The flicker of wick diyas compete with strings of pulsating electronic bulbs, puja rooms have Hanuman Chalisas on iPads and new clothes on Dhanteras (the most auspicious day to buy new things) now that means the latest Hermes saris and a pair of Jimmy Choo's, usually bought post a particularly flush night of winnings. Oh, yes did we mention a whole lot of poker replacing the good days of teen paati. Diwali is playing keeping up with the Jones. And playing it well.
As India gets adorned in lights, grandparents tell stories of Lord Ram coming home from his long exile to diya lined streets, the Goddess Lakshmi emerging from the churning of the sea for amrit - the drink of immortality ? who brings wealth, and the young queen who cheated the God of Death Yama, by distracting him with her singing and room full of jewelry. All of these legends making legit our obsessive fixation for gold.
From the littlest villages to the largest markets, jewelry shops selling gold rub shoulders with mom and pop stores. Their rows of low glass shelf tables, and racks lined with both precious metals pieces and cheap lookalikes echo years of unparalleled craftsmanship and skill. Fine filigree work from Orissa, rough-cut diamonds for kundan sets from Bikaner, armor like Haram sets from Kerala, precious stones enameled with gold in Meenakari pieces, uncut semi-precious stones in Pachchikam sets from Gujarat, are amongst the centuries old traditions created and fine tuned under the patronage of royal families.
As the many avatars of Diwali change faster than you can say Lakshmi, the new age Diwali also brings with it an influx of ever changing gold jewelry designs. When I reached an age to register not just the value, but also the myriad styles, cuts and drama that gold jewelry came in, not that anyone was asking, but I never really understood this ornate, complicated stuff that everyone seemed to love. Demands from the largest gold market in the world, that are also fast changing. More and more women are constantly searching for new designs, and newer occasions to get gold. Advertisement campaigns have girls wearing conventional pieces unconventionally. A necklace on backwards, an anklet strewn in the hair and a bangle clasped on an ankle, signal a shift in traditional thinking.
Big jewelers, like Tanishq, D'Damas, Gitanjali even the more traditional Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri, veer more and more towards the delicate designs that women fall in love with in Tiffany and Cartier catalogues. They want their jewelry to cater to the working, playing and partying woman. Women who want something beautiful, yet functional and can?t lug armor-like jewelry around with them. Geometric shapes are adopted generously, abstract designs are explored and most essentially jewelry is made for a woman who wants to be subtle, sexy, and still be very Indian. The kind that even Lakshmi would approve of.