Come festivals and its shopping time. Families flock together to shop, dine and celebrate the festive times with their extended social circles. While the big ticket shopping such as electric appliances, consumer durables, clothing, fashion, jewellery, automobiles and upholstery for are common, what is intriguing is the endless small-ticket shopping that happens on-and-off during these periods.
Navarathri / Dushera / Dassera / Pujo was celebrated for the past fortnight as I pen this article.
The flavour and fervour of these celebrations is distinct in various parts of the country. In one region, it is Goddess Durga who is worshipped primarily while in some others, it is the trio of Goddesses Durga – Lakshmi – Saraswathi who are celebrated for nine days, three each. And in another part of the country, Lord Rama’s arrival to Ayodhya from Lanka after the destruction of King Ravana is celebrated.
In a different planet altogether, scores of Indians are using the festive holidays as a noble excuse to travel to their hometowns or to vacation locations such as hill stations, spending time with their own selves, their families and friends and by boosting the local economy.
In Tamil Nadu, especially in the city of my Madras (now known as Chennai), the festivities are largely around two areas – festivities and special pujas at temples and the revered Navarathri Kolu – the doll exhibition display at homes. The origin of this cultural aspect of displaying dolls at homes is not exactly clear from our past texts but has been a practice for long.
What we understand from elders and those from previous generations, is that during this period, scores of dolls made of clay and painted with colourful vignettes were displayed at temples of yore, so devotees can see how the idols and forms of Gods and Goddesses are at various shrines in the Bharatha desa (desam / desh for those who prefer that way!).
This was because mobility of people across the country was quite limited over 100-200 years ago and one would just have to imagine how idols were imagined, based on texts and hear say.
What began as a display at temples slowly penetrated to homes, with similar displays coming up at houses. Families and households would alternate and exchange the idol displays at their homes each year and the entire celebration would be around the nine-day festival.
Visitors would go hopping from one home to another to see the dolls’ display, sing songs on the deities, chant religious texts, exchange gifts and have a hearty laughter with their kith and kin.
The local economy, meanwhile thrived. It was the smallest of the sellers, vendors and retailers who would serve the society with their requirements and hence made handsome money during this time. Food items, especially the nine pulses are served by host families to guests.
From the neighbourhood grocer to the unorganised sellers of flowers, fruits and other household items are the biggest beneficiaries, come Navarathri, especiallin in Tamil Nadu.
The past fortnight for us has been among the most fulfilling over the last so many years when we celebrated the 9-day festival. We had over 50 guests come home and we visited several households too. Almost every guest brought us something and we reciprocated the same during our visits too.
For those who couldn't visit us this Navarathri, here is the link of our home Kolu.
I was so happy spending money with local and roadside vendors buying so many things and my better half went shopping for new idols this year too, just like any other year.
Festivals are all about giving, as much about receiving good wishes from friends and family and blessings from elders and the Gods.
However, it is also about spending money – especially in the context of Retail – to boost the local economy. We did our best and ensured the “online shopping” from Apps with discounts were as minimal as possible – an anathema that the entire offline retail industry is struggling for the past so many months, especially.