Whatever one thought of Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire's rather American rags-to-riches fairy tale plot, the film offered an engaging glimpse of the brilliant colors of India and the mesmerizing collage effect of its busy streets. Some of the film's contrivances did little justice to the country's vast size and diversity. The slums of Mumbai are not terribly close to the Taj Mahal. And the number of practitioners of individual minority religions like Islam still dwarf the entire populations of many nations. But for anyone interested in seeing more, Putumayo, the record label dedicated to promoting music from around the globe, has put out its first book, a beautifully photographed introduction to the populous nation, India - A Cultural Journey. (More photos after the jump.)
Even at 270 pages, the book is a brief introduction, and it's almost entirely in pictures. While Putumayo's recent cd of Indian pop music seems to focus on more Western-oriented artists, the book is organized around Indian cultural elements. The lead chapter about the nation's fabric- and color-dye trade is a great visual opening. Other chapters focus on bazaars and markets, tea culture, the legacy of British occupation, India's palaces and its many religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism...). Even just scratching avoids the pratfall of looking like a tourist souvenir.