Step into any Delhi market around this time of the year and you will be implored upon by shop-staff to buy fancy-looking fairy lights, tea lights and candles. In a stark contrast to these artificial and foreign-made articles are the earthen lamps and lanterns that have been essential elements of Diwali celebrations since long and continue to earn Indian potters their livelihood.
Transported from various parts of the country such as Kolkata, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and Gujarat, these earthen wares are silent watchers in Delhi’s markets, luring the Diwali shoppers with their bright colours and designs. “One dozen red diyas cost Rs 30,” says 35-year-old Sunita, manning one of the stalls at the Sarojini Nagar market.
Her little shop boasts of the latest diya collection which comes in leaf, shankh and peacock shapes and is selling like hot cakes. She informs that she has been painting diyas for 21 years. “I have been in this business ever since I got married and shifted to Delhi from Palwal. I am not well-educated, but I had to earn my bread somehow and this is what gave me my living,” says Sunita. Her hope relies on the fact that people celebrate the festival this time with eco-friendly options.
Painted grains of rice and colourful packets lie stacked in vicinity along with thin frames to make instant rangoli. Next to it is Kamala Devi and her daughter-in-law, painting the lanterns deep red. “This stock is from Lucknow. You can make out which one is from which part of the country by looking at the cutting of windows in the lantern,” says Devi, as she gives a golden tinge to the cut-work windows.
Close by sits Meera, painting tiny figurines of Goddess Lakshmi’s feet. “All these are environment-friendly; they are made of mud and dissolve in water. It is an ideal way to celebrate Diwali and avoid polluting the environment,” says Meera, who has over 500 pieces of Lakshmi feet and is selling them for Rs 30 a pair. She first tries to persuade people to buy a pair for Rs 50 and often succeeds.
All the earthen items seen in little corners of the city markets these days are very much Indian, and are perfect to brighten up your Diwali celebrations the eco-friendly way.