Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Finding City's Indian Flavor

MT
Colorful, warm and spicy, Indian culture is everything that Moscow winter is not. But the city's gray blocks are also home to many Indians who have brought their food, music, yoga and films to the capital, making it surprisingly easy to buy a Bollywood DVD or visit an authentic restaurant.

The outlying University of People's Friendship is the only part of the city where English and Spanish are heard as much as Russian, and smells of spicy food drift through washing hanging at the windows of the dormitories. Students shop at Indian Spices (5 Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya; another branch is at 36/2 Ul. Sretenka; www.indianspices.ru).

Despite its name, Indian Spices also stocks some Chinese food and even British specialties such as Bird's Eye Custard Powder. Many of the Indian supplies have been packaged in Britain, such as mung beans, rice and dhal, but the store also has some recognizably Indian brands of hair oil and lightening face creams. They have a wide selection of Bollywood DVDs, some of which have English subtitles.

In the nearby Indian cafe Devi (21A Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya), Indian men gathered to talk on a recent visit, but the waitress was Russian, and a couple of Russian men dropped in to order takeaway "chicken curry," which they said in English. With cricket showing on the television, the cafe has a bare-bones section with plastic tables and a restaurant-type room with proper table linen. The long menu includes a specialized Southern Indian section and Kingfisher beer.

Moscow has many other authentic Indian eateries, but none is as inexpensive as Devi. The best and longest-established include Darbar (Sputnik hotel, 16th floor, 38 Leninsky Prospekt, www.darbar.ru) -- a favorite of both Indians and Westerners missing their fix of hot curry. Another Moscow institution is Maharaja (2/1 Starosadsky Per., www.maharaja.ru).

Buying Indian clothes and accessories is made easier by the current fashion for learning yoga, finding yourself in Goa and then buying the kaftan. Stores range from cheap and cheerful to pricy.

Probably the cheapest place in Moscow to buy Indian jewelry, clothes, ornaments, incense and DVDs is at the closest thing the city has to a bazaar. Hotel Sevastopol, located in the southern outskirts (1A Bolshaya Yushunskaya Ulitsa, korpuses 3 and 4) has given over two 15-story accommodation blocks to stores selling exotica -- each housed in a cramped hotel room. Many traders are Sikhs, although the bulk of goods on sale are from China. It's best avoided if you have claustrophobia or concerns over fire safety.

One of the most established ethnic shops is Put K Sebe (www.inwardpath.ru), which has a branch in Zamoskvorechye (6 Novokuznetskaya Ul.) and has just moved its Leningradsky Prospekt store to new premises near the Novoslobodskaya metro station (16 Krasnoproletarskaya Ul.). The inexpensive store stocks embroidered kaftans, incense and Buddha figures, but also has a food section that includes many of the same beans and spices stocked at Indian Spices stores as well as readymade papadums.


Vladimir Filonov / MT
The Krishna Temple in the city's north is a meeting place for the Indian community.
A far more upmarket store is Interyery Makharadzhi (11 Ul. Kuznetsky Most, www.etnoart.ru), which stocks Indian furniture, silk clothes, sari lengths and jewelry at fairly high prices. Nevertheless, you can buy a boxed set of small carved elephants to decorate the living room for around 500 rubles. Be prepared for staff following you around to check that you don't pocket something.

Another spot stocking some Indian wares such as incense is VkhodVykhod (11 Ul. Ordzhonikidze, Bldg. 1/2, www.vhodvyhod.ru), a recently opened warehouse store specializing in ethnic clothing, jewelry, accessories and food.

Yoga has swept Moscow, and now most sports clubs hold classes, as do the city's numerous yoga centers. It is also possible to attend free classes at the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre, which is part of the Indian Embassy (9 Vorontsovo Pole, Bldg. 2, www.indianembassy.ru). In addition to yoga, the center runs classes in Hindi, Tabla drums and Kathak, a classical, storytelling form of dance.

The city's small Krishna Temple (Leningradsky Prospekt, Vladeniye 39), is a meeting place for the Indian community. A cultural festival in August attracted 15,000 people to the temple over three days, said the leader of the Moscow branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Sergei Andreyev. Calling this a "record number," he said slightly less than half were Indian.

The temple holds a meeting in English on Saturdays at 4 p.m. and in Russian on Sundays at 4 p.m. However, the temple is housed in a temporary building and has received official notice that it will be evicted, Andreyev said.

In compensation, the city authorities have offered the believers a bare plot "practically outside the Moscow Ring Road," Andreyev said. This offer was reluctantly accepted, but the legal formalities had not yet been completed, he said. A definite eviction date had also not yet been determined.