CULTURE

The riches of beautiful India

The mysteries and history of tea, the secrets of Indian cuisine from the farthest reaches and smallest niches of that diverse country, a journey through its folk art and literature and the power of the Bollywood dream today are but some of the topics covered by another event at the Athenaeum Inter-Continental Hotel, the Festival of India, running from tonight to November 21. A variety of events Unlike other events of this sort held at the hotel, there’s more to this festival than just food and drink, though the food transcends the usual curries and chutneys to take you on a truly gastronomic journey around India. What’s more, the festival has invited chefs to demonstrate live how traditional dishes are prepared by those in the know. One of the highlights of this festival is that two tea experts have been brought in to guide participants through the history of tea, teach them how to identify the fruity from the robust and oolong from green tea, and how to mix different types and create personal blends. Tea workshops are held on November 15, 17 and 19 at 11 a.m., while tea tastings are daily at 5 p.m. The holistic approach What is interesting about this festival is that it has tried to embrace as many aspects of Indian culture and history to present a holistic portrait of the country. The rhythm for the event is provided by four dancers, showing off the elegant moves of a variety of provinces, accompanied by two musicians on the sitar and tabla. On the visual side, there will also be screenings of Bollywood favorites as well as an exhibition of contemporary Indian literature, books on India by Greek and Indian authors, coffee-table books, books on religion and philosophy, dictionaries and much more. The exhibitions are complemented by seminars, lectures and demonstrations. Topics vary from classical Indian music to yoga, tourist destinations and traditional weaving, the art of sari draping and literature. Schools of art Another highlight of the India Festival is an exhibition of traditional Indian folk art showcasing the three very distinct styles of painting: Madhubani, Pattachitra and Mughal Miniature. The centuries-old tradition of Madhubani painting originates from Mithila, a small town in Northern India. This style was originally used by women to decorate the walls of their homes or courtyards to mark the seasonal festivals of the religious year, special events of the life cycle, and, when marriages are being arranged, to prepare intricately designed wedding proposals. The style is rich in color and draws its themes from nature and mythology, and is nowadays being adapted to many different artistic media. The art of Pattachitra comes from the northeastern state of Orissa and consists of illustrations on silk depicting scenes from mythology and local lore. The style derives its name from the Sanskrit word Patta, meaning canvas, and Chitra, meaning picture. This art form usually is used for the depiction of Hindu mythological themes, mostly dealing with stories from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and legends concerning Radha and Krishna, Lord Jagannath and other popular legends. This art stands out for its unique technique, which involves gluing together scraps of silk or cotton with a vegetable paste in order to create a canvas, while all the colors used are made of vegetable extracts by the artists, or Chitrakars. Unlike the other two styles being highlighted at the India Festival, the art of miniature painting was initially exclusively used for historical chronicles and book illustrations. These miniatures have a strong and clearly expressed narrative content and the brilliantly illustrated paintings glow as if illuminated from inside. Introduced to India via Persia a thousand years ago, this school of painting thrived under the Mughal rulers, especially during the 16th and 17th century. The Festival of India is held at the hotel’s Cafezoe. The lunch and dinner buffets are open daily from Saturday to November 21 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Morning instruction sessions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. cost 5 euros and evening sessions are free. The lunch buffet for those who attend morning workshops is offered at a discounted rate of 25 euros. Lunch vouchers are also available at all Notos Galleries stores in Athens at a special price of 50 euros for two including a bottle of house wine. For reservations, call tel 210.920.6655.