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Aie: Mother. Used specifically in the state of Maharashtra.

Akha Teej: An Indian holiday considered especially auspicious for marriage.

Atya: Aunt. Specifically, father’s sister.

Amitabh Bachan: A Bollywood superstar who started his incredibly successful career in the 70s and continues to act to this day. Used to be know for his Angry Young Man persona in his hey day.

Baba: Father.

Baiji: Mother. Used specifically in the state of Rajasthan.

Beta: Child. Extensively used as an endearment in most parts of India. Technically, it means son, and “beti” is daughter. However, in several sub-cultures “beta” is used for both boys and girls.

Bhabhi: Your brother’s wife.

Bhagwad Geeta: The most sacred of Hindu spiritual texts.

Bhai/Bhaiya: Brother.

Bhangra: A high energy dance native to the state of Punjab and popular across India because of Bollywood films.

Biriyani: A dish of rice cooked with spiced meat and vegetables.

Chapati: The Indian equivalent of a pita or tortilla that is an integral part of an Indian meal. Made from whole wheat. The same as Roti.

Chacha: Uncle. Specifically, your father’s brother.

Chalo: Come along.

Chandni Chowk: An old neighborhood in Delhi associated with bright and tacky embellishments and clothing.

Chintu: Tiny one.

Choli: A tightly fitted blouse worn with a sari or a ghaghra.

Churidar: Tightly fitted leggings that gather at the ankles and are commonly worn with a tunic or kurti.

Dadaji: Paternal Grandfather.

Dal: Lentil soup.

Desi: From the des (country). Used to indicate anything/anyone originating from South Asia.

Didi: Older sister.

Dosas: Indian Crepes made from rice and lentil flour and a staple part of the South Indian diet.

Dupatta: A scarf.

Durga: An Indian goddess associated with strength.

Emperor Akbar: One of the greatest rulers of the Mugal Dynasty.

Fatehpur Sikri: The imperial palace complex founded in 1569 by the Mugal emperor Akbar characterized by red sandstone palaces, arches and royal buildings.

Garba: A folk dance native to the state of Gujrat but extremely popular all over India. Danced as part of the Navratri festival.

Ghaghra: A long full embellished skirt worn with a choli blouse and a dupatta.

Ghoomar: A folk dance native to the state of Rajasthan.

Gulab Jamun: A desert of deep fried evaporated cream dunked in syrup.

Ho: Yes.

Idli: Rice cake.

Jaan: Life. It’s an endearment that means, ‘darling’ or ‘my heart.’

Jalebi: A desert of crisp fried dough dunked in syrup.

Janpath Market: One of the oldest, most famous markets in New Delhi.

ji: A suffix used to indicate respect. As in Daddy-ji, Mummy-ji etc. It is traditionally considered disrespectful to not add this suffix while addressing anyone older than you or higher than you in social ranking.

Kaka: Uncle.

Kheer: Rice pudding or pudding made with vermicelli.

Kurti: A tunic or long blouse.

Lagna Ghar: A house where a wedding is taking place. 

Lassi: A yogurt drink.

Laxmi: The goddess of wealth.

Lehenga: An ornate Indian dress composed of an ankle length skirt and a fitted short blouse worn with a dupatta or a scarf. Often used as a wedding dress in Northern India.

Mangalsutra: A necklace of tiny black beads strung into gold chain that a groom puts on a bride at their wedding. The equivalent of a wedding ring in several Indian cultures. Worn only by women.

Mawali: A roadside hooligan.

Memsaab: A term that was historically used for British women during colonial rule and is now used to indicate a Lady or a woman of high birth and stature.

Mogal, Mughal, Mugal: A dynasty of Muslim rulers who invaded from Persia and ruled India from the 16th century until British  colonization.

Mugal-E-Azam: A classic 1960 Bollywood period saga about the forbidden love between the Crown Prince Salim and the courtesan, Anarkali.

Naani: Maternal grandmother.

Navratri: A festival spanning nine nights spent worshiping and celebrating the goddess Durga known to destroy all evil.

Pooja: Prayer. Also a popular girl’s name.

Prince Salim: The Mogal Emperor Jehangir immortalized as the romantic hero in the 1960 Bollywood classic Mugal-E-Azam.

Punjab: A state in northern India known for it’s flamboyance and gregariousness. Also, traditionally, the Indian culture depicted in Bollywood films was (and to a large extent still is) stereotypical Punjabi culture.

Rajasthan: A north western Indian state known for its desert topography.

Rangoli: Drawings made with colored powder. Traditionally used to decorate the floors of courtyards.

Rassam: A spicy watery lentil and tomato soup.

Roti: The Indian equivalent of a pita or tortilla that is an integral part of an Indian meal. Made from whole wheat. Same as Chapati.

Sabzi: Vegetable casserole eaten with rotis or rice.

Salwar Kameez: An outfit commonly worn by women across India consisting of a tunic and loose pants.

Samosas: Savory pastries filled with spiced filling, most commonly potatoes and peas.

Sangeet: Literal translation is ‘music.’ Used in context it refers to a ceremony before a wedding when there is much singing and dancing and merriment.

Sari: 6 yards of unsewn fabric draped into a dress by Indian women. Worn with a tightly fitted blouse and an ankle length skirt or petticoat.

Satya Narayan: A specific type of prayer service.

Shaadi: Wedding. Used interchangeably with ‘marriage’.

Shah Rukh Khan: A Bollywood superstar who started his incredibly successful career in the 90s.

Shehnai: An Indian double reed oboe that creates a distinctive musical wail associated with weddings and other celebrations.

Sherwani: A ceremonial high-collared Indian suit.

Sindoor: The red powder that is used to decorate the part in a married woman’s hair. It signifies marriage and marks a woman as married.

Tamasha: Theatrics or drama.

Tavaa: A flat iron pan much like a frying pan on which rotis are cooked.

Thumka: The hip bob or shake commonly used in Indian dancing.

Tilak: The elongated mark placed on the forehead of men as part of religious rites.

Tirupathi Temple: A very highly regarded Hindu temple in southern India.

Vastu Shastra: The ancient science of architecture incorporating space, sunlight, and flow in construction. In recent years used as a term to apply these principles to ensure that the occupants’ energy and good fortune is not blocked by the design of their space.

Yash Chopra: A Bollywood filmmaker known for his opulent intensely romantic dramas.