The stories behind the lighting of lamps for Deepavali may go back to the days of Lord Rama, when the moonless night was said to have been illuminated by rows of lamps heralding his arrival after vanquishing Ravana. It may even be that it was a gift by the Hindu god Vishnu to the king Bali for his generosity.
Lamps also signify the dispelling of ignorance by the light of knowledge or a symbolic reminder of the Vedic thought that the flame of the soul or the self is eternal. And the month of the Deepavali is marked by the presence of the lamps, which have now become an unobtrusive part of the much-awaited festival. So come Deepavali, the local markets across the city never fail to dedicate at least a few corners to the clay or mud lamps that are a trademark of the festival.
But that’s just the beginning because Bangalore has a whole range of lamps to offer to its people, who are not satisfied with the simple fare of mud lamps. One of the most interesting spots to do a bit of lamp-shopping is the area around the Malleswaram 8 Cross. The bustling street is dotted with carts selling lamps in variations of the traditional round shapes. Some carts carry glazed mud lamps while some others are sell candles.
Those looking for a wider variety will find it on the pavements of the main road. The fare here is more colourful with vendors offering painted and sometimes decorated mud lamps in glittering jewel shades. These are accompanied by the “fancy stores” offering a range of bright lamp shades, hung festively outside for the visitors. These stores also house scented candles and floating candles that many shoppers seemed to be making a beeline for.
But when it comes to variety and design, Varna in 9th Cross Malleshwaram has an annual Deepothsav. The exhibition has on display antique terracotta lamps shaped in folksy motifs, corner stands, brass lamps, arch lamps, pillar lamps, wax lamps, step lamps and lamps means to be kept near tulsi plants apart from an array of floating and scented candles.
“We have been hosting this exhibition for over ten years now and every year we bring in something new,” says Arun of Varna, pointing towards the antique-finish terracotta lamps shaped after musical instruments. “Some of them can even be re-used as wall hangings or murals. The floating candles too are always popular, especially with corporates. Also every year, I have many people asking for torans.”
So he also has on display a range of torans, which are door hangings usually made of mango leaves or similar motifs or marigolds. His collection is more ornate, composed of gold or silver painted leaves and colourful flowers combined with mirror and cloth or intricate work.
His lamps, custom designed and sourced from across the country are priced anywhere between Rs. 4 and Rs. 15,000.
“Since we always buy new lamps every year, we usually prefer buying the simple lamps from the street vendors. This time, we bought our lamps at a supermarket where we found a sizable collection at affordable rates,” says homemaker Vandani Tiwari.
But communications engineer Mathangi Ganapathy prefers buying handcrafted lamps. “These lamps can be stored and re-used and it’s a great way to promote Indian handicrafts. What makes it better is that these lamps can even be retained as part of the décor,” she points out.
Whether you buy your lamps from street vendors, local markets or somewhere more elaborate, don’t forget to light a lamp this year, as a celebration of life, if not anything else!