Tag Archives: hindi

बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद (How can a monkey appreciate the taste of ginger?)


My informant, AS, is a 19-year-old Indian male who grew up in Mumbai, though he has lived in Southern California for the past three years. He now attends UCI. He is fluent in both English and Hindi. This piece was collected during a facetime call, when I asked him to share a typical Hindi proverb with me.


Main Text:

Proverb: बंदर क्या जाने अदरक का स्वाद 

Phonetic script: bandar kya jaane adrak ka swaad

Transliteration: Monkey what knows ginger(‘s) taste

Translation: How can a monkey appreciate the taste of ginger?


Informant analysis:

“It’s basically used when someone doesn’t appreciate something of quality. For example, if I don’t like the taste of something like caviar, you’d use this proverb.”



This proverb would appear to show that in Indian culture there is a healthy respect for the finer things in life, and a negative attitude towards those who don’t appreciate quality goods or work. It’s interesting because I can’t think of a direct English equivalent, beyond possibly “enjoy the finer things in life.” This might point to very different cultural values between Hindi-speakers and English-speakers

Ramayana – Floating Stone Bridge

Ramayana is a story how all the gods meet each other and help each other out, you know fight evil. And it is related to one of our festivals. There is the story of Ram. Ram is one of our gods, and basically he was the king of one our capitals called [inaudible]. He was living his happy life and then before he got married his wife was kidnapped by a monster in Sri Lanka called Ravan. What happened was that the monster wanted to show off his powers, and the story goes Lord Ram contacted different gods; he went to the Himalayas; he got the support of monk and built an army. But, you know, Sri Lanka is island, and they had very large land army. So what they did was eventually, they did some prayers and contacted the higher lords or something and did a deal with them. The deal was that, if they write Shri Ram (his name) in on the stones they would float. So when they write that on the stones, and they start to float. So all of his army brought really big stones from all over India wrote his name, and the stones started floating in the sea. And that’s how they created a bridge from India to Sri Lanka. The army crossed the bridge to ultimately kill the monster called Ravan and get back his wife.

Context: If you look the maps you can see the bridge he had build, although it is eroded cause this was thousands of years ago. There is a city called Rameswaram, which is the southernmost city in India, and you can see the bridge is really going Sri Lanka. There’s like temples with And the stones really say Shri Ram. I’ve seen it, but it could be a big scam. The interesting aspect is that this thing exists, right? So what I was thinking is that someone saw the bridge with the floating stones, and on the basis of that created the story so that it seems real, but I don’t know.

Thoughts: I found this story, and landmark, very interesting. There seems much debate online as to the reasons why these stones float. Some suggest it porous pumice stone so it the air makes it lighter than water, while others say pumice would sink after some amount of time in the water. Either way it is fascinating to see the images of the bridge from space, and is a true wonder.

Holi Festival

There was demonic king in India. His name is Hirankashap. It was known that he was an evil king and egotistic. He used to command everyone in the kingdom to worship him. He had a son named pralad, and the son did not believe you should worship kings. Pralad worshipped the real gods. So the king tried to kill his son many times, but somehow his son never died, because lord Vishnu, the one he was praying to, would save him every time. So every method to kill him was unsuccessful. The king had a sister named Holika who was immune to fire. The king told Holika to sit a fire and bring his son into it. Holika went into the fire and took Pralad into it, but Pralad kept chanting the name of lord Vishnu, and instead of Pralad, Holika burned. In the end, Pralad came out unharmed, and Vishnu was impressed with his devotion. 

The festival Holi is derived from Holika’s name. Normally, the day before Holi, we have huge bonfires all over India. And in the fire we throw away all our bad luck or whatever. Like Indians believe some objects in their house bring bad luck. So they basically leave these objects in bonfire, and try to burn out their bad thoughts and other bad things in fire. Its considered a sign of burning out all the bad things in life, and the next morning we wake up realizing we burned all the bad things in our life and we are supposed to feel happy. So we go out to celebrate and we play with colors.

Context: Indian people believe in devotion. They really believe that you have to be devoted to the gods you are praying to, and only if  your super devoted the gods will come down and save you. It also signifies even if your problem is really big, like your father is demon king, the gods will save you.

What are the colors do you play with?

Its started with people playing with natural colors, like a rose or something. So they actually make powders out of these flowers. 

Thoughts: I have seen photos of this festival online and it looks amazing. I feel great finally understanding what would prompt over a billion people to take  the streets and play with colors. It is interesting to note the contrast between the greyness of ashes left in the wake of burning negative things someone life to vibrant colors the very next day.

“Hitting your foot with an axe”

Main piece:

Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna

“Hitting your foot with an axe”


Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant is an international student from India. Her grandmother first taught her but everyone uses it in their day to day talk.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It means that when you put yourself in trouble. You planned everything but in the end there was trouble. For example, Person A is manipulative and tells everyone that Person B is cheating in school to ruin his/her reputation. In the end, it turns out that Person B never cheated and everyone finds out. Person A’s plan backfires and is now known as a bad person. This is when you would say, “Apne aap pe kulhadi maarna”.

Personal Analysis:

This is really similar to the American saying “shoot oneself in the foot”. The meaning is universal because the situation is a common occurrence in any society. The indian equivalent of a gun is an axe. It shows how different cultures are familiar with different weapons and might hint at what time period these proverbs started.


Diwali Traditions

Informant: Sid is a sophomore university student from a hindu background


My family isn’t like orthodox hindu, so on Diwali every year instead of lighting candles to light up the entire house we just light one candle to be kept lit throughout the day in each room and then we use the lights like normal. I used to think it was sorta scrubby, so one year I convinced my parents to go all out so like we just had a ton of candles and it was a pain cause it smelled and was super dark and I couldn’t see anything and just felt weird.

Collector’s thoughts:

This piece shows how all traditions, including religious ones, feature what Dundes called “multiplicity and variation”. To the informant, the more “traditional” version of celebrating diwali was also the less authentic way. Rather, the combined use of candles and electric lights was a better way at capturing the importance of the day to the informant.