New Delhi: As befitting a festival that, in most parts of India, is associated with the goddess of wealth, the worship of Mammon is most evident during Diwali.
The stock market remains open for moorat trading, retailers earn 40% of their yearly revenue in the three months that constitute the festive season here (Diwali is the midpoint and the peak of this season), and roads, especially in Delhi, which celebrates Diwali like no other Indian city, with card parties where lakhs are won and lost, bright lights, and showy (and noisy and expensive fireworks), are choked with shoppers.
Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi never pauses for breath. Come Diwali, it is at this wholesale market that the festival of lights, as Indian as puri-sabzi, goes global and India’s trading relationship with the world takes on a new meaning. In the maze, Diwali shoppers can find everything from sweets cooked in pure ghee to silverware sold by the kilo, and from yards of fancy silk and home furnishings to dry fruits (these are sold in bulk in Khari Baoli, a borough in Chandni Chowk). Wholesalers here say 70% of these dry fruits come from the US and 20% from Iran. The rest travel from Afghanistan through Pakistan.
“The only dry fruits that are home-grown are cashew and walnuts,” says Shyam S. Bansal, general secretary of the Federation of Dry Fruits and Spices Traders Association of India. Of the Rs1,000 crore worth of dry fruits imported every year, about one-tenth are sold during the Diwali season—dry fruits, especially nuts such as almonds, pistachio and cashew are popular gifts.
The season, synonymous with fireworks and the thick smog caused by them, is also when street vendors selling everything from terracotta lamps to cottonwool for hand-rolled wicks eat into pedestrian pathways. In the evenings, homes are lit up with fairy lights and earthen lamps. This year, fireworks could end up being more expensive: stocks are scarce and, thanks to the booming economy, demand far exceeds supply.
India’s noisiest town will be the country’s diamond capital Surat, though, where households typically spend Rs5,000-10,000 on crackers.
Diamonds may be forever, but Diwali comes only once a year.
Rs6 trillion:Value of retail sales during the three-month festival season peaking in Diwali; accounts for 40% of annual retail trade that happens in India
Rs2,000 crore: Estimate by industry body Assocham of the spending on corporate gifts
Rs100 crore: Estimated amount spent on dry fruits during this festival season
Rs1,500 crore: Approximate expenditure on fireworks expected this Diwali
1. In the longest season of festivities in the country, shopkeepers and market associations go all-out to woo avid shoppers.
a) A decked-up market in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk.
b) Shops selling decorative items draw huge crowds in the Chandni Chowk.
2. A Diwali mela, organized by the Blind Relief Association
a) The mela draws New Delhi’s elite shoppers.
b) Terracotta idols are in high demand.
c) Buying silver is considered auspious during Diwali. A girl buying silver ornaments at Blind Relief Associations Diwali mela.
3. Khari Baoli Market
a) Brisk business at the Khari Baoli wholesale dry fruit market in Old Delhi.
b) Platters of special Diwali Sweetmeats spread out in Khari Baoli Market.
4. Earthenware lamps and idols stacked up in the busy Paharganj area. Sales zoom around this time of the year.
5. The festival heralds the onset of winter in the North. Sweets and dry fruits lend to the season a flavour aimed at driving away the chill that will descend on the region.
a) Diwali gifts about in the centrally located Bengali Market.
b) The roundabout in Bengali Market bustling with pre-Diwali activity.
6. The candle business flourishes most during Diwali. An array of colourful candles prepared by physically challenged persons.
7. Sadar Bazar is the city’s wholesale centre for firecrackers, whose appeal remains undiminished despite sustained campaigns against the air and noise pollution they cause, and the child labour used in this hazardous industry.
8. With prices of crackers and sparklers skyrocketing every passing year, Sadar Bazar is one place one can get these firecrackers for a good bargain.