A GLOSSARY OF CULTURAL REFERENCES IN BollyWHAT? TRANSLATIONS


For information about cultural practices seen in Hindi films, visit the FAQ.

bhangchakoridiwali / dipavalieid, iidgopis hair holi karva chauthkites, kite-flyingkrishnalailamajnuunmeeramoon / moon-like part of the hairpartridgephaaguunqawwaliradhaRaanjhaseven notesswings tricolorvermilion

 
bhang A narcotic drink made from hemp leaves, often consumed on Holi.
chakori / partridge A type partridge traditionally thought to live on moonbeams
Diwali / Deepavali Hindu festival celebrated in the autumn; numerous diyas, or lamps, are lit to invite Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, into the household.
Eid A Muslim holiday, in which the feast of Ramadan is broken at the new moon; in many song lyrics, it also serves as a figure of speech to describe someone who is rarely seen.
gopis, Radha and Krishna Radha is the favorite lover of the god Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu, also known as the flute-player. Radha's intense, unceasing longing for Krishna is rivalled only by her annoyance at the constant adulation he receives from the gopis, or milkmaids, who constantly vie for his attention.
Hair: filling the part, vermilion, etc. Traditionally, Hindu wives put vermilion (red) powder, or 'sindoor,' in the parting of their hair. For more on this practice, see the FAQ.
Holi Hindu festival to welcome the spring. Celebrated by throwing colored dyes; some celebrants also ingest bhang, a mild narcotic.
Karwa Chauth A celebration in which a Hindu woman fasts for her husband's wellbeing until moonrise, at which point she ceremoniously gazes at her husband's face through a metal ring, and then breaks her fast by letting him feed her.
kites, kite flying Kite-flying can be intensely competitive in India. Competitors often roll their kite strings in a paste mixed with cut glass, then try to clip their opponent's string, thus "beheading" the kite.
Laila and Majnuun Mythic lovers legendary in India and the Middle East.
Meera Meera was a medieval Rajput princess who forsook husband and home to devote herself to worship of Lord Krishna through poetry, song, and dance.
moon, moon-like Comparing a woman's face to the moon is an immense compliment to her beauty.
Phaaguun February to March in the Hindu calendar
qawwali A type of religious song, often a ghazal set to music, traditionally sung by Muslim musicians to the accompaniment of the sarangi or tanpura. In the West, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is one of the better-known qawwals, or singers of qawwali.
Raanjha Legendary lover in the Romeo mold.
seven notes Just as Western music has 'do re mi fa so la ti', so does Indian classical music have seven basic notes: 'sa re ga ma pa da ni.'
swings and the monsoon In the rainy month of Saawan, there are several regional festivals which young women celebrate by swinging (on swings, yes). Additionally, during this month, a woman traditionally receives the poles and ropes of a swing from the man she is engaged to marry.
tricolor Refers to the Indian flag.

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