Saturday, October 17, 2009

Deepavali/Diwali 2009, part 1

While the state government here in Karnataka is hoping that folks will devote some of their money to help victims of floods in the Northern, poorest, part of the state, and everyone says that firecracker sales are well below normal, there is no shortage around us. The government has also been trying to emphasize safety, and many are encouraging "greener" celebrations. Here is a government-sponsored billboard (or "hoarding" as they call it here):
A couple of things to note: it is laughable that they say no crackers between 10 and 6. Amartya was up past midnight last night, I heard the Tamilians bursting them in the 5 a.m. range, and I fully expect to hear them all through the night tonight. Another is the name itself: in the north it is Diwali, but here in the south it is Deepavali. Oddly enough, diwali/diwala means something like "bankrupt" in Kannada here in Karnataka. So here it is Deepavali, although the general term is Diwali. This is yet another example of the complexity of this place, and the contradictions found in such a large country with multiple languages. And then, of course, here is the matter of exactly what we are celebrating. In the north it is the return of Rama and the end of the fiscal year, all over it is the welcoming of lakshmi goddess of wealth, and in general (as in almost all Indian religious festivals) the victory of good over evil.
Our North Indian neighbors started three nights ago. For Tamilians (like Sub's family), the revelry starts early in the morning, with family members taking an oil bath (not really a bath, but an application of oil to keep the skin soft), wearing new clothes and bursting firecrackers before dawn. As our neighbor Viru says, "today's the big day!" here in the south.
Before you can burst firecrackers, however, you must buy them, so here are some shots of that process. These stands are all around town, although the big ones here are set up on the Bangalore Palace Grounds, often used for other large exhibitions and sales (along with cultural events like music concerts and religious gatherings.
Everything seems to be "Standard" here in Bangalore, although some of the boxes say "made with Chinese technology," "no child labour used," and some European ISO 9001 certification.
Sheds have been set up to house and merchandise and provide a store-like atmosphere. Approaching where we bought them.
Here in labor-abundant India, there are many many assistants to help you buy your crackers. Here they have orange t-shirts on.There seem to be unlimited types, and you can buy either single boxes or multipacks.
Products in India have prices printed on them ("MRP") but that represents the maximum that can be charged (maximum retail price) whereas they can be discounted. Given the floods, and concerns about the economy, it is a slow year, so 70% discounts off the MRP seems to be the market price. One would expect that this discount will increase even more if large quantities remain past Sunday night. Below is part of the check out process. In India this inevitably includes multiple people and multiple steps, and this place is no different. The blue plastic bin is where we placed our goods, and now they have to write down each individual piece, with the fully MRP listed, to then take the 70% discount. Then one of these guys takes the receipt with our money to the big boss, who holds the money.The money man.The general discount sign seen around town this year.
Traditional Diwali involves lighting of lamps called diyas. We generally use candles, as it is easier for me than oil.
Modern (and wealthy) India has embraced strings of lights, so that houses are decorated like US houses are at Christmas time. The shot below is the most decorated house in our neighborhood -- non-Indians to boot.

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reshma M said...
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