Saturday, March 26, 2011

Food walk in Old Delhi

I went on the most amazing food walk in Sitaram Bazaar. This area is full of shops owned by Hindu Banias; the street food here is vegetarian and fantastic. With me was Dhruv, who lives in the area.

We started off with a gol-gappa-walla near Chawri Bazaar Metro Station.

I knew I should go slow and eat very little (so as to save space for more later) but it was too tempting!

After the gol-gappas came the most amazing kulcha-chole; just a little further down.

The chole was hot from the brass pot; and garnished with chaat masala, onions, ginger, chillies, coriander and lemon.

Finger-licking good! My tastebuds were tingling with the tartness of the lemon, combined with the spicy chola, and the tang of the chaat masala. The kulchas - soft bread made of maida - help temper down the spiciness of the dish. I swear this is the tastiest thing I have ever eaten in Delhi.

After the spiciness of the chola, Dhruv introduced me to the delights of brown milk cake.

The old man is a daily fixture in Dhruv's lane; stirring milk and sugar and ghee into a thick delight.

This cake had a chewy rich goodness that sent me on a delirious high. I started out saying "But I can't eat all this by myself"; and shared it with others, but then I tasted it, and ended up wishing for more!

This was not all - there was more - bedmi puri, aloo sabzi, nagori halwa...which I had never eaten before. But it's getting late right now, so I better finish this story here. I'll post again, with Part 2 of the walk, and more photos!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Trishul

Have you seen the giant Shiva statue at Murudeshwar Beach? My school friend Preeti clicked this arresting photo with the sun in the background:

This is the second largest statue of Shiva in the world, all of 123 feet tall.

Whenever I hear that something is the "second largest", I always wonder "Which is the largest, then?" :) :) In case you're wondering too, the world's largest Shiva statue is in Nepal, and it is a standing Shiva, not a seated one. The Nepal statue is a more chubby-cheeked smiling god. Take a look. I think it is quite an unsuitable depiction of this charismatic ascetic! The Murudeshwar statue somehow seems more impressive, don't you think?

In both statues, in his right hand, Shiva holds the Trishul, his trident.

It's hard to miss the trident when you visit any part of India. Especially if you go on a pilgrimage circuit, you will see the trishul just about everywhere.

I found this maker of tridents in a little shop in Jaipur

At the Delhi Crafts Museum, there's this interesting collection of decorative spears and tridents (looks like it came from South India, not sure from where)

Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar. This is one of the few temples where Vishnu and Shiva are both worshipped. At the entrance, there is a painting of the two Gods merged into one. Shiva is identified by his Trident, and Vishnu by his Mace and Discus.

But it's not Shiva alone who lays claim to the trishul; it is also the weapon of the great Goddess in her many forms.

Mithila painting of the many-armed Goddess Durga. She holds several weapons, but no Durga rendition is complete without the trident.

Paan-wallah in Agra - this is the most popular representation of Goddess Durga; you see this in little shops everywhere in the country

"Eunuch temple" in Mumbai; trident of the Goddess Mariamman, who is said to cure people of the pox.

So the trishul is everywhere, and clearly it has huge symbolic value. I looked up some websites and blogs dedicated to Shiva, and they have a set of complex explanations for what the trishul represents. I didn't really know any of that stuff earlier; and I don't know whether this is even correct. If you have a deeper understanding, and can point me at the right sourcebook, let me know.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to look for interesting tridents to add to my collection of photos!