Food And Indian Culture And Tradition In India

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India is a country of diversity, a kaleidoscope of colour, taste, culture and people. It’s also a country where ancient traditions and modern life coexist seamlessly. Indian cities are not just about brick and mortar; the contemporary city is largely defined by its kinetic condition, the collective realm and informality of its movement and the place of its inhabitants in the form of festivals, rituals, improvised bazaars and events. The kinetic city has largely replaced the static city (its physical architecture) as the primary and most dynamic aspect of urban society, its socio-economic aspects of world markets and national policies, which are reflected in the creation of public spatiality.

What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people, is what William Whyte has quite truly quoted. People are where activities are and vice-versa. People are always looking for a sociable place where they can observe the passing scene, meet friends and celebrate interaction with a wide range of people. The interaction between man to man in India is usually in symbiosis with junctional value of space. Such spaces are often located around street corners, sidewalks, under huge trees, close to prominent social places such as temples, mosques, markets, parks, public transport, etc.

In India, food drinks and paans are often a binding factor for people to meet and interact, apart from customs and traditions. Whether at the corner street nukkad or kitli at the crossroads, a meeting is often called over say a fafda-jalebi fare or tea or chai as it is often called or paan as an after meal indulgence called is often associated as something to mull over, no matter the ‘place’ of meeting per say.

Compared to European countries, the concept of public place in the Indian context is very different. In contrast to the European context in which civic nodes and squares are planned (exclusive), most public spaces in India are highly organically developed, most of which are clubbed with / adjacent institutions and occurred in relation to market spaces known as “bazaars.”

India is hard to pack especially in the area of food. Delve into regions within the state, different communities living in these regions and interpretations of local dishes that change every 100 kilometres; and a complex, dynamic menu can be found that intensifies the thrill of discovery.

India has the dominant position in this part of the world since the nineteenth century, due to its diverse amalgamation of attractions and the way public spaces are formed. Either one experiences the culture of Gujarat, Rajasthan or Mumbai or the rituals of the eastern part, flavours retains identity throughout the country.

Indian streets

Indian streets are categorized or known by the activities that prevail on the streets, the busiest main streets, the market arteries or the city centre, which are the main part of the spatial network, are never designed for shopping or are never designed for shopping alone.

Fascinating viewpoint about most of the Indian street is that street formation is largely based on the typology of activities and their time period, the surrounding environment is only a response to these characteristics, such as temporary hawkers on the street, multifunctional shops and various forms of collection spaces.

Informality, the art of creating cultural exchanges and interactions are the main features of Indian street culture that attract visitors. Indians have the idea of enclosed inside and exposed outside, which means that the streets and bazaars of India are the outer space.

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Informal food streets

In historic times, ancient Vedic concerns with purity made for an austere lifestyle when it comes to food. If one had to worry about contamination from the kitchen of a host, socializing over a meal was almost impossible. Muslims, who conquered a large part of India in the 12th century, had minimal religious restrictions - mainly alcohol and pork prohibitions.

Moreover, Islam encouraged zakat or food sharing with others. Hospitality played a critical role in the courtly society of Mughal and Muslim rulers brought a wonderful cuisine to share. The concept of souks and food courts was thus created. The markets of Shahjahanabad, Old Delhi and towns like Indore, Hyderabad, Allahabad, Banaras, and Malerkotla boasted of Chandi Chowk Bazar ( fifty-six eateries), Halim Bazar, Loknath Gali, Kachori Gali and Kamal Cinema Road respectively where food courts on streets have long prevailed and nourished generations.

Such lanes with a large cluster of stalls for street food are locally known as ‘Khau Galli’, which means in Marathi ‘Food Alley.’ They are also denoted as the ‘Informal food streets’ of the city.

Khau Gallis is an integral part of the metropolitan culture of India. These narrow by-lanes, with their carts, usually located near railway stations, colleges and offices, offer visual and gastronomic delights. Packed with crowds that make beelines for their favourite snacks, sweets and more, Khau Gallis remains very busy from lunch to midnight.

Informal food spaces in India's markets, lakes and sidewalks not only serves different food sites but are also aimed at entertainment, relaxation and leisurely dining. Therefor, people of all ages and sexes go specifically to these places for what food spaces offer. Short traffic areas between the food court and retail stores serve as an impulse for snacks when pedestrians and shoppers walk from store to store along the street or mall sidewalks.

Khau Gallis, open markets, street corner markets, weekly markets, door-to-door service are a part of our traditional and culture. Therefore, a food street is about nuances where 'food' is not just about utility, but it is personal, culturally binding, by reaching out to the realms of time and place, by coming across as recreational.

Emergence of Khau Gallis in the different parts of the country has various reasons acquiesce to the culture and traditions followed. For example vending in the internal streets of Chandni Chowk's occurred when chaat-wallahs visited mohallahs in the afternoons to see the women's chaats. Food historian Pushpesh pant says, “Confined within the four walls of their homes, the women enjoyed their chaat as it gave them an excuse to socialize and exchange gossip.” When the women started to step out of their homes to do their own shopping, they started to patronizing these chaat-wllahs who sold their stuff out of pushcarts. Apparently along with those reasons, the famous khau Galli of Chandi Chowk arose.

Illustrating food streets in markets

Food courts or hawker streets have been the most active spaces of the town or a village. In ancient cities, there were open spaces where merchants from surrounding and neighbouring countries came and sold their goods. Since these places were very informal and organic in layout, food courts and hawker streets would be set up to bring crowds to the street at the same time to take advantage of the tariffs and shop. It was extremely convenient for the traders to sell their products to the hawkers and at the same time to offer them food right there in the market.

Food streets have not been active trading places since historical times, but also very important networking places. They are the places where people look forward to meeting others, conducting business queries and participating in small events to reach more people. As the town or city grew, the bazar's commercial value also increased, and in the evening bazaar streets transformed into food streets.

In the ancient cities of India, the main temple was normally located at a distance from the city's residential area and was connected by a path or a street. During religious festivals, this street had a special importance. This street gave the deities a spcial axial significance.This was an important space that every citizen normally visited and therefore traders occupied. More shops opened in a linear pattern along the path as time passed, and the street bazaar developed and flourished. Later on these streets transformed into food streets by the night attracting more people.

In small towns, the bazar street, which turns into a food court or a hawker street, is not just a link in one area, but it is a multifarious area that becomes a children's playground, a women's workplace, a meeting place and a place for business. 

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