by Julie Bray
Question: Where do pyjamas, yoga, curry, gurus and Bollywood films come from?
Answer: India, of course!
August the 15th is the birthday of modern, independent India. Fifty seven years ago Jawaharlal Nehru claimed independence for this huge country and its massive population. To celebrate, let’s look at some ways Indian culture has influenced and inspired other cultures around the world.
First, Indian food, especially its richly spiced dishes which are called ‘curry’ outside India, has become a worldwide favourite. Most countries have their own version of the Indian curry. In Japan it is very sweet and in Thailand an Indian-style chicken curry is served alongside Thai curries. In the more cosmopolitan cities around the world, you can buy samosas (fried snacks with a filling) and naan bread alongside local snacks.
If you have eaten too many samosas and are worried about your health, try Yoga. This is an ancient Hindu philosophy and system of exercises originating in India. Yoga is now recognised all over the world as an intelligent form of exercise. Regular practice can heal minor illnesses, change your state of mind, help you lose weight or work your muscles. More and more different types of yoga are being developed and the original poses have been adapted to suit modern needs. Yoga has become so fashionable around the world that a lot of companies are using pictures of people doing yoga dressed in white to sell their products!
One of the most famous things about modern Indian culture is the Indian film industry, known as Bollywood. The usual story is about a boy and a girl who love each other but their families don’t approve. There is a lot of dancing and singing in the film as the boy and girl try to convince their families to let them marry. The increasing interest in Bollywood films inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber to produce the musical Bombay Dreams, which had a very successful two years in London - everyone loved the music and the costumes! The show is now being shown on Broadway – the first Indian-themed musical to be shown there.
There are plenty of words used by people all over the world which have come from Indian languages. From Hindi we have shampoo, a word used with various spellings in quite a few languages, including German and Portuguese. This is a body or hair wash, but was originally a body scrub with herbs and warm water. A guru was originally a Hindu religious teacher, but these days the word is usually used to describe anyone who knows a lot about a certain subject and is considered an expert. A good example of this is ‘fashion guru’; a fashion expert whose ideas are important to designers. From the Tamil language we have the word rice in English, which comes from the word ‘arisi’, and mango which comes from the word ‘mangaai’.
Finally, pyjamas, the most comfortable clothes in the world, originated in India. Most of us usually wear them around the house or while sleeping. But the original pyjama suit is to be worn anywhere, and is still worn in India. Pyjamas are only the loose trousers, and these are worn with a very long shirt called a kurta. This is usually white or a pastel colour. Men usually wear pyjamas and kurtas, but women in India have shalwar (trousers) and a kameez, which is like a dress worn over the shalwar. Both of these suits are so comfortable and adaptable that in about 20 years’ time they should be more popular than jeans!