Monday, October 18, 2010

an afternoon in festive Dussehra

It was the red, green and silver festoons glittering in the afternoon light that filled my first few moments at the Gandhi Bazaar in Bangalore. People were choosing their festoons and choosing their flowers. There was such an abundance of both on a street filled with people, with children. Everyone was out shopping for the Dussehra festival.

The festoons swayed this way and that in the gentle breeze. There were the voices I heard of people wanting this colour or that. I went closer to the shop front from across the road from where I had watched until now. There were more than five salesmen to this small shop. It was a day when business would be good and fast, as it was then. More hands were needed as the exchanges happened.

The festival of Dussehra celebrates the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. It is the day when Rama (the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) killed the great demon and king of Lanka, Ravana.
It is also on this day that the Warrior Goddess Durga defeated and killed the buffalo demon Mahishasura. There is fasting and there are rituals. People all over the country celebrate the victory of good over evil. The Bazaars of India are a place to experience during the ten-day celebrations that begin with Navarathri and culminate in Dussehra.

With each season and each festival as the year moves on, the bazaar takes on a different meaning. It is interesting to observe how the bazaar in Basavanagudi or bazaar anywhere transforms itself from one avatar to another through the year – for Sankranti or Pongal, for Ugadi or the Kannada new year, for the Varalakshmi puja, for Vinayak chavithi or the Ganesh festival, for the Dasera or Navarathri, for Diwali and so on. And, each festival brings with it a magnificent new collection of goods that bring people in large numbers to the bazaar.

In a Street bazaar, where there are no boundaries, it seems as if space for more vendors and more goods is always possible. However, it is not as democratic as it may appear. The vendors do guard the territories of their selling spaces. Mattias Kärrholm in his paper Territorial Complexity in Public Places defines 'Territoriality' as a spatially delimited control. He suggests that a territory is a bounded area characterised by a certain set of rules or some kind of regular behaviour.

In Gandhi bazaar, there is no clear demarcation between road and footpath. At some parts, the footpath is wider and in some parts, it is narrower. One looks for the EDGE – the distinction between where the street vendor belongs, where the pedestrian walks and where the vehicles drive and one finds it difficult to distinguish between what is road, footpath and urban selling space. Here, as I looked on, there were customers bending over the goods, making their careful selections, as they stood on the footpath. The Edge was along the middle line of the footpath, as it always is during a festival when the shop begins to step outwards to reach out and attract.

I was now looking at a “corner shop” which is one of the best locations a shop can have. The footpath curved around it and as the shop turned the corner, it attracted people from both the streets it sat upon. There was also another Granthige shop nearby on D.V.G.road and it had more than just the festoons. It had just about everything you would need for the puja.

One of the shopkeepers asked if I wanted to come in to take some more pictures. I could if I wanted to, he said. There was brisk sales taking place, there were little items displayed horizontally and vertically in as many possible ways, never enough space to show what there was to sell, there were unending queries from potential customers, there were the several salesmen behind the displays and someone in there had had the time to notice me with a camera and to extend an invitation to be part of it all and not leave without having seen everything there was to see or buy. There was both good salesmanship and goodheartedness in that gesture. It made me stay longer by the shop.

Every shop was brimming with activity. Each one had extended its limitless boundary to a new limit just for the festival week. I had noticed that there were a few policemen. I wondered why they were there. They were at least not policing the territory that was meant to be a public domain and had been usurped for private consumption. If the shopkeeper had extended his shop and if he sold goods that the public wanted so much to buy, his utilisation of the footpath space was justified, it seemed.

Bazaars have not been a part of the Master Plan for a city in India. There is within Urban Planning departments, a category called ‘Markets and Fairs’ which serves the shopping needs of inhabitants in an urban settlement. However, the physical implementation includes a few market buildings that are built and operated by the local municipal authorities. These do not adequately meet the needs of the public and is perhaps the reason why street vending easily finds customers.

I continued to walk onto the Gandhi Bazaar main road. There were so many garlands in any direction one looked. If it weren’t for the sound of the cars and the autorickshaws that bolted into one’s mind, one would have thought that on this day, you were alone on that street, standing in the midst of an art installation with flowers of many colours in that “art in public place” that had been created by flower sellers weaving strings of flowers to make every part of the bazaar that day into a place of visual and aromatic delight.

There was a slight change in the light and in the flow of the air around us and everyone sensed that it was about to rain. The vendors came out with their plastic sheets wherever water needed to be kept away. It started to drizzle and then pour. I stood aside watching the display of dasera dolls through what Bangaloreans call the four o’clock rain.

Read about :
Mylapore Temple Bazaar, Chennai
Fish market, Mumbai
Gandhi Bazaar, Bangalore


radha said...

I love the bazaars on festive days. I had kept my camera charged and ready for the Ganesh festival, but alas, got up with a migraine and was not up to facing the crowds and sounds. I hope I can make it for Deepavali. Buying diya's in a mall is not the same as looking at clay ones in the bazaar and haggling over the price.

Anuradha Shankar said...

flower markets are always fun, especially during festivals! unfortunately, whenever i go there i have my hands full of bags to take photos!! and as Radha says, I am already looking forward to buying diyas out in the market....

Anonymous said...

hi, i have always wanted to take pictures like these. I have a feel of the people, their lives and the many hues and colours of the community.
good shots. will come back for more.

Indian Bazaars said...

Radha: So true about the diyas in the mall. They are also arranged rather too neatly! The diyas in the bazaar usually sit in beautiful sunlight!!

Anu: On Dussehra sunday, I went out to the Malleswaram market only to photograph and I couldn't help looking with the eye of the shopper, so that's what I did! There were flowers everywhere and there were books on sale and a hundred and one things I was so sure I needed!

Sharbori: Just after I put up this post, I realised that the text was about the displays and the photographs seem to have been taken of people and their moods. I realised then that my mind seemed to have memories of some moments and my eyes had captured other moments. And, I was sure there was so much going on at that very moment that I had not captured either in thought or in a camera picture!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots of flower market. Happy Dussera.

Jason said...


Great post and amazing market photography. The colors are amazing.

I like the shot of the guy with the big white mustache.


Indian Bazaars said...

Rajesh: Thanks & Happy Dussera to you too.

Jason: Thanks. Its always nice to see a comment from an LP blogger.

I was busy focusing and zooming the camera on the flowers when the man with the white moustache waves his hand as if to say - why you photographing just the flowers?! He posed. I took his picture. Showed it to him. He gave me this approving nod. I'm beginning to enjoy these exchanges.