Last flicker of a vanishing tradition | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Last flicker of a vanishing tradition

punjab Updated: Nov 12, 2012 22:17 IST
Raghbir Singh Brar

The tradition of Diwali lighting is still alive but the traditional earthen lamp is almost on its way out.

Replaced by colourful electric lights, the humble diya now burns only symbolically in cities, and only in the villages, gets some respect. Earlier, hardly any electricity was available to the Punjabi folk but now it's ghee and mustard oil that are so expensive to get.

"Economically, the earthen lamps are no longer viable for all people," said Narinderjeet Singh, associate professor of Punjabi in Government College, Kotkapura. "In cities, people light only a few diyas on Diwali for the sake of tradition. Electric lights have taken over."

The earthen lamp, the old symbol of light and enlightenment, which showed us the right path, is also part of the Hindu and Sikh religious lore. "It has a very different message," said Chamkaur Singh, lecturer in a government school. "It's about our culture."

China-made electric lights have dimmed the popularity of diyas in villages too. The rise in the cost of mustard oil and ghee have made it unattractive to light diyas," said Darshan Singh, former sarpanch of Dhilwan village. "However, even the poorest can afford to buy electric lights."

The winds of change have affected the potter families that make lamps, pots, and pitchers for the festival. They have either had to change their occupation after centuries or slip into poverty.

"All the festivals have become market driven," said Khushwant Bargar, president of the people's forum, Bargari. "A few days ago, the festival of Karva Chauth, when most women are known to observe fast, was also the day when the shops ran out of sweets because of maximum purchase."

Diwali lamps are lit only for one day now but the electric lights shine for many days. Neither the cost of electricity nor the realisation of wastage deters people. "Pomp outshines the spirit of the festival," said Khushwant. "To get into festive mood, we drink, burst crackers, and brawl."

In Faridkot, Nisha, 10, from Sadak town of the district, waits to sell her colourful earthen lamps at the feet of Clock Tower, another remnant of a bygone era, of the princely estate. "My father, drives autorickshaw, and my mother and I sell lamps. This is my second year at the trade," said the Class-4 student.

Many poor families on the Clock Tower street of Faridkot have laid out small, beautiful earthen huts, and all kinds of clay lamps. Will they get any customer?