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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Delhi Culture Guide
Delhi Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Culture

The arts complex of Triveni Kala Sangam, Tansen Marg (tel: (011) 371 8833), boasts two galleries devoted to fine art and an open-air and an indoor theatre, as well as a bookshop and a sculpture park, while the foremost performing arts institute is Sangeet Natak Akademi, Firoz Shah Road (tel: (011) 338-7246).

The India International Centre, alongside Delhi's ‘chaterati’, 40 Lodhi Estate (tel: (011) 461-9431), is a political landmark and post-Independence institution. Delhi's premier cultural centre hosts lectures, seminars, music and dance recitals, and also screens films on all aspects of Indian environment and culture.

Nearby is the large and newly built Indian Habitat Centre that hosts a lively drama program and interesting lectures, located at the junction of Lodhi Road and Max Mueller Marg.

Most of the cultural centres present exhibitions and concerts, including screening films in their native language or English. These are, on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, the German cultural centre Max Mueller Bhavan (tel: (011) 332-9506), the American Centre (tel: (011) 331 6841), at D13 NDSE part II, the British Council (tel: (011) 371-1401), the Italian Culture Center (tel: (011) 687-1901), the Alliance Francaise (tel: (011) 625-8128), on Golf Links, and, on Firoz Shah Road, the Japan Cultural Centre (tel: (011) 332-9838) and the Russian Cultural Centre (tel: (011) 332-9102), which houses the Eisenstein Film Club.

Local newspapers (Times of India and Hindustan Times ) published daily and weekly events schedules and are good reference points for those who are interested in viewing the rich cultural life of Delhi. Hindustan Times City life, City Scan, and delhi diary magazines also carry listings. While reading the newspapers, one can gain insight into another facet of Indian culture – the marriage columns. ‘Brides Sought’ and ‘Grooms Required’ in the weekend newspapers make for indispensable reading.

Music

Delhi’s concert halls are busy more or less throughout the year, with the Delhi Symphony Orchestra performing at the FICCI Auditorium, Tansen Marg (tel: (011) 335-7369) and the Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg (tel: (011) 338-8084).

The most popular music is by far, Hindustani, closely followed by Karnatic music. Many of Delhi’s open-air venues, especially the magnificently lit Qutb Minar (see Key Attractions), offer a dramatic backdrop for exclusive performances. The Delhi Music Society is based at Nayaya Marg, Chanakyapuri (tel: (011) 611-5331).

Theatre

There are plenty of innovative theatres in Delhi and in the area just to the north of India Gate are many of these, including the Kamani Theatre (tel: (011) 338-8084), on Copernicus Marg. The Abhimanch, Bahawalpur House stages a stimulating year round program of dance and theatre (tel: (011) 338-9402).

Dance

Dance lovers in Delhi are well provided with an abundant mix of classical – including Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Kathakali – folk and tribal dance. Ballet is also available at many auditorias throughout the year.

Hauz Khas on Delhi-Mehrauli Road is a great place to join well-heeled Delhiites, since they relax over a meal or a drink while watching the dance performance and an open-air music. The India International Centre, 40 Lodhi Estate (tel: (011) 461-9431), and Triveni Theatre, 205 Tansen Marg (tel: (011) 371-8833), are both popular spots hosting regular, professional dance shows.

Film

Without a doubt, the most popular entertaining activity in India is to go to the cinema – it has been said that over 20 millions of Indian people watch a movie every day. The glamorous love stories and action movies of Bollywood attract a large number of audiences and their stars are national celebrities. There are many cinemas in Delhi, some only in English, some showing exclusively films in Hindi while others show some in both languages. Among many others, the Ritz, Kasmiri Gate and the Chanakya, khanakapuri show English-language films.

The movie that is closest to Delhi’s beating heart is the extremely popular Monsoon Wedding (2001), which was filmed in the city. The busy marketplaces of Delhi premier director Mira Nair’s beautiful celluloid weaving of character, place and drama.

Cultural events

India’s schedule of festivals draws upon the nation’s Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian communities, and even a few non-religious festivals for good measure. Most will be celebrated to some extent, somewhere in Delhi.

  Republic Day, one week of celebration starts on 26 January, with a military parade along Rajpath.

 An honor guard stands at attention at Raj Ghat on Martyr’s Day, 30 January, to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

 Spring celebration erupts on the day after the full moon in early March, during Holi, when people run through the streets and bombard each other and stray tourists with colored powder and water, to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land. It is also an occasion for enjoying a drink or two.

 The Raslila is presented all across India to recreate the life of Krishna on his birthday, Janmasthami, which falls in August/September. The most flamboyant celebrations take place at Lakshmi Narayan Mandir.

 Diwali (Deepavali), the most pan-Indian of Hindu festivals – coinciding with the Hindu and Jain new year – representing the victory of righteousness and the lifting of spiritual darkness by honoring Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after his 14-year exile.

(Dates are calculated in accordance with the Hindu calendar, which varies against the Gregorian calendar.)

Literary Notes

 At the time of Muhammad Shah Rangila, the poet, Mir, wrote of Delhi: ‘Each glance reveals a picture, each coming of the spring enchains.’ The joy of Delhi has been eulogized, dissected, and disputed for many generations, by a whole host of writers of both Indian and Western origin.

 William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns (1994), the result of a year spent in Delhi, is a luminous and gripping combination of anecdote, history, and observation. By combining the past with the present, he brings the city to life, explaining its wonders and mysteries. The author’s Delhi period was only the beginning of many years of relentless traveling throughout the Indian subcontinent, distilled in his collection The Age of Kali (1998).

A meaty slice of Indian life seen from the inside is Vikram Seth’s epic A Suitable Boy (1993), which follows the lives of four extended families set against the 1950s political backdrop of a newly independent northern India. The main plot – a love story – runs through a richly populated and eternally varied landscape, with the tension between Hindus and Muslims an ongoing and perilous undertow.

  Anita Desai, educated in Delhi also portrays the time of Partition in her 1st published novel, Clear Light of Day (1980). The novel follows the departures, interweaving and reconciliation of the Das family of Old Delhi.

 Ahmed Ali’s Twilight in Delhi (1940) gives a pungent whiff of life in early 18th century Delhi. Through Ali’s wistful eyes, the reader spies the rhythms and rituals of Islamic life in the city, prior to the construction of New Delhi, a world that was ruined forever, by Partition.

 Arundhati Roy is one of the most popular writers of India, who won the Booker Prize for God of Small Things (1997), studied and lives in Delhi.

Those interested in the history of India’s rise to independence and beyond should find a copy of Durga Das’s India: From Curzon to Nehru (1969). It is the most absorbing book, written by someone – a Delhi man to the core – who was himself on stage as these significant events unfolded over a 50 year period.