purchase of another Rs. 10 ticket) we found our way to yet another art gallery – one with more recent, recognisable dignitaries and personal glimpses into the life of the royal family. This is the Puthen Maliga Palace Museum, which has been recently renovated – it is easy to miss as its entrance is obscure. With a heart full of peace and a mind full of admiration, we walked back home, passing a few temple elephants enroute. A not to miss piece of Indian belief, royalty, glamour and simplicity all rolled in one, live in the halls of this palatial temple. How come more of us don’t make it there till we are 50+ I wondered?

Nine Mellifluous Nights The Navarathri Mandapam Festival is a musical offering to Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning and wisdom. Held at the Navarathri Mandapam at the Fort Palace complex in Thiruvananthapuram, this festival is held during the nine auspicious days of Navarathri. The highlight of the festival is the rendition of the exquisite kritis (compositions) of Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, a former king of Travancore, who is regarded as a brilliant music composer and is credited with over 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani style. Another element that would interest visitors is the indigenous acoustic technology used in the venue. Earthen pots are kept on the ceiling by means of coir ropes, with their mouths facing the ground. The pots are of varying sizes and thickness and their mouths are of different measurements. These pots kept at different angles act as sound reflectors and prevent echoes.


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September Calendar of events

Presenting the best of India’s events in different categories across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and nearby suburbs

Art & Exhibitions

Photographic Exhibition Bengaluru Through 21 photographs, Yann ArthusBertrand and the Good Planet Foundation, in collaboration with Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. hope to raise awareness about the need for solutions to climate change. Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a photographer and a reporter, has been focused on environmental problems for more than 30 years. To see Yann’s photos, visit www.yannarthusbertrand.org/en/home. Date: 18 September to 28 September Venue: Rangoli Arts Centre Time: Starting at 1200 hrs

Artistique Photography Exhibition Delhi This exhibition was launched by the Asian Photography Magazine to commemorate World Photography Day (August 19). Renowned photographers such as Protick Sarker, Shibu Arakkal and Vikram Bawa will exhibit their works here. A contest was held in early August, and the winning photographs will be part of the exhibit. For more information, visit www.asianphotographyindia.com. Date: 10 September to 16 September Venue: Wonderwall F 213B Lado Sarai (1st Floor) Time: 1100 to 1900 hrs

An Exhibition of Paintings Mumbai ‘Scapelands’ by Sonia Mehra Chawla is an exhibition comprising of photopolymer etchings, videos and paintings in mixed media, which focus on the natural and organic world. The exhibition is being presented in collaboration with Exhibit 320 and British Council. Mehra was awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Award (20142015) for Visual Arts by British Council for ‘Scapelands’. Date: 21 August to 16 September Venue: TARQ Gallery, F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba


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Exhibition of Photographs Chennai

Exhibition and Sale of Furniture Chennai

‘Diverse Visions’ brings together images shot by six photographers from distinct professional backgrounds and tells the story of life’s special moments as seen through their eyes. From the golden rays of the sun setting the high Himalayan peaks on fire to the steam seeping out of a tea pot at a chai shop and the graceful stretch of a cheetah’s paw seconds before it strikes a gazelle, the exhibition is an exciting and eclectic collection of wildlife, landscape and street photographs. The photographers whose works are featured are: B. Chidambaram, Jayanand Govindaraj, J. Ramanan, Ramesh Raja, Sridhar Rao Chaganti and Srirama Raja.

Shakti Ganapati will host an exhibition-cumsale of contemporary furniture. A team of trained carpenters handcraft the furniture the traditional way from solid wood. Good workmanship and perfect joinery mean that no nails are used. The wood is kiln-dried, which ensures that the furniture will last a long time. The furniture is also finished with three coats of oil that is rubbed in by hand.

Date: September 8 to 13 (The show will be inaugurated on September 8 at 1700 hrs) Venue: Lalit Kala Akademi, 4, Greams Road Time: 1000 to 1900 hrs

Dance Drama Delhi

Date: 26 and 27 Venue: Rutland Gate Studio, Nungambakkam Time: Saturday: 1000 to 2000 hrs; Sunday: 1000 to 1800hrs

Events

Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra presents the mesmerising dance drama of Krishna, which will depict the Lord’s life, its legends, myths and miracles, with the choreographic presentation being produced and directed by Mrs. Shobha Deepak Singh. Tickets are available at denominations of Rs.500, Rs.300 and Rs.200 from August 26 onwards, and can be picked up at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, 1, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi. For more details, please call +91-11-43503333 /23386428/ 29. Date: September 18 to 20 Venue: Kamani Auditorium, 1. Copernicus Marg Time: 1830 hrs onwards (Two additional shows at 1500 hrs on September 4 and 5)


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Physical Theatre Bengaluru

Art Documentary Mumbai

Falling under the genre experimental theatre, Made in ILVA (The Contemporary Hermit) sheds light on alleged mistreatment of workers by steel company ILVA in the Italian town of Taranto. Through various physical sounds, video projections and music, Nicola Pinnazola, the sole performer, attempts to communicate to the audience the poor plight of the workers. This work is presented by The Italian Institute of Culture, New Delhi and Mumbai, Jagriti Theatre and The Arshinagar Project.

Matisse – From Tate Modern & MoMA is a documentary that explores the final chapter of Matisse’s career when he began ‘carving into colour’, creating his signature cutouts. Various contributions from curators, historians and those personally acquainted with the painter feature in the documentary. British actor Simon Russell Beale plays the part of Matisse. The NCPA in association with Seventh Art Productions of the United Kingdom will present this.

Date: September 15 Venue: Jagriti Theatre, Ramagondanahalli, Varthur Road, Next to Palm Meadows, Whitefield Time: 2000 hours

Music Concert Mumbai One Night Band, a four-member band that specialises in classic rock covers, will belt out the tunes of Dire Straits. For rock music fans, this could be an opportunity to check out some new talent. One Night Stand is said to be one of India's hottest new rock acts. For more details, visit www.bluefrog.co.in Date: September 16 Venue: Blue Frog, D/2 Mathuradas Mills Compound, N.M. Joshi Marg, Lower Parel Time: 2130 hrs

Date: 1 September Venue: NCPA, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai -- 400021 Time: 1830 hrs


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Spotlight by Team Culturama

Ziro Music Festival 24 to 27 September The Ziro Music Festival, held in Arunachal Pradesh, is said to be one of the best of its kind as it attracts well-known bands from India and across the world, with the scenic views adding to the allure of the event. The event is still relatively new but is slowly gaining popularity amongst performers and fans alike. Since its inception, the festival has attracted some well-known acts, including The Supersonics (a rock and roll outfit) and Sonic Youth (an American Indie group). The 2015 edition, the fourth, will see no fewer than 35 acts over four days. The Festival is also a great opportunity for musicians from the North East to stage their talent before a larger audience. A word about the location is a must: The Ziro Valley is situated at more than 5,500 feet above sea level. Surrounded by mountains, the temperature is a pleasant 20 to 27 degrees. Given that showers are not uncommon, it is advisable to carry a raincoat along. Those keen on attending the festival can take a plane from Kolkata or Delhi to Tezpur or Guhawati and from there hop onto a bus to Ziro.


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Postcard from India ppened to asthan and ha We visited Raj a festival g man during in il sm is th e se than Raja’. him the ‘Rajas fair. We called s of the o has memorie To us, the phot we felt th and vibrancy m ar w s ou m enor sights of the people and g n ti ee m n he w Rajasthan. al, UK –Deepak Rav

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Portrait of India by Team Culturama

Lord Krishna – the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu – is considered as the author of the Bhagavad Gita. In this image, he is portrayed retrieving the four Vedas or sacred scriptures from the depths of the ocean. Lord Krishna is often depicted as blue-skinned, as his name translates to ‘dark blue’ in Sanskrit. In some images, he is shown as a baby with a pot of butter, or as a young man – one leg crossed in front of the other with a flute held near his lips. The festival of Janmashtami commemorates the birth of this beloved god (turn to Page 60 for more details). Painting by Sri S. Rajam. Picture courtesy ‘Art Heritage of India: A Collector’s Special’, published by L&T-ECC & ECC Recreation Club.


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Photo: Christèle Gauthier, France

Festival of the month

Janmashtami September 5 Janmashtami or Krishna Jayanthi is the birthday of Lord Krishna – a favourite among most Indians. The festival is celebrated across India, in different ways. In Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), the birthplace of Krishna, stories from his life are enacted in public places. These plays are also known as Rasa Lila. In some states, such as Maharashtra, dahi handi, a game that imitates the act of Lord Krishna stealing butter, is played. Teams of young men climb on each other’s shoulders to form ‘human towers’ and try to break a pot of butter that is hung from a tall pole. In Tamil Nadu, people use a mixture of rice flour and water to draw little footprints – which are supposed to be that of Krishna (as a child) entering the house. Many devotees maintain a fast and recite the Bhagwad Gita on this day as well. Here are some places in the four cities that you can visit to participate in Janmashtami celebrations:

Delhi The Lakshmi Narayan Temple and ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) have celebrations and prayers throughout the day and even up to midnight

Mumbai The ISKCON temple at Juhu has special programmes for Janmashtami. Watch the dahi handi competitions at many places across Mumbai, such as the Jamboree Maidan in Worli

Chennai The ISKCON temple has special bhajans and programmes for the day. Look out for community-held competitions where children dress up as Lord Krishna. Don’t miss out on special snacks made on this day – especially the seedai (in sweet and savoury flavours) – that can be bought from sweet shops

Bengaluru The Govardhana Kshetra temple is unique in that it is set in a cave and depicts stories from Lord Krishna’s life. This temple and the ISKCON centre in Bengaluru are a must-visit on Janmashtami


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Photo: Tineke Sysmans, Belgium

Ganesh Chaturthi September 17

Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayak Chaturthi, celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesh – the elephant-headed God who is associated with prosperity and new beginnings. In some states (such as Maharashtra), the festival is celebrated over 11 days; in others, it is a 3-day event. A couple of weeks before the festival begins, small clay idols of Ganesh are sold at street-side stalls. In the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a colourful paper umbrella is bought along with the idol. Most neighbourhoods get custom-made, life-size idols and place them on public platforms. For the next 3 or 11 days, prayers are performed before the idol of Lord Ganesh (at home or in public). On the 3rd or 11th day, the idols are taken to the nearest lake, sea or water body and immersed. In particular, people line up along the streets to see the huge idols carried in open trucks and vans to the sea. By immersing the clay idols in water, one is reminded that everything in life is temporary and cyclical. Culturama has listed below the top places you can go to for buying the idol or participating in the festivities in four cities:

Delhi Buy the idols at Dilli Haat, Cottage Industries Emporium – Janpath, and pick up some traditional sweets and food at Haldiram, Bikanerwala See the display of idols at Dilli Haat, Cottage Industries Emporium – Janpath Watch the idols being immersed at Yamuna River

Mumbai Buy the idols at Matunga Market, and shop for traditional sweets and food at Brijwasi, Chandu Halwai Wala, D. Damodar, Haiko Market – Powai See the display of idols at Shivaji Park Watch the idols being immersed at Chowpatty Beach

Bengaluru Buy the idols at Jayanagar, Malleshwaram, Rajajinagar, JP Nagar, and pick up traditional sweets and food at Anand Bhavan, Arya Bhavan, KC Das, Kanthi Sweets, Krishna Sweets See the display of idols at Jayanagar, Malleshwaram, Rajajinagar, JP Nagar Watch the idols being immersed at Lalbagh, Ulsoor Lake, Madivala Lake or Sankey Tank

Chennai Buy the idols at South Mada Street, Mylapore, and shop for traditional sweets and food at Grand Sweets, Gangotree, Suriya Sweets or Shree Mithai See the display of idols at Venkatnarayana Road, T. Nagar Watch the idols being immersed at Marina Beach


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Photo: Madeleine Holly

Myth & Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

From North to South There are many references to ‘journeys’ across the subcontinent, but it is not clear whether the movements were physical or metaphorical Despite vast evidence to the contrary, many textbooks in India keep referring to the ‘Aryan invasion’ from the West into the Indus valley. Neither Vedic hymns dated to 1500 BCE/BC nor Puranic chronicles dated from 300 CE/AD speak of such a movement. But the Puranas1 are full of stories that speak of movements from the North to the South. It is never clear if these movements from North to South are physical, or metaphorical. The most obvious of these stories is the Ramayana, which speaks of Ram of Ayodhya moving South where he encounters vanars or monkey people in Kishkinda (Deccan plateau) and then rakshasas2 in the far south.

We are informed that before Ram, many sages made their journey south. There was Pulatsya and his son, Vishrava, whose descendants are the yakshas and the rakshasas. We are told how the leader of yakshas3, Kubera, builds Lanka and is overthrown by the leader of the rakshasas, Ravana. And how Kubera moves north seeking refuge and builds the city of Alaka (A-Lanka?). Even earlier we are told of Agastya who moves south. He is ordered to do so by Shiva, who resides in the North, in the Himalayas, to restore balance in the world. All the sages move north to listen to Shiva’s discourse and this causes the earth to tilt northwards. So Agastya is told to go south. As he goes south, he ‘conquers’ the Vindhyas by making it bow to him. Another reason why Agastya is asked to go to the south is to find out the location of Kartikeya, son of Shiva, who moves South after a disagreement with his parents in the North. Parvati sends mountains along with Agastya as gifts for her angry son to remind him of home. These mountains


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are carried on a sling by the asura, Hidimba, and make up the mountains of Palni which is home to the southern form of Kartikeya, Murugan. There are other stories of how all the mountains in the South actually came from the North, blown southwards by Vayu, the god of the wind, who wanted to show how strong he was. It is interesting to see the role of geography in the relationship between Shiva and his two sons. While Kartikeya moves South, Ganesha stays in the North. In the North, Kartikeya is a bachelor; in the South, he has two wives. In the North, Ganesha is seen with two wives, while he is a bachelor in the South. What does this mean? Does this indicate the nature of northern and southern Ganesha/Murugan cults? Must these be taken philosophically? No one is sure. Ganesha blocks many attempts of Ravana to take Shiva to the South. And yet he is also responsible for getting rivers to the South. The story goes that Agastya carried the water of

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the Ganga in a pot. Taking the form of a crow, Ganesha tipped this pot and out came the river Kaveri. In another story, Ganesha got Gautama to beg Shiva to force the Ganga to flow in the South; that is how the river Godavari came into being. Finally, on the southern tip of India stands Kanyakumari, the eternal virgin, waiting for her groom, Shiva, to make the trip south and marry her but the gods prevent this for as long as Kanyakumari stays virgin, she will remain rooted to the tip of the land, preventing the sea from overwhelming the sacred continent. Published 10th November, 2013, in Mid-Day. Reprinted with permission from www.devdutt.com 1

Puranas are ancient Hindu texts that eulogise various deities

‘Rakshasa’ is the name given in Indian mythology to malevolent demons 3 ‘Yaksha’ is the name of a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of natural treasures 2


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Holistic living by Eknath Easwaran

Eating in Freedom

Those who have been faced with the sight of their favourite food would know how hard it is to beat temptation. However, the trick to gaining control over our senses is to understand them and be firm but gentle In my native state of Kerala, where cashews thrive, most of us are quite partial to them. I too shared this fondness. But when I left Kerala to teach at a university in central India, cashews more or less dropped out of my life. Then, when I came to America, someone gave me a big can of cashews as a present. I opened it and was amazed at the response of my mind. All the old attraction came pouring in, and I could hear my mind say, “Ahh…at last! Cashews!” But by this time I understood the ways of the mind, and I was training my senses. So I said, “Oh, you remember how good cashews taste, do you?” The mind said, “Don’t waste time talking…let’s get to them!” I replied, “I think you’ve forgotten again who’s the boss around here. But I know you have a great fondness for these little nuts; and I’m a fair man, so I’ll make a bargain with you. As soon as you stop clamouring for cashews in that insistent way of yours, I’ll give you some.” Then I placed the open can of cashews on the table beside me and turned to my academic work. For some time, the battle went on. I would be reading an incisive passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and suddenly I would feel something small and smooth touching my fingertips. Part of my mind – utterly unbeknown to me – had sent my hand over to the cashew can. “What’s going on?” I asked gravely.


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“Oh, nothing, nothing,” the mind said. “We weren’t going to eat any of them. We just wanted to see how they felt.” I didn’t have to say anything more. My hand came back, and my mind scurried back to the American scholar where it belonged.

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5 Join Us Every Saturday India Immersion Centre in Chennai facilitates a weekly spiritual fellowship group following Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme of Meditation. E-mail us for more information at globalindian@globaladjustments.com. If you are in other cities, visit www.easwaran.org for e-satsangs.

At last, the mind gave up its tricks and subsided. I looked at the can of cashews and saw them for what they were – nuts, grown on trees in India where I used to live – and my mind did not move. “Good show,” I said. “Now you may enjoy some.” Those were the best cashews I have ever eaten in my life, because I ate them in freedom. Tips from Easwaran for Training the Palate

2. Develop a taste for nutritious food Just as we have developed a taste for wrong food, so with a little effort we can develop a taste for food that is nutritious. We may not be mad about whole-grain bread or green salads, but by cultivating a taste for food that is healthy and learning to prepare it with a creative flair, we can soon become as enthusiastic about fresh garden vegetables as we are about chocolate éclairs. 3. Don’t snack To train our sense of taste, we need to stop eating mechanically and become aware of what we eat. Eating only at mealtime helps, because we can focus our attention on the food more fully when we sit at the table. 4. Eat only when hungry When we misinterpret a sense craving as a hunger signal, we often overload a stomach that is already full. To control such cravings, eat only when hungry and eat temperately. 5. Eat only what you need… Most of us do not need as much food as we may think we do. One of the finer points of the art of eating is to stop just when you are about to ask for another helping: when your hand is outstretched, you should be able to get up and turn your back on the table.

Photo: Gemmarie Venkataramani, Phillipines

1. Be firm but gentle We are trying to make our senses faithful servants, not abject slaves. We need to understand them and be firm but gentle: expect a little more from them than they have been used to, but not make unreasonable demands. We need to know when to issue strict orders, when to persuade and negotiate, and when to let them frisk a bit.

6. …but don’t go to extremes Fasting may not be as easy as feasting, but after a while it is not too different. Both are extremes. It is not hard to go the extreme way, but what is really difficult is neither to fast nor to feast, but to be moderate in everything we do. It requires great artistry and vigilance. 7. Strengthen the will In order to strengthen the will, start early morning when you want a third piece of toast. Just push it away, and you have increased your willpower. From breakfast onwards this goes on, and every time you can say no to the craving of the palate you have added to the will just a little. 8. Plan how to cope with feasts If I know an elaborate meal is on the way, I go lightly on or even skip the meal that comes before. Then, at the feast, I participate in everything without overdoing it.

Reprinted with permission from the summer 2015 Blue Mountain journal, by Eknath Easwaran. Copyright 2015 by The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, P.O. Box 256, Tomales, CA 94971, www.easwaran.org. There are a total of 20 tips in the article, which can be accessed at http://bmcmwebsite.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/bm-journal/2015/2015Summer.pdf.


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Give to India by Shefali Ganesh

The Different Path The path to serving the disabled is the only one known to the founders of Pathway, an NGO based in Chennai that rehabilitates and educates children with special needs since 1975 Inside a neat building in a busy corner of Chennai, Beena is absorbed with colourful beads and threads. She looks up with a shy smile to see who the visitors are and shows with pride the piece of fabric interwoven with beads. She and her friends are making a set of little dolls with the beads that will eventually form the Nativity Scene depicting the birth of Christ. This set is one of the most sought after products that Pathway’s children make. What makes them truly beautiful is that they are made by the special children who live and study at Pathway, a centre for differently-abled children. For its founder, Dr. ADSN Prasad, the word ‘pathway’ holds a special meaning; that of the little pathways in the human brain. During his practice as a speech pathologist, these many pathways were what Prasad worked with the most, trying to understand the nuances of how children with special needs think and communicate. “I became interested in the subject, because I had a differently-abled sister, Uma, and I never really understood her,” says Prasad. And so, from offering his services for free to those who couldn’t afford his fees, to taking a needy special child under his wings, the idea of Pathway firmly took root in a two-bedroom rented apartment in Adyar. Chandra, his wife, joined him in his efforts to rehabilitate special children and slowly the numbers in Pathway grew. Now, four decades later, Pathway has blossomed into a national institution that has touched the lives of over 40,000 special children, with a thriving vocational unit centre and a state-of-the-art residential school for underprivileged children in the outskirts of the city.


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RajastHan palaces. forts. relive the past.

The main Pathway centre in Thiruvanmayur has 100 resident and 200 non-resident special children who attend the government-recognised school for special children here. Pathway’s principle is that “a key factor that builds self esteem is having a job and earning an income”. It is on this principle that children who have finished basic education are taught vocational skills that guide them in some elementary employment. They print exquisite greeting cards and make jewellery using beads and waste that leaves one in awe of their perfect handiwork. Those who stay on and are above 16 years are given training in their in-house bakery that caters to corporate and individual requirements. Dr. Prasad believes that “converting liabilities to assets” is the underlying thought in Pathway’s work with children. Chandra is quick to point that “nothing ever goes wasted at Pathway”. Any food waste is converted to organic manure for the garden upstairs while onion peels and egg shells are seen in the paintings of children! “These wooden stairway banisters have been made at our vocational centre at Madhuranthakam in Kancheepuram,” says Chandra as she runs her hand lovingly across the banister that leads to the centre.

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The story of Dr. Prasad and his wife Chandra is a moving and inspiring one, for every little brick and stone at Pathway is a testimony to the sacrifices they have made, to the challenges they have faced and continue to do so, and most importantly, to the smiles they have planted on every special child’s face who has entered Pathway and been touched by its magic of giving, endlessly and unconditionally. Pathway is at E-76/1, 12th West Street, Kamaraj Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Ph: +91 44 24483949. Do contact them this festive season for gifts handcrafted with love or for orders from their bakery.

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At Global Adjustments by Team Culturama

New @ IIC

RISE IN LOVE A programme that helps raise confidence and self-belief, ‘Rise in Love’ addresses specific issues that young adults would benefit from. In particular, the programme helps them to better understand how to handle personal relationships. The first sesssion in the ‘Rise in Love’ series was conducted at Sathyabhama College and at Shasun College in Chennai. As one of the participants said, “I learnt to respect myself today.”

YOUNG ADULTS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE This programme was launched with a group of young adults on India’s Independence Day. An introduction to inter-faith passage mediation based on Eknath Eswaran’s programme, was given. The participants, who were in the age group of 20 to 30, made a committment to join monthly sessions on meditation. If you wondered whether youngsters would be able to sit still, here is a comment from one of the participants: “A very good event, the best part being that we meditated for about 15 to 20 minutes.”

Be A Sport! It was a regular day in August, but for some school children in Chennai it felt as if Christmas had arrived early! The India Immersion Centre at Global Adjustments was abuzz with groups of children and sports teachers from four schools were gathered together to receive a brand new set of sports equipment for their schools. The schools chosen for this initiative were the Jaigopal Garodia School (Saligramam), Corporation School (Mandavelli), GMTTV School (Sowcarpet) and Karpagavali Vidyalaya (Mylapore). The schools received footballs, volleyballs and skipping ropes. The children who had come to receive their gifts were school level champions in these sports. The funds required for buying the equipment was raised from a garage sale of lightly-used silk saris (held among the staff of Global Adjustments). The India Immersion Centre, the NGO wing of Global Adjustments, conducts several programmes and social initiatives. Usha Ramakrishnan is Centre Director and Usha Sridhar is CSR Director of IIC. If you would like to participate in the programmes, or have the IIC conduct workshops in your school or college, please write to them at contactiic@globaladjustments.com


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