The Bene Israelis of India

In the 18th century, during the third Anglo-Mysore war, the ruthless Tipu Sultan captured a group of army officers fighting for the British and ordered their execution. But when Tipu’s mother discovered the identity of two brothers among them, she requested they be spared. She said that the Quran spoke highly of them. And the Sultan complied! The two brothers were Bene Israelis. Continue reading The Bene Israelis of India

The Fierce Queen of Travancore

In the late 1600s, the most respected and the most formidable ruler in Kerala was a queen. Her name was Umayamma Rani and she was the senior-most Queen of the Kingdom of Attingal. You might think that at a time when men ruled, and women were kept locked away in their houses, a powerful queen was an exception, but in fact, she was not. Umayamma came from a long line of powerful queens who, for centuries, had ruled a little kingdom called Attingal. Continue reading The Fierce Queen of Travancore

How India deceives the Evil-Eye

Why do good, normal people face terrible misfortunes like sickness or financial ruin? Great civilisations, from the Greeks, to the Egyptians, to the Persians, have analysed this question and hit upon the same answer: the Evil-Eye! If a person enjoys success in any way, someone is sure to look at him/her with a jealous glare, and that unleashes bad energies. Continue reading How India deceives the Evil-Eye

Hallagulla about Rossogulla

Bengal is perhaps the sweetest Indian State. Who but the Bengalis, could have invented that divine sweet called Rossogulla? The Bengalis said exactly that, when they applied for the GI* Tag for Rossogulla in 2015. That’s when the gentle people of the neighbouring state of Odisha, exploded! “What nonsense,” they said, “we invented and you copied!”. And thus, began a bitter battle (or should we say sweet battle?). Continue reading Hallagulla about Rossogulla

Patang – The story of the Indian Kite

“♬Let’s go fly a kite Up to the highest height! Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring ♫” This song from Disney’s Mary Poppins, to me, best describes what kite flying can feel like. If you’ve ever flown one, you know. But this euphoric piece of paper wasn’t always a sport. In fact, old records suggest that kites were developed for very serious … Continue reading Patang – The story of the Indian Kite

Golu – Toying with tradition

Dolls in vibrant colours, stacked on steps that sometimes reach the ceiling, suddenly appear, every year in South Indian Hindu households. After spending most of the year locked up in trunks, protected by moth balls, someone lets them out for ten very special days every autumn. These ten days, called Navaratri or Dussehra, mark an important Hindu festival. In South India, especially in the states … Continue reading Golu – Toying with tradition

On Bharatanatyam

The next time you enjoy a Bharatanatyam performance, and are enchanted by the elegant movements and expressions, make sure you thank Lord Brahma. “Why him?” you say. Good thing you asked! Listen to this story: You see, after the four Vedas were written, Gods and Goddesses realized that the four Vedas were too difficult for the common man to comprehend. It was so highly philosophical, … Continue reading On Bharatanatyam

Chennai’s Wonder-wear -The Saree

“While in Rome, do what the Romans do.” And when in Chennai, you cannot go wrong with a saree. Look around you and the ubiquitous saree is everywhere, carried with elan by women of all ages and hues. If you were to look for a place that would be a testimony to the resilience of this garment, Chennai would be at the forefront. The young and … Continue reading Chennai’s Wonder-wear -The Saree

Sundal and suchlike

We’ve just seen the end of one festival. Kolu padis are being dismantled, dolls are getting packed away, fancy lights disconnected and friends and relatives will again be relegated to the background of busy daily life. The city is limping back to reality after a surfeit of sundal and holidays. Good food, renewed ties among the family and friends, and a time to thank a … Continue reading Sundal and suchlike