While torans of fresh mango and plantain leaves adorn archways and doors; lights illuminate every corner of the shops located on the crowded streets of Gandhi Bazaar. And, as the stimulating aroma of obbattu and modaka wafts through the air, one could notice scores of people, especially last minute shoppers', scanning through millions of Ganeshas in search of their perfect idol. Treading through the scrawny alleys of popular bazaars, we take a look at the shopping trend the festival season.
“Gowri Habba is always celebrated with much pomp and splendour here. We believe that Goddess Gowri visits our home once a year. And, today, Lord Ganesha, her son, comes to take her back to Kailasa. We start our day with Gange Puja in the morning. This festival is extremely special for the newlyweds. A married woman receives fruits and gifts from her mother’s house -- bhagina,” said Radha as she scanned through a few idols of Ganesha in a store in Gandhi Bazaar.
Like many women, this year Radha and her friend Jyothi decided to opt for clay Ganesha idols. According Suresh, a stall owner in V V Puram, people have become more aware of the damages caused to the environment by plaster of paris, rubber and plastic idols. “Unlike previous years, most of my clay idols have been sold out this year. People no longer prefer buying idols with a lot of detailing in them. Simplicity is the new trend. However, we do have a lot of people enquiring about the most colourful Ganesha idols on display. Our prices vary from Rs 100 to Rs 4,500. Gone are the days, when bigger idols were a symbol of prosperity and devotion. Today, people would rather celebrate Ganesha Habba in a simple manner.”
According to Nagalakshmi, another stall owner in Gandhi Bazaar, business has taken a major hit this year. “It is quite strange that we haven’t made many sales in the past few days. I am not sure why, but this year is proving to be quite heavy for us as well as the artisans and idol makers. But it is a matter of great pride for us that the sale of environment-friendly idols is picking up pace this year," said Nagalakshmi arranging a few miniature figurines of Gowri and Ganesha on a rack. However, she also added that people quite often complain they are unable to see Ganesha’s eyes in the clay models and that their bhakti (devotion) suffers.” Ganesha will always remain in our hearts and bhakti has to come from within. It has nothing to do with painted eyes," she opined and added that people should move on from such notions and do their best for the environment too.
However, soaring flower prices have done nothing to dampen the spirits of some people. With the festival season around the corner, popular spots in the city have been making decent sales. “In comparison with the sales last year, 2012 seems to be quite dull for us florists. But the demand and bulk orders are increasing. The festival season always attracts more customers. Lets hope that this entire festive season brings us some good business,” said Latha, a roadside flower seller.
On the other hand, fruits and vegetable vendors fear that the prices may burn a hole in the consumers' pockets this year. With Dussehra around the corner, several vendors feel that there might be no respite from rising prices for customers. “Sales of fruits and vegetables are yet to pick pace. The next few months are extremely crucial for us,” said Ramesh, a fruit vendor in Wilson Garden.
For Srinivas Prasad and Pankajakshi, residents of Jayanagar, Ganesh Chaturthi has always been a special occasion. While munching on some lip-smacking hesaru bele and kadle bele, as the lingering scent of incense sticks fills the air, the entire family bonds over some great food and pujas. Eyes filled with devotion, as the couple made their way to a nearby florist, Pankajakshi said, “This festival marks the beginning of celebration. The day usually starts with prayers and we honour Lord Ganesha. My sister-in-laws have invited me over to their houses. We have a beautiful tradition of exchanging gifts and flowers. And, this year, the entire house will be decked up with flecks of marigold, sevanthige and jasmine flowers to greet the lord.”