12:28 GMT26 November 2020
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    Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is held dear by hundreds of millions of revellers. Everything is illuminated with the warm yellow glow of clay lamps, candles and lights to signify the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil, restoring hope, faith and positivity.

    This year, the novel coronavirus pandemic has taken away the sheen from India’s biggest and brightest festival, Diwali. Thousands of small-scale potters in the country make their living providing the hallmark decorations of the annual event.

    Families who have lived for generations in the potters’ lane on South Delhi’s Press Enclave road cling to their profession despite the dwindling market for earthen lamps known as “diya”. The potters are now reeling from meagre sales, as the event has been marred by coronavirus this Diwali; many blame China for COVID-19.

    “For years Chinese lights and lamps took away our market and this year when we could have made a little money as the Chinese products have been banned, but the virus from China is killing our business,” said Phoolwati, a perturbed local potter sitting with a stack of hand-made diyas.

    These craftsmen work tirelessly days ahead of the festival as demand skyrockets for earthen lamps and idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. 

    Delhi shops ahead of Diwali, the festival of lights
    © Sputnik / Shweta Sharma
    Delhi shops ahead of Diwali, the festival of lights

    The shops and the market in Delhi are now decked out in colourful Diwali decorations. Idols of Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi have been lined up on display, but now they outnumber shoppers in the outdoor market. Just a few potential customers stroll there, wearing masks and face shields to protect them from coronavirus.

    Colourful Diwali decorations
    © Sputnik / Shweta Sharma
    Colourful Diwali decorations

    Ram Narayan, a 78-year-old craftsman who has spent decades making pottery, said Diwali was the last hope for his family of ten, who had been surviving on loans throughout the pandemic.

    “I took a loan to buy raw material and purchase decorative items. I have invested INR 400,00-500,000 ($5,356 - $6,694) but have not even earned 30% of it,” said Narayan.

    People across India, mainly businessmen, would spend millions shopping for gifts, sweets and dry fruit for clients and families on Diwali as a gesture of cordial relations.

    Idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi
    © Sputnik / Shweta Sharma
    Idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi

    However, this year the Diwali festivities have been a muted and intimate affair. People are spending less, in anticipation of leaner times ahead. People flocking to these shops are coming for the most basic Diyas, which cost a meer 2 rupees each. 

    The day of Diwali is celebrated to rejoice in the return of King Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and his wife Queen Sita, an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi, to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, as per the legend. The lamps are lit, houses are decorated, and the aroma of traditional sweets and other food fills the air as locals celebrate Diwali.

    Ram Narayan says he has never seen such a lacklustre Diwali in his whole life and hadn't anticipated one.


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