India shining with Chinese lights on Diwali
Fancy lights, "diyas" and tiered lamps -- Chinese lights are shining their multi-coloured hues on the neighbourhood Diwali market this year as their cheaper cost but good quality edge out local competition.
A bulk of the lights, prayer "diyas" (lamps) and tiered lamps used for rites to invoke goddess of wealth Lakshmi on Diwali night has been imported from China, a section of festival kitsch sellers in the capital said.
"We have imported from China all the coloured lights, plastic multi-tiered 'diyas' with electric lights, cracker lights that pop like crackers at the pull of a string with smoke, and prayer accessories. They are much cheaper," Kuldeep, a shopkeeper in Green Park market, said.
The quality of the goods is much better than those made in India, Kuldeep added.
Naseeruddin, another shopkeeper in the same market, said he has been importing Chinese accessories for Diwali for the past three years.
"The diyas cost Rs.400. We sell them for Rs.600. It works out cheaper," he said.
Markets in Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Chandni Chowk and elsewhere in Delhi are flush with Diwali booty from China.
"Most of the products have been sourced through china2India.in, an online merchandising company which liaises between Indian and Chinese companies. The range of products is amazing," said Abdul, who manages a Diwali accessories shop in the Jama Masjid area near Chandni Chowk.
A spokesperson for the company said: "A major objective of the firm was to make business out of China, a pleasurable and profitable experience and enterprise for all buyers in India."
"The whole concept is to provide the overseas buyer with a one-stop buying office in India," the spokesperson said, adding: "Diwali fetches good business for many Chinese firms."
Last year, bilateral trade between the two nations touched a high of USD 73.90 billion, according to official figures released by Beijing this year. Consumer goods occupied a fair share of the pie.
However, not everything has been taken over by China yet.
Certain traditions like the crafting of the idols of goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha are still controlled by potters and artisans at the grassroots. But the idols have changed with time.
"Clay has been replaced by rubber, plastic and fibre glass at roadside kiosks selling pottery, icons and accessories. The plastic and rubber icons are unbreakable," Jagat Kumhar, a potter in Saket, told IANS.
Alloy metal is almost out of fashion -- barring gold, silver and crystal -- in the idol market, he said.
China has also sent in Lakshmi idol lampshades that can serve both as lamps and the deity.
According to columnist and lifestyle watcher Shefali Vasudev, the god bazaar is no longer crude.
She said: "Ganesha has been interpreted most imaginatively by rural and urban artisans. He plays cricket as well as tabla or just sits back indulgently, arms thrown back."
In the US, Ganesha gets an American avatar as McGanesh, Vasudev says.
The goddess of wealth, Lakshmi is much more flamboyant with bling jewellery and a distinctly oriental face.
The goodies are flying fast off the shelves. Chocolate and confectioneries score over traditional sweets.
"Baked confectioneries are in demand this Diwali. It reflects a changing Indian festival palate," said Jennifer Duthi, founder of Bake Box that has created a special Diwali hamper of freshly-baked biscotti, tea cakes, mousse, chocolate bars, cupcakes and dessert jars.
Blame it on globalisation, Diwali in India is a much more rainbow affair drawing from the global village now.