Indian Culture & Art in USA, a RedPatang.com Blog

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India’s Kite Festival (Makar Sankranti) – or the Biggest Kite Fight of the Year

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Hundreds, maybe, thousands of kites fill the cool January sky every year on Makar Sankranti (or Uttarayan), especially in western India, particularly in the state of Gujarat.

Children, young and old, wait for this day.  They buy the best quality kite they can get, not the most expensive, or the biggest, or even the most colorful – but one that can withstand the winds and stay up in the sky for the longest.  Made up of light weight paper and bamboo (or similar bendy woods), it is not your typical recreational ‘foofy’ kite with long swirly tails.  This is an “Indian Fighter Kite”, with a short triangular tail, like a jet fighter, made to FIGHT.

Indian Fighter kites

Indian Fighter kites

Yup, fight.  If you have been in one, you know.  The minute you are up, there is someone, maybe several of them, waiting to cut your kite loose.  They have skill, stamina and a not-so-secret weapon, the manja (the string).   Coated with glass powder and other abrasives, the manja is deadly and known to hurt birds and humans (we are amazed it has not been banned yet).  Now multiply this scene, several dozen times and the sky is littered with mini-battles all over.  A skirmish is won when a kite starts falling and then on with the next one.  It can be quite the spectacle.

Cut kites are picked up by kite runners, little children, who carelessly chase them as they glide down, swerving side to side with changing directions of the winter wind.   The last one cut is a big prize and is another spectacle to watch by itself.  (For the uninitiated, you must read the book “Kite Runner”, which although based in Afghanistan describes a similar scene).

The last kite flying and its master get bragging rights for a full year and accolades from all elders, their neighbor, the bhel puri wallah, the nookad paan wallah and then some.

The battle for the skies ends with heading home and having til laddoo and other goodies made just for the day.

P.S  Take a closer look at our very own Red Patang Logo :  does it look familiar?

Indian Holidays 2013

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India has so many traditions, religions and cultures, that it can sometimes be hard to track whether a certain festival is a holiday or not.  

Below is a list of official holidays for 2013 (as published by the Government of India), observed nationally.  

Date National Holidays in India Day of Week
January 25 Id-E-Milad Friday
January 26 Republic Day Saturday
March 27 Holi Wednesday
March 29 Good Friday Friday
April 19 Ram Navmi Friday
April 24 Mahavir Jayanti Wednesday
May 25 Buddha Purnima Saturday
August 9 Id-Ul-Fitr Friday
August 15 Independence Day Thursday
August 28 Krishna Janmastami Wednesday
October 2 Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti Wednesday
October 13 Dussera/ Vijaya Dashami (Maha Navmi) Sunday
October 16 Bakri Id (Id-ul-zuha) Wednesday
November 3 Diwali Sunday
November 14 Muharram Thursday
November 17 Guru Nanak Jayanti Sunday
December 25 Christmas

Wednesday

  
In addition, individual states/ regions may have additional holidays for festivals and local celebrations.  Key regional holidays and festivals are listed below.  

Date Other regional holidays/ major festivals in India Day of week
January 1 New Year’s Day Tuesday
January 13 Makar Sankaranti Sunday
January 14 Pongal Monday
January 18 Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti Friday
February 14 Shree Panchami Thursday
February 15 Vasant Panchami Friday
February 19 Shivaji Jayanti Tuesday
February 25 Guru Ravidas Jayanti Monday
March 7 Swami Dayananda Saraswati Jayanti Thursday
March 10 Maha Shivratri Sunday
March 26 Holika Dahan Tuesday
March 31 Easter Sunday
April 11 Chaitra Sukladi/ GudiPadava/ Ugadi/ Cheti Chand Thursday
April 13 Vaisakhi/ Vishu Saturday
April 14 Mesadi/ Mashadi Uczadi Sunday
April 15 Vaisakhadi(Bengal)/ Bahag Bihu (Assam) Monday
May 9 Guru Rabindranath’s birthday Thursday
May 24 Hazarat Ali’s Birthday Friday
July 10 Rath Yatra Wednesday
August 2 Jamat-Ul-Vida Friday
August 18 Parsi New Year’s day Sunday
August 20 Raksha Bandhan Tuesday
September 9 Vinayaka Chaturthi/ Ganesh Chaturthi Monday
September 16 Onam Monday
October 11 Dussehra (Maha Saptami) (Additional) Friday
October 12 Dussehra (Maha Ashtami) (Additional) Saturday
October 18 Maharishi Valmiki’s birthday Friday
October 22 Karva Chauth (Karaka Chaturthi) Tuesday
November 2 Narak Chaturdashi/ Deepavali – South India Saturday
November 5 Bhai Duj Tuesday
November 8 Pratihar Sashthi or Surya Sashthi (Chhat Puja) Friday
November 24 Guru Teg Bahadur’s Martyrdom Day Sunday

  

A great way to introduce festivals of India to young minds is “Tell me about: Festivals of India

PS: Local names/ spellings of these holidays/festivals may differ.  

Written by Redpatang

December 29, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Indian Cranberry Chutney

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With thanksgiving just around the corner, I was hoping to add a little Indian flavor to the traditional cranberry chutney.  I wanted a recipe that  good but also simple and quick to make .  So after some fruitless (pun intended :)) internet and recipe book browsing, I have come up with my own version of an easy cranberry chutney with an Indian kick.  Ingredients are underlined

Slice 1 large red onion into slivers and saute until it becomes transparent.  Add 1 tbslpn black mustard seeds. Quickly add the paste of 2 medium fresh garlic cloves, 1 tblspn red chilli powder , a pinch of Asafetida and 1 cup of fresh cranberries.  Simmer until cranberries are mushy and fully cooked.  Add 1 tspn sugar.  Blend and add salt to taste. 

That’s it!  Happy thanksgiving everyone!!

Written by Redpatang

November 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Redpatang.com is now optimized !

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We are thrilled to announce that the redpatang website is now optimized for browsing on your ipad, iphone and other devices!  

We have also had any visual differences between browsers fixed so your shopping experience is seamless whether you use internet explorer, firefox, safari or chrome!  Happy shopping 🙂

Written by Redpatang

November 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Making of Amar Chitra Katha

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Have you wondered how an Amar Chitra Katha comic book is made?

As fans of all things Amar Chitra Katha, we wanted to share this really cool video from the creative team at Amar Chitra Katha.  The video offers a window into what it takes to put together Inida’s most popular comic book series originally created by Anant Pai.

Enjoy!


Written by Redpatang

October 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Akshay Patra – changing lives with a school lunch program

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“At a government-run public middle school in Bangalore, the blackboard’s cracking, the textbooks are tattered and most of the students are barefoot. But with all those challenges, the biggest obstacle that teachers face in keeping kids in school is hunger.”….NPR coverage of the school lunch program Akshay Patra

Its not often that a news report gets me all choked up but a feature by NPR was so inspiring that it  got me thinking and made me want to do my part.  The feature was on a school lunch program in India run by the Akshay Patra Foundation.  With a noble vision of ““No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger”  the foundation has supported school lunch programs over the past 11 years and hopes to feed 5 million children each day by 2020.

This story resonated with me on multiple levels.  As a parent who knows what it is to want  the best for their child , it is gut wrenching to me that there are children around the world (see the story of Suchitra on the NPR news cast) who want to go to school and but cry on the bus at the idea of having to face the day on an empty stomach.  And then there was the aspect of fresh food…after hearing the continuous uproar of partially hydrogenated junk food that children in the US have access to, it was nice to hear that the entire meal provided by Akshay Patra was freshly cooked (on the same day)….all natural… and healthy with a good dose of vegetables.

Today Akshay Patra serves 8,000 schools and feeds nearly 1.3 million children in  India, enabling them to stay in school and secure their long term future.  Sridhar Venkat – an ex-corporate executive who runs the program talks about success stories and the gives an example of the profound effect this program had on a student who went on to college and became an engineer.

So how can you help?  If you are in India – a small sum of Rs 675 (around $15) can feed a child for an entire year.  Go to the online donation portal and contribute or volunteer your time today.   If you are in the US, you can donate through the Akshay Patra USA foundation at this portal or get involved in other ways like a corporate sponsorship, or simply spreading the word within your community.

To listen to the full NPR story or get the transcript – go here

Written by Redpatang

April 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

My little pakora – Clothing for Kids

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We’ve been a proud retailer of the mylittlepakora line for almost a year now and wanted to give our readers a deeper insight into the brand, its Indian design roots and organic goals.

Mylittlepakora was founded by Sonia Gupta when she was searching for Asian-Inspired clothes for her daughter.  (Pakora is a delicious little deep fried snack and also a term of endearment for a little one)!

Sonia Gupta - Founder My Litte Pakora

Sonia Gupta - Founder My Litte Pakora

We spoke with Sonia about her inspiration behind the line and the importance of being organic

  1) What is your inspiration for the colors and designs behind the mylittepakora line?

 India of course, and Rangoli patterns! We just love the richness and depth of color that India has per region and I would say that Jaipur and Rajastan were also the inspiration behind the current collection.

2) Which is your favorite item from this season’s collection?

Since spring is fast approaching and Summer is one of my favorite seasons in New England…I would say the Poplin Dresses we created in Blue and White. The colors and graphics really pop, we love the hint of the nehru collar, and the fit is fantastic on any little girl. The best part is the organic poplin is so breathable that this dress is a favorite in my house during those warm winter months into the cooler months. My oldest pakora Anika, extended this dress by layering in leggings, bootleg pants, and layering tees when the weather started getting cooler.

3) What does “organic” mean as it relates to clothing and why is it important?

As it related to cotton, organic means the cotton has been grown and farmed without the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides. Essentially, no chemicals in the cotton means- no chemicals in the ground, no chemicals streaming into water sources, no chemicals polluting the air. The all-around effect is a product that is created without harming the natural environment and our eco-system.

My little pakora clothes under production

My little pakora clothes under production


4) What has been the most memorable event/thing/milestone while starting or running mylittlepakora

There have been quite a few, but most recently it has been my interactions with our customers. I have received beautiful photos of kids in clothing, emails related to how much people love the products, and most recently a customer told me how much he appreciates my manufacturing processes and what My Little Pakora stands for-this email really made my day! At the end of the day running and trying to grow a company on your own as a mom of 2 is not easy…but I can say that I am making a difference in the world…albeit a small difference-this is what keeps me going and doing what I love!

Written by Redpatang

March 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

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