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Desi (Hindi: देसी , Punjabi: ਦੇਸੀ, Tamil: தேசி, Urdu: دیسی) or Deshi (/ˈd̪eʃi/ , Marathi: देशी, or desiyudu-Telugu: దెశీ-udu) refers to the peoples, cultures, and products of South Asia. The word is originally from Sanskrit देशी deśī, literally meaning "from the country" or "of the country".

When referring to culture or ethnic background, the term includes any person of South Asian heritage with ancestry from Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker, Maledivesmarker, Bangladeshmarker and Sri Lankamarker. While this term is popular in all these countries, Nepalmarker being in South Asia does not familiarize itself with it.

History

The term comes from Sanskrit ("region, province, country"). Its first usage is found in Natya Shastra, where it defines the regional varieties of folk dance and music, as opposed to the pan-Indian margimarker (classical).

The word for country is des in many modern languages of the Indian subcontinent, and occurs in the name of the country Bangladeshmarker. The split of primarily Bengali-speaking East Pakistan from West Pakistan in 1971 required that the newly independent country obtain a name. The Awami League and the Bengalis (both East Bengal and West Bengalmarker, even before partition) had colloquially referred to their homeland as Bangladesh or "Bengali country". The National Assembly adopted this name for the new country.

During the height of the British Raj, many people from the then-undivided Indian subcontinent emigrated to the UKmarker or to other British colonies, in search of education and opportunity. The diaspora from what is now called South Asia increased dramatically following the riots and massacres of Partition. Families from the affected areas sought safety in various Commonwealth countries. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S.marker dramatically increased the amount of immigration permitted from Asia, leading to large immigration from the Subcontinent.

Communities that have remained distinct in South Asia have tended to mix in diaspora. Some second or third generation immigrants, but not all, do not think of themselves as belonging to a particular nation, sub-culture, or caste, but as just plain South Asians or Desis. Some Desis are creating what can be called a "fusion" culture, in which foods, fashions, music, and the like from many areas of South Asia are "fused" with elements from Western culture. For example, urban desi is a new genre of music formed by the fusion of traditional Indian and Western urban music.

Performing arts

Natya Shastra refers to the regional varieties of folk dance and music elements as "desi", and states that these are meant as pure entertainment for common people, while the pan-Indian margimarker elements are to spiritually enlighten the audience. The medieval developments of the classical Indian dance and music lead to the introduction of desi karanas, in addition to the classical karanas codified in Natya Shastra. The desi karanas further developed into the present-day adavus.

Food

In the U.S. and U.K., "Desi food" most often refers to dishes commonly served in the South Asian communities of the diaspora, especially westernised restaurant dishes such as chicken tikka masala.

It may also mean "native" or "traditional." Common examples are "desi ghee," which is the traditional clarified butter of the Indian subcontinent, as opposed to more processed fats such as vegetable oils. "Desi chicken" may mean a native breed of chicken. Heritage varieties of vegetables and other produce can also be qualified as "desi."

"Desi diet" refers to a diet and food choices followed by the typical Indian around the world.

References


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