" Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Nitin TakaleWELCOME TO INDIA & BEYOND
The Great Mughals called it "Hindostan" and to the British it was the "Jewel" in the imperial "Crown" and from the Latin "Indus" is derived the name that th
e world knows it by. India - an ancient land where age-old traditions rub shoulders with modernity; a land with an astounding array of natural wonders; an incredible history dating back thousands of years; and a cultural backdrop that never fails to dazzle.
In India a guest is considered blessed, and we at Discovery Journeys India treat your needs with holy reverence. We understand your time is at a premium and want to help you capitalise on your visit with absolutely no compromise on the quality of your experience.
Discovery Journeys was established in 1995 by Altaf Chapri and Bilal Chapri, using their many years of experience in organising and leading tours, challenges, treks and wildlife holidays across India, and beyond
ADVENTURE Travel is a basic human urge, a chance to discover something new about oneself and others. We know that our style of adventure travel appeals to people who want more out of their journeys, than cheap wine and a suntan. Typically, the people who go with DISCOVERY JOURNEYS enjoy good health, are reasonably active, and want to see the world the way it should be seen. India is a land where nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature. It is the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Therefore our “Adventures Travel” include a wide range of activities – walks, treks, bicycling, camel safaris, river rafting et al. So we attract a special kind of person – the one prepared to tackle remote, off the beaten track areas, and cope with the infinite variety of experiences from day to day. Our trips have no place for rigid attitudes, cultural prejudices or false preconceptions. Each tour description gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. Somewhere in this varied tour programme you will find one or more trips that appeal to your sense of adventure. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information so that you can best decide your adventure of a lifetime, guaranteed!
SPIRITUAL JOURNEY & TEACHINGS BY H.H. DALAI LAMA With this Adventure travel, Discovery Journeys India offers you profound experience with the friendly mountain people and the greatest teacher of ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ in the remote highlands of Spiti Valley. The beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh presents scenic hill station, temples, monasteries, rivers, ancient cultures, traditional way of life, flora and fauna as well as breathing
MOTORBIKE ADVENTURE THIS IS A JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME that combines breathtaking mountain scenery with exciting and challenging motor biking enriched by history of ancient cultures and time-less spiritual traditions and of-course plenty of time to relax and absorb the unique atmosphere. You will be biking over the world's highest passes and thorough the wild and barren ‘moonscapes’ of Ladakh; the lush alpine forests of the Himachal and rushing glacial rivers
SKIING IN KASHMIR A MAGICAL PARADISE FOR SKI LOVERS: where else on earth can we get snowfall for two weeks in a row! Gulmarg offers vast variety of challenging routes: we can ski down from the highest slopes of Aparwath (4100m), which offers views of Mt K2 on a clear day; or from Kongdori (3100m) – mid station for Gondolas. DISCOVERY JOURNEYS – pioneers of adventure travel in Kashmir – invites you to explore this hidden paradise!
HIMALAYAN HOMESTAYS With the help of the local people in Ladakh, we offer an exciting promotional tour for the real traveller, and we will give you have some memorable experience of what we call the "Himalayan Homestay"!!, a profit of sustainable tourism development.
NORTH EAST ADVENTURE - NAGALAND, ARUNACHAL & ASSAM A journey of discovery to explore the hidden tribal frontier of India, bordering Myanmar & China (Tibet). This indeed is an exploratory travel that discovers the secrets of hidden tribal treasures through enchanting nature.
SHADOW OF NANDA DEVI - The Mountain Goddess of Nanda Devi One of the most beautiful and rewarding Treks in this region, offering stunning close-up view s of the India's second Highest Peak - Nanda Devi (7822mts) and surrounding mountains
SLOWLY DOWN THE GANGES A pilgrimage capturing River Ganga in her varied moods through its course of 1200 miles from Dev Prayag to Culcutta . Our task is dione ! On Ganga's breast . The sun is sinking down to rest : And , moored beneath the tamarind bough . Our banks has found its harbour now.With furled sail , and painted side , behold the tiny frigate ride . Upon her deck , mid charcoal gleams .
IN THE SHADOW OF KANGCHENJUNGA This is Superb and stunning trek in the Eastern Himalaya , the trek begin at Uttari over Singalia Ridge to Dzongri and on the Goecha La , from whre you have superb views of the third Highest mountain in the world - Kangchenjunga (8598mts).
IN THE SHADOW OF SHIVLING And the Sources of Ganges A trek to the source of the river Ganges , the most sacred river in India and to the Base camp of the towering and majestic Shivling ( 6543mts ) . The Journey takes us through bustling pilgrim centers , dense blue pine forests and flowering meadows . This superb holiday comes to an end with a delightful stay in the hill station of Musoorie .
BIKE CHALLENGE - Highlands of central India " It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best , since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them . Thus you remember them as they actually are , while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you , and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle .
HIMALAYAN BIKE CHALLENGE - Over World's Highest Road Pass This trip offers exciting blend of tough climbs and some of the best downhill in the woods. A journey of a lifetime , combining breathtaking Himalayan scenery ; exciting and challenging mountain biking ; rich history , culture and religion ; and of course plenty of time to relax and soak up the atmosphere .
RIDING THE BHAGIRATHI RIVER Interested This is a self supporting white water rafting expedition for the adventure seeker ; definetly not for the squeamish. This weeklong expedition originates near the Tehri Dam in the hill state of Uttaranchal and concludes at Rishikesh , the Hindu pilgrim town , 138km down the river , The river run negotiates nearly a hundred rapids ( mostly grade 3 -4 )on the Bhagirathi River .
RIDING IN INDIA It was the dawn of the Great Mughal Empire that horses were first integrated into everybody life in India and since then riding has been a major means of transport .The fearsome Rajputs , as they stampeded across the plains and mountain passes , depended on the fleetness of their horses of success in battle . They spend years trying to breed superior horses , hoping to outdo their rivals and eventually enabling them to conquer much of the Subcontinent .
SHANG & RUSHPU VALLEY Over Shang La This is possibly the finest trek in Ladakh , it follows trails away from the popular routes , passing through quiet villages , monasteries , offering an extensive range of flora & fauna.
STOK TO HEMIS Via Markha Valley A wonderful introductory trip to the remote and magical Buddhist Kingdom of Ladakh . This superb trek , beginning at Stok , passes through beautiful mountain villages ; colourful Buddhist monasteries , and the high altitude pastures of Nimaling ( home to the legendary snow leopard and Himalayan blue sheep ) - from which the views of the Kanz Yatze Peack are magnificent . This holiday comes to an end with a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra .
TRANS ZANSKAR Over Shingo La This exciting trek combines two of the wildest regions in the Himalaya ' Lahaul and Zanskar ' crossing over Shingo La ( Pass ) , 5100mts. Trekking through beautiful landscape , villages and visiting some of the most beautiful and remote monasteries , this is the perfect trek to explore Zanskar's haunting beauty and it's friendly people .
JOURNEY THROUGH SPITI & KANGRA Over Kunzum La This journey embodies all the traditional magic of this enchanting region . Time has done little to diminish the eternal appeal of Spiti's and Kangra's stunning landscape and its ancient Buddhist culture and monasteries . Along the way, you will stay in some delightful Heritage Bunglows and simple , family - run guesthouses , and also camp in wilderness with breath - taking views .
LADAKH & NUBRA VALLEY Over Khardung La A superb way to the Buddhist mountain Kingdom of Ladakh and the remote and mysterious Nubra Valley . This journey will uvveil a region inhabited by peaceful Buddhist monks , cliff side monasteries , high passes and dramatic mountain scenery . The trip finishes with a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra .
IN SEARCH OF SHANGRI - LA Hidden in the Himalayas between India and Tibet , lie the magical Kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan , which until recently , were closed to the outside world . Steeped in religion , ancient traditions and ancestral customs , these gentle mountain lands retain the charms of a bygon age .
Trekking in Arunachal An enormous area of the Himalaya to the east of Bhutan is yet to be explored! Arunachal Pradesh and other areas of the North East Frontier Province have been closed to outsiders since the beginning of the century. This is because the Chinese refused to ratify the border with Tibet (called the McMohan Line), set in 1914.
SINDHU DARSHAN-2008 Journeys beyond the higher realms (From 1st to 7th of JUNE 2008).
Discover Western Himalaya Kashmir - Zanskar - Ladakh This tour shows you the amazingly beautiful contrast between alpine valleys of Kashmir & high altitude desolate arid mountainscape of Zanskar & Ladakh. With every changing day you will travel from the old colonial charm of Srinagars houseboat life to the delightful backwaters of Dal lake. From the rich Persian & Islamic heritage sights along river Jehlum in the down town to the cascading fairy land -- Mughal gardens rolling down the green hills.
CULTURE An old Indian saying goes "that one cannot contain the sea in a small vessel" and so it is with India. Any aspect of this old civilisation needs reams to be written and yet there will be unfinished tales to be told.
India is like the elemental sunrise that has fascinated and enthralled mankind since the dawn of time and yet its allure remains undiminished…immeasurable. Like the "lady of the seven veils" she unveils her charms layer by layer and casts her hypnotic spell on all who visit her.
Snake Festival Of Malabar- Northern Kerala From February 3rd to February 7th 2010 Bhadrakali temple, a fierce form of the Mother Goddess. Set in a lovely spot overlooking the river estuary, the temple belongs to the Valans, a fishing community who migrated here from Cochin at the beginning of the twentieth century. Reconstructed some thirty years ago, the temple has a pleasant atmosphere and many colourful carvings depicting the major deities of the Hindu pantheon.
The Lost Civilization of Deccan Introducing a fine tour including some of the most fascinating temples, great history, colorful people and virgin beaches, one of the most rewarding journeys and splendid combination of Karnataka and Unexplored Northern Kerala.
Nomads & Villages Of Indian Desert Discover Rajasthan & Gujarat This tour travels through the desert kingdoms and tribal heartlands of Rajasthan and Gujarat and presents the region's well-preserved ethnicity and historical heritage to the modern travellers.
ORISSA - Temples & Tribes The eastern Indian state of Orissa lures the adventurous traveller with its indigenous tribal culture; ancient temples; and long-standing traditions of mysticism.
Discover central india Chhattisgarh & madhya pradesh A magical, unspoilt country, Chhattisgarh is truly a land of incredible scenic beauty. Striking vistas, pulsating local culture, low population densities, exceptionally good roads, hills, plateaux, jungles, wildlife, waterfalls, ancient sites and temples, warm and welcoming people, palaces, and diverse village and tribal communities, make up this multihued east Indian state.
North Kerala - Hidden Paradise This is a tour that spotlights the physical wellbeing of the traveller, introducing you to the age old Indian traditions of health improvement and vitalisation. You travel from Bangalore, the modern IT capital of India; through the princely city of Mysore; the ancient kingdom of Hassan, Halebid and Belur; the coffee estates of Coorg.
Highlights of North India This journey begins in the historic capital Delhi, and proceeds onwards to the holy city of Varanasi, on the banks of the sacred river Ganges; then further to Orchha and the magnificent Chandela temples at Khajuraho, famed for beautiful erotic sculptures.
Holistic Rajasthan 'Maharaja' and 'Maharani' are not just appellations but the very personification of an age that embodied both a regal and a flamboyant lifestyle. Apart from administering strong and prosperous kingdoms, these royals lived life to its fullest, patronising art, music, literature, culture, cuisine etc.
Jewel in the Crown A journey across colourful Rajasthan, where an intriguing world of opulent palaces and stark imposing forts; lively people in bustling bazaars and aloof camels on silent sands; lustrous silks and dazzling jewels; the untamed world of Ranthambore National Park and burnished marble of Shah Jahan's fabled Taj Mahal, awaits the zealous traveller.
The Elephant & Empire South India A classic combination of history, religion and wildlife: exploring colonial hill stations and backwaters, walking and cycling, makes it a perfect holiday.
The Bengal Discovery This is a specially designed holiday that gives the inquisitive traveller an opportunity to explore and discover the marvels of the erstwhile capital of British India and its foreign settlements and the territories around. Kolkata (Calcutta), the capital of West Bengal, is still considered a cultural and intellectual heart of India.
Classic Journey From time immemorial, the Indian subcontinent has caught the imagination of travellers, drawn to its fabled wealth; its diversity of cultures and religion; its courtly life; and above all, its enduring sense of mystery. This classical journey unravels some of the major influences that have shaped this remarkable region.
Kipling Classic Kipling Classic tour presents three of South Asia's finest national parks, guaranteeing electrifying encounters with wildlife. Bird watchers can regale themselves with an astounding number of birds on this outing, while a visit to the fabled Taj Mahal in Agra keeps an appointment with history.
Enchanting Cruise On Backwaters The 'backwaters' of Kerala are indubitably one of the most beautiful locations for a rejuvenating holiday in the world. They comprise a myriad network of waterways and lagoons, at times only a few yards inland from the sea.
Mughals & Maharajas Imagine a date with history, where you walk down lanes once trodden by mighty sovereigns and their subjects; where gory battles were fought to be won or lost; where love and romance had pulsated with an innocent effervescence; where intrigue and valour went hand to hand.
The Delightful Island From tea plantations that cling to hillsides, to white palm-fringed beaches of the seacoast, Sri Lanka is an island of extraordinary natural beauty. The glorious variety of flora and fauna, the cool hill-stations, and the serene grace that permeates all aspects of the Sinhalese way of life.
Rajasthan Discovery Rajasthan evokes enduring images of a vibrant and colourful past, with gigantic forts and magnificent palaces gracing every horizon. A thriving folk culture expresses itself in an abundance of pageantry and colour, with exuberant festivals, dances and music.
Himalayan Foot Hills This magical trip gives you a fascinating insight into three of India's eminent religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Wander through fragrant tea gardens; visit Corbett National Park and see the plethora of wildlife from elephant back and open Jeep.
Kullu To Spiti Over Pin Parbat Pass Discover the unspoilt trails of the lush green vales of Himachal Pradesh, and in sharp contrast, the barren, desolate valleys of forbidden Spiti. The trek passes through beautiful villages, flower-laden meadows, and tumbling waterfalls, presenting panoramic views of the high Himalayan peaks.
Dream Garden Kashmir - Kashmir is the Garden of eternal spring, a delightful flower bed, and heart expanding of heritage for dervishes. Its pleasant meads and enchanting cascades are beyond all.
Kangra Valley This focal point of this rewarding journey is Himachal Pradesh - Land of Unmoving Snows - a state made up of a series of delightful river valleys, straddling the ancient trade routes to Central Asia and the Indian peninsula. We shall spend much of our time here in the remarkably scenic Kangra Valley.
THE GANGES HERITAGE CURISE Cruising along the heritage and historical trail of Ganges from Kolkata to Murshidabad – a stretch of 260 km. studded with monumental history, spiritual aura and abundance of green eco- friendly habitations.
INDIAN WILDLIFE India is the only place in the world where four of the largest cats are found, and boasts of both the Lion and the Tiger. Although the country is steeped in Tiger lore, the Lion was the national animal until 1972, when it was dethroned by the Tiger; it nevertheless still graces our national emblem, 'the four Lions of Ashoka'. India also has on offer a staggering assortment of flora supporting an equally astounding variety of fauna, including 1200 species of birds, 350 species of mammals and over 400 species of reptiles.
At last I saw it. The unmistakable glow of the striped coat: the powerful, unhurried, silent walk. It was my first tiger, confidently strolling down the middle of the road. The power and pure beauty of the moment cast a spell which was to become a driving passion in my life in the months and years ahead.
Satpura Wilderness SATPURA - The one tiger reserve that allows you the exhilaration of exploring tiger country on foot and in your own time.
Wild Discovery - Land of the Tiger An expedition through central India's wilderness, including three of the best National Parks (NP) in the subcontinent, and also a visit to the Taj Mahal and the Havelis (Indian mansions) of Jaipur.
Sikkim & Kaziranga - A fine combination of moderate trek and wildlife safaris: This combines one of the most splendid and scenically rewarding treks in the entire Himalayas - offering magnificent views of Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Everest and Lhotse - with the exploration of Kaziranga, one of the finest national parks in India, before flying back to Calcutta
Exhilarating Saurashtra Our 14 days foray into Saurashtra and Kutch takes us down an unusual journey through a little known region. This is truly a voyage of discovery that gives us a glimpse of a 4000-year old port city of Lothal, and the last remaining population of the Asiatic Lion, hunting in the twilight of Gir National Park.
Rajasthan Wildlife Adventure Rajasthan is not just the ' Desert land of valorous Kings and impregnable Forts', but home to a rich and wide variety of mammals and birds; its magic gradually casting a spell on the traveller, right through this fascinating journey.
Royal Bengal Tiger Our Journey begins with a brief sightseeing in Mumbai and quickly moves to Madhya Pradesh in central India. This is the land of Kipling's Jungle Book, where the descendants of Sher Khan the tiger still prowl. According to tiger experts and lovers, this is the ideal tiger country: not only does it have the highest population of 'stripes' in India; it also has some of the most idyllic habitats anywhere in the big cat's range.
Untamed India The very name evokes a picture of a land untamed, raw and powerful: a land that over the centuries has harboured countless mavericks from the Mauryan Emperors, the Great Mughals, British viceroys, and the mightiest among them - the Royal Bengal Tiger.
SOUTH INDIA - A wildlife Adventure. A superb holiday visiting some of the finest national parks of South India; the journey also offers overnight cruises in distinctive houseboats of Kerala.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH & ASSAM (Northeast India) - Birds & Mammals Adventure: A splendid escapade to the Namdapha and Kaziranga National Parks - two of India's most exciting wilderness destinations - that hold a very special appeal for nature lovers. Travelling through remote areas with limited tourist infra-structure; very basic amenities in hotels; and at places non-existent roads, we explore this unblemished wonderland.
TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE JOURNEY TO INDIA 2009 'The United Nations General Assembly designated 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. The UNESCO is the lead agency having the support of the International Astronomical Union. The year coincides with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo Galilei. In 1609
Himalayas are the greatest mountain range on earth, a virtually unbroken wall of rock stretching 1,800 miles from the borders of Afghanistan to southwest China. It remains the world's most majestic natural barrier, a magnificent wilderness that has shaped the history and politics of Asia to this day.
Himalayan peaks have always fired the imagination of mountain climbers. A mountaineering expedition is a complete adventure. Some of our expeditions require no previous mountaineering experience, whilst others require good preparation. Our expedition grading and details will help you choose the best alternative. You can always write or call us for further information on any of the Himalayan peaks on offer.
Himalaya is a true voyage of discovery - Michael Palin
MENTHOK KANGRI - A fine peak & superb trekking from Spiti to Karzok (6085m/Grade 1A): Menthok is the perfect objective, for trekkers without climbing experience who wish to summit their first Himalayan Peak. Situated in the fascinating region of Rupshu, this high and arid landscape has captured the imagination of travellers since it unlocked its doors for visitors.
STOK KANGRI LADAKH (6123m/Grade 1A): A fine trekking peak in Ladakh and an excellent introduction to climbing in the Himalayas.
SPITI - The Hidden Peak. Spiti till very recently forbade admission to outsiders and remained inaccessible to all. Located close to the Tibetan border the windswept plateau of Spiti lies in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, and there are still many peaks to be climbed and hidden valleys to be explored here.
CHHAMSER KANGRI (6650m) - A classic trek & stunning climb in Rupshu: An excellent straightforward climb with awesome views of the surrounding peaks and the Tso Morari Lake. It is a great objective for fit trekkers without any climbing experience. Although the ascent is not difficult, the rarefied air makes it quite challenging.
CHADAR (FROZEN RIVER) TREK - Winter lifeline of the Zanskaris: Experience the thrill of walking on the frozen Zanskar - a Himalayan river in the windswept highlands of the Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh, where subzero temperatures chill the blood in the veins; very strictly for the very firm and fit only. This route has been used for centuries as a trade link by the inhabitants of this region.
TINGCHINKHANG PEAK (6020m) SIKKIM: Tingchinkhang has been previously conquered only once by the Indo-British Army Expedition in May 1999. Sonam Lepcha, our mountain guide was leading the expedition and along with him six people reached the top. There have been some more attempts on the peak, including a Discovery Journeys expedition in April 2003, but these were not successful.
Where every breath is a prayer.
"I want more ideas of soul-life. I am certain that there are more yet to be found. A great life of entire civilization - lies just outside the pale of common thought… A nexus of ideas exist of which nothing is known… a cosmos of thought. There is an Entity, a soul-Entity, as yet unrecognized… it is in addition to the existence of the soul: in the addition to immortality: and beyond the idea of the deity… There is an immense ocean over which the mind can sail, upon which the vessel of thoughts has not yet been launched… There is so much beyond all that has ever yet been imagined." The story of My hart
ENLIGHTENING ODYSSEY - Walk with the Buddha: A soulful journey visiting the important Buddhist sites of Lumbani, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar, including a visit to the most spiritual and atmospheric Hindu city - Varansai on the banks of the Ganges
JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR & HIGHLIGHTS OF KERALA: With 4,000 years of historical development, the Jewish community in India has maintained an unbroken line of ethnic and religious traditions and displays a remarkable adaptability to the changing times
SUFI JOURNEY - A spiritual discovery of Islam:Islam is the religion of peace and submission which leads to ultimate source of One God - Allah, the compassionate and merciful. Sufism is the mystic and profound tradition of Islam which teaches tolerant co-existence, harmony, and divine love, for all creation. Sufis are detached from worldly material possessions, false pride, greed and ego. They revel in the beauty of Allah in complete joy of surrender, and remain focussed on the reward of paradise in the life thereafter
THE ETERNAL GANGA -A pilgrimage to the cosmic centre of the universe: Ganga is the most sacred of all Indian rivers and there is no other waterway in the world that is revered so deeply and passionately by a huge section of humanity, and whose persona is so intricately interwoven with a country's cultural ethos
Adventure greatly contributes towards building strength of character. It allows a person to experience events which reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fibre of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretences, not only to himself but others.
With a wide array of activities our "Multi-Activity Adventures" offer the traveller the opportunity not only to revel in the delights of nature and experience the thrill of several pursuits, but also tests his ability to serve fellow companions in uncommon circumstances where compassion becomes the master motive.
Discovery Journeys' Multi-Activity Adventures (MAA) offer adventure travel that can be joined by anyone in good health. Participants enjoy the thrill of more than one enterprise. Each activity blends imperceptibly into the other, and most importantly, before the traveller begins to feel the fatigue and tedium of a single venture; the bonus is that boredom never sets in.
We combine trekking, river-rafting, wildlife safaris (in open Jeeps), elephant safaris, and birdwatching, to bring to you the finest of family adventure travel in India.
HIMALAYAN MULTI ACTIVITY ADVENTURE A GREAT FAMILY ADVENTURE THROUGH HIMALAYAN COUNTRY COMBINING SUPERLATIVE TREKKING WITH SCINTILLATING VIEWS OF HIMALAYAN PEAKS; HEART-POUNDING WHITE WATER RAFTING ON THE MIGHTY GANGES; & GAME SAFARIS IN CORBETT COUNTRY WHERE SIGHTING A ROYAL BENGAL TIGER WHIPS UP A STORM IN THE BLOOD STREAM.
HIKE BIKE RAFT - LADAKH This is a combo active adventure travel in the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh also known as Little Tibet. The capital city - LEH was an important trading post on the legendary Silk Route. Ladakh is dry and arid. The elevation on this trip will vary from 3500 mtrs. to 4600 mtrs. Which makes any physical activity a major challenge.
NORTH INDIA CUISINE TOUR - with Pushkar festival
Discovery Journeys brings together, for the connoisseurs of cuisine, an exciting tour that weaves together History of North India with the delicacies of four different communities that have evolved over centuries to titillate the palate. There is absolutely no dearth of variety for a creative gourmet in this part of the country. The region is fortunate to be the hub of some of the most exotic styles of cooking. Many of which are renowned all over the world and regarded as the most developed and refined of all culinary arts.
CUISINE OF DELHI
The food of India is a hybrid cuisine which has grown out of several traditions, techniques and flavours but its chief influences are the classical Mughal cuisine, born in the imperial kitchens; and the vegetarian food of the orthodox mercantile community. The British Raj added its own culinary influences, which helped popularise the ubiquitous 'Indian curry' in the West. Today, the tangy flavours of cuisine from all over India are on offer together with a range of South Asian and European dishes in top-end restaurants.
In Delhi one finds foods from all over India. Also in Delhi one sees a fusion of foods old and new; and the true melting of many cultures, people, and cuisines together. Of all the many communities living in Delhi, the food has been influenced most by the Muslim, Bania, Punjabi and the Kayastha communities. The traditional vegetarian cuisine of Delhi belongs to the trading Bania community and may be enjoyed only in the walled Old City of the Mughal dynasty; where as the other three communities enjoyed meat and fish just as much as they loved vegetables.
Shahjahanabad was the name of this city before it was called Delhi. The spirit of lavishness and living life like it may end tomorrow is still alive today, long after the Mughal rule. Street side vendors, tandoori stands, chaatwalas, and lavish dinners at home, are still a part of daily life in Delhi. Cocktails, the many tandoori appetisers that are now a part of every famous Indian restaurant are all somehow linked to this region. Delhi has played a very important role in the political and cultural growth of India; the food of Delhi is a fine testament to that very important role.
The most famous cuisine of this region is Mughlai, the cuisine of the mighty Mughals, and Delhi - the historic capital of India - is the place to enjoy this style in its best form. Known for their love for life and lavish styles, Mughals treated their gastronomic requirement with a lot of seriousness. They added a touch of royalty to the food and produced mouth watering taste; it consists of a superb mix of aromatic spices, exotic sausages, butter based curries, loads of dry fruits, and roasted meats cooked in earthen ovens called tandoors.
After Independence from the British Empire a large number of Hindu and Sikh migrants from the newly formed Pakistan arrived in India, and brought with them their food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, and added another element to the existing cuisines of the capital city.
Food from Punjab needs little introduction as it is easily available in different avatars all over the city from roadside food stalls to luxury hotels. The very popular 'Chhole Bhatoore', steaming hot from the pot and eaten with sweet Lassi (a drink made from fresh curd) is consumed in tonnes each day all over the city. Another popular fare is the 'Makki-di-roti' (bread made from corn flour) with 'Sarson-da-Saag' (a dish made from mustard leaves ground into a coarse paste). Punjabis say that their food is prepared with dollops of love and they never turn away a guest without sharing their meal with him. Their food is rich in butter and ghee and contains lot of spices, and of course calories!
CUISINE OF AWADH
From Delhi we travel to Lucknow (formerly known as Awadh), the state capital of Uttar Pradesh and famous for music, dance, and courtly etiquette, and needless to say, its mouth-watering cuisine. The most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh also has the most exotic recipes of the country in its kitty. Once again the treats include typical vegetarian food of predominantly Hindu class and the royal repasts of the Nabobs of Awadh, known for the refinement of culture and lifestyle.
The Awadh style of cooking is as popular as Mughlai if not more, and has a large fan following. The trademark feature of Awadhi tradition is the 'Dum Pukht' an outstanding process of preparing food. In this unique style, food is sealed in a large cauldron called 'handi' and placed over slow fire, allowing the ingredients to be cooked in their own juices, under the strict supervision of royal bawarchis (chefs).
It took about 2-3 days to prepare the meal in this traditional manner, but these days owing to living life in the fast lane, the residents only use the dum pukht technique on special occasions. Mouth-watering aromas emanate on opening the lid of the handis, which are sealed with dough to prevent the steam from escaping. The final result is rich in taste and aroma; the very famous 'Murg Mussallam' and 'Swami Kebabs' are prepared with the dum process.
The skill of preparing the food is also apparent in the blending of the various spices in Awadhi cuisine, and presenting it in the ceremonial tradition of laying food on the table called 'Dastarkhwan'. The experience of this nawabi tradition transcends a traditional cuisine into a fine art.
CUISINE OF RAJASTHAN
Culinary art of the princely state of Rajasthan is judged as the most majestic and royal by the connoisseurs of food. The royal families are known as the descendants of the sun god. The desert has made their lives very different from those of their other countrymen. The life they live is evolved after centuries of surviving the natural calamities of the desert.
Just as they have done with their folk arts and crafts, recipes have been passed down generations and have only become familiar to others recently. The many wars that have been fought here, and the scarce natural resources, have played a very important role in shaping the cuisine of this land. The truth is that the story of Rajasthan's cuisine is a success story of the grim determination and struggle of the people of Rajasthan against all odds of nature.
It is matter worthy of appreciation that while surviving in the rough terrains of Rajasthan is difficult, people here have devised recipes (and a whole lot of them) emulated by all in the country. Ingredients in these recipes have been carefully selected, more out of hard geographical compulsion than out of fetish for the taste.
The food was prepared to nourish people that were fighting wars and were away from their homes for long periods. Nothing could be grown in the barren lands facing the hot and stormy sand-dunes, and communication was not developed in earlier times. Under such conditions the pre-requisite was to have food with high nutritional value. One that could provide sufficient aliment to bear not just the hardships imposed by the vast stretches of deserts, but also be suitable for the war-like lifestyles of the people. The recipes found here are thus able to keep long shelf lives. Also the desert climate has seen the evolution of recipes that call for minimum water.
Daunting tasks for the cooks was to think of recipes which required minimum use of water, could be stored for long period of time without requiring re-heating, and did not use great quantities of vegetables. Often one sees the use of yogurt, buttermilk, milk and ghee. The flavours that these people have shared with the rest of the country have taught lessons in seasoning. No matter what the adversities, these people never compromised on taste and flavour. The foods were cooked in accordance to what was available and that scarcity never changed the grandiose lifestyle of its people. They were able to change their adversity into strength.
Greater use of milk, butter milk and other milk products can be seen in Rajasthani cuisine. Crops like bajra (millet) and jowar (barley) are also used as they could be cultivated in parts of Rajasthan. Use of beans from locally grown plants like sangri, ker etc, besides dried lentils, is also popular here. Gram flour is also a major ingredient of the Rajasthani dishes. Most Rajasthani curries appear red in colour and seem to be very hot, but that is not so in taste. Pure ghee or butter is used as a medium of cooking. Chutneys from the locally available spices help to make the food even more interesting.
Khansamas (chefs) working in the kitchens of the royals generated some exotic recipes. These recipes have been carried forward through the descendants of these khansamas and have helped to add a regal dash to the Rajasthani cuisine.
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