Markets get painted in multiple hues, as Lucknow gears up for a colour riot

Once considered a great time to exchange pleasantries and spend quality time with one another. Known as a festival, when even the fiercest of enemies would do that unique jadoo ki jhappi, applying colour on the cheek, repeating that customary yet clichéd line – Bura Na Mano Holi Hai, now Holi in 2020 rides the commercial wave.

With packaging of the festival and its various aspects, in its new avatar, the bonhomie aside, Holi has seen a gradual shift from the healthy revelry bringing with it a commercial aspect where packaging rules in a once childhood merry making festive ritual.  

The festival, now sees greater stress on marketing of Holi goodies leading to new exciting models of sales appealing to the youth. Different brands now try to outdo the other trying to encash what is the buzzing trend of the hour with regards to the younger lot.

This even as the broader Corona scare has had a definite impact on the festive mood and the products that are on sale. Shopkeepers this time have tried staying away from Chinese products to avoid any confusion.

Lucknow’s IT Market is home to 40 shops catering to the Holi fanatic. From tiny miniature water guns to the big ones. Splashed in varied hues of colours and eye catching designs, both traditional and new – age sprinklers of varied shapes, sizes and forms entice the buyer by way of unique appearance that models itself on pop culture characters like Doeramon, Yogi Bear, Snoopy, characters from the DC Universe among others.

Out of the 40 shops that dot the IT Chuaraha colour market, the new entrant are cylinders filled with gulaal that resemble fire extinguishers and are priced high but prove effective to drench each other with sober colours. The special floral, pearl, organic Gulaal like past years meanwhile keeps the Holi buyer excited about the festival with that extra dash of fragrance.

Ravi, a seller confirms that this festival will be different because it will give one a combination of Diwali and Holi. Based on the pattern of Diwali, Gulaal bombs, anaar bombs filled with colours and special sticks with colour, light and a unique sound will give the new age sprinkler freak that much needed Holi high. The usual, Herbal and scented gulaal aside, ranging between Rs 200 to Rs 300, colours of good variety are selling.

In tune with the youth who is enjoying the cartoon and smartphone world – special tanks and PUBG guns between the range of Rs 600 to 850 and cars priced at 650 are attracting the young with deep pockets.

For those in for a colourful Diwali like feel – the cocktail colour combos, Mango bombs, special colour cigars, a colour chatai and the Rambo style colour dispensers releasing two colours in one shot gets the young shelling out that extra chip for the surreal Holi experience.

Mostly Indian goodies are in the market with a miniscule presence of Chinese goods. In aiming to give the Swadeshi goods of India, a much needed push, Indian Holi goodies rule supreme. With India’s Coronavirus scare for real, traders steer clear of anything from the land of the dragon.

Hats mostly exclusive derby hats, cowboy hats and hats for young girls with floral patterns are selling in the market. Rajasthani traditionally headgears are also selling in reasonable rates. The not so expensive caps keep the lower middle class in good stead ranging between Rs 100 and Rs 200. Both colourful and embroidered headgears made of cloth and plastic cost starting from Rs 150 each says another seller at a Lucknow market. Attractive design sarees and salwar suits and children’s wear shops are also buzzing with buyers. Despite malls, the old world charm of an open air market in old Lucknow still attracts many.

In a youth centric sales plan, one can’t help but miss characters like Addams Family, Spiderman, Captain America masks all from pop culture that are priced in a range of Rs 100 and Rs 200. Masks of PM Narendra Modi, Joker’s Joaquin phoenix act cost Rs 250 each.

While people want Indian goods, the Chinese goods on offer range from just Rs 100 to Rs 3000. Often burning a hole in the pocket, Chinese goods have been shirked in many places giving a fillip to the Indian make goods. Indian make Holi goodies do not have side effects and skin remains sans infections, says a Holi regular. 

While reports of chemical laced gulaal in the guise of herbal has surfaced, shopkeepers are heard confirming that Chinese and chemical sprinkled colours are off shelves this year. Herbal gulaal made of araroot continue to be the best bet. Gulaal prepared from lime, chalk, sand along with other hazardous components has been introduced in the market along with mica which reports call dangerous. 250 tonnes of abeer and gulaal is present in the Lucknow market alone say official sources. Gulal  is present in Lemon Green, Apple, Strawberry and Orange Flavor which gives the Lucknowite a different feeling.

Estimates say 80 to 120 rupees a kilo abeer is real and the remaining variety is fake hint some. Around a 100 tonne abeer and gulaal has come from Hathras and Mathura as per confirmed reports. Reportedly flowers, petals together help create very useful ecofriendly colours. In recent years, the Palash flowers have been very helpful in playing Holi much like Besan and Haldi colours. Thorns of the Gwarpatha also known as Aloevera adds to the herbal quotient. The green paste made out of it can then be used for Holi purposes. Furthermore, Parijat and tesu flowers add to the safe Holi experience.

Sprinklers start at Rs 50 – 60 which is the smallest size and then the full size is as steep as Rs 2500. People from all age groups are turning up to get their colours, sprinklers, masks and decorative goods. Carrying the Barbie tag water tanks cost a steep Rs 600. Special bag shaped sprinklers and other new models are fast selling as a range of Rs 100 to Rs 1000 keeps the buyer in good spirits says Abdul Kalam.

Gulaal cylinders are priced as steep as Rs 2000. It has a spray of gulaal which comes out in powdery or spray form. The basic sprays come in three different sizes – 1.5 litre, 1 litre and 2.5 ml ranging between Rs 50, Rs 150 and Rs 200.

In Munshipulia, sprinklers with Holi songs playing as you press the nozzle, charges Rs 450 each. Musical pipes, lightpipes and other attractions remain a crowdpuller for the first time. In Munshipulia, Chinese goods have this year taken a back seat. It is a good feeling that Indian sellers are being supported says one seller. The Gulaal Party Popper has a sudden gush of colours coming out says Ram Singh. The light pipes cost anything to the tune of 250 and the musical pipes are around Rs 300.

A seller, Akshay, though admits that at some parts its a 50:50 presence between Indian and Chinese. People are going in for the indigenous Indian make for the simple reason that it is homemade by local workers and it promises quality over too much shoo sha. Some sprinklers can range between Rs 25 to Rs 2000.

Photo by Yogendra Singh on

In Aminabad, sprinklers come in various shapes and sizes. A 10 colour set of herbal colours costs Rs 150. Chinese, Malinga hats, horse race hats, and caps with hair attached. PUBG sprinklers, Doraemon sprinklers, Balloon knot launchers, Cocktail anaars keep the buyer in good humour says, another seller Kamal Kant

Information coming in suggests that in the past two months Chinese goods could not be imported. With Chinese off shelves, playing Holi is turning into an expensive affair say some. Chinese sprinklers, masks, balloons and other colourful goodies are far from the reach of the average Holi reveller. Stocks this year reportedly have run relatively dry. Indian stuff is 15% to 25% more expensive.

Apart from Aminabad, Munshipulia, Bhootnath and IT College, the other markets that are doing brisk business are Yahiyaganj, and Raqabganj. These are markets in the Old city area where stuff is sold at wholesale rates in bulk. Moving to select markets like Aminabad, Chowk, Nishatganj, Kapurthala, Bhootnath, Alambagh, Patrakarpuram gets people an offer of choice.

With stocks down, the consequent impact has been seen in the prices where a 50% shooting up of prices has been recorded. What would usually cost Rs 30 is now costing 40 to 50 rupees.  Gift packs are priced at Rs 199 and Holi colours usually selling for Rs120 are now pegged at 150.

As Holi nears there are already predictions that there will be a sizable impact on sales. Meanwhile for the average foodie out there, the customary gujia bite too is taken care off. The sweetness of this festival is further enhanced by the delicious Gujia. Markets are also flooded with a variety of chips, papad and namkeen.  A sudden peak in prices at the Khova mandi too is being noticed.

All in all, this Holi choose your budget wisely and get your colour gear in place for that one shot of colours aplenty.

Slightly edited version was first published in The Lucknow Tribune, Lucknow’s only English weekly

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