Diwali 2018: Decoding the famous Kandil Galli in Mahim

Nov 07, 2018, 17:11 IST | Sunny Rodricks

In Kandil Galli, lantern making process has been a traditional affair and a way of uniting families together

Diwali 2018: Decoding the famous Kandil Galli in Mahim
For the Mayekars, lanterns making has been all about family get-together and carrying forward the tradition of Kandil making. Pic/Manjeet

It's Diwali, the festival of lights and as we step into suburban Mahim area of Mumbai, we catch sight of beautiful kandils (lanterns) in all shapes, sizes, colours, and patterns. Shops stretching from Citylight cinema all the way up to Hinduja Hospital situated next to Bombay Scottish School are flooded with kandils and in the evenings the entire place is lit up giving the feeling as if we are inside a lantern festival. Mahim's Kandil Galli, located at LJ Road, is known as the lantern market of Mumbai, and during Diwali, people from all over the city come to buy lanterns from shops in this locality, which have been operating for decades.

Gaurav Sawant
Gaurav who works as a professional has been carrying the trade of lantern making since his uncle passed away five years ago

23-year-old Gaurav Sawant runs a small stall on this road selling lanterns for the last 5 years. he says," When I was a small child, my uncle used to make lanterns of all shapes and sizes. As I grew up, I went on to harness the art of making Kandils by observing and eventually learning from him. We have making kandils for the last 20 years and every year we roughly make around 300 to 400 lanterns. There are many loyal customers who make it a point to visit Kandil Galli every year to buy handmade lanterns from us."

The kandils from this Galli (locality) are well-known for its eco-friendly paper lanterns and people from across the city drop by at Kandil Galli to buy lanterns for their homes, offices, and societies. The kandil makers in this Galli have been in the business for decades and continue to do so with the old generation making way for the next generations by passing along their knowledge and experience. The legacy of mentoring the young has ensured that the business flourishes and now we witness the millennial generation involved in kandil making at this Galli.

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Kandil making in this locality has been a community affair with men, women, children and senior citizens all engage in this activity. Tucked behind a bus stop lives the Mayekar family for whom the festival has all been about family get-togethers and uniting over Kandils and only Kandils!

Samidha Mayekar
For Samidha Mayekar, a housewife, Kandil making is a way of uniting families over the trade of the art that the family has been harnessing for more than 15 years

Samidha Mayekar, a housewife says, "We have been making lanterns for the last two decades and till date, it has been a family affair. During the festive season of Diwali, we don't get any time to do household chores or to cook nor even shop as we are so much engrossed in making lanterns and we only get time to make Diwali treats at our home on the penultimate day of Diwali. Besides my husband and two children, a few of our cousins come all the way from Vasai, Borivali, and Dahisar to help us make the kandils and ensure that we deliver the products on time. We have been happily making kandils as a family!"

Along with the kandils, the buzzing Kandil Galli also offers decorative items and rangoli materials for the festival of lights. From diyas, stickers, rangoli colours to artificial flowers, Mirchi lights, torans (garlands) and other decorative items are on offer. The prices range starts anywhere between Rs 20 for small, tiny kandils and it goes up to Rs 500 for paper lanterns and huge lanterns such as the akashdeep kandil is sold for Rs 1,500. Leading political parties across the city get huge kandils made from this Galli for displaying in their areas.

Kandil Diyas
Beside lanterns, one can also find diyas, stickers, rangoli colours, artificial flowers, Mirchi lights, torans (garlands) and more at Kandil Galli

"We start making lanterns 15 to 20 days before the start of the festival. We specifically make Akash kandils as we get a lot of orders for these kandils. Currently, we are working on two orders of 100 kandils each given by leading political parties for the festive season," says Samidha as she takes us through the hordes of political lanterns ready and prepared to be dispatched.

From warehouses to bus stops and from stalls to trees, every nook and corner of Kandil Galli, colourful lanterns adorn the streets of Kandil Galli. Kandil Galli is famous outside the country as well and few loyal clients from Dubai, Singapore etc. come all the way to Kandil Galli to get their hands on handcrafted paper lanterns which are not only pleasing to the eye but traditional and eco-friendly too. So, what's really special about Kandil Galli?

Vishal
Vishal has been a loyal customer who has kept coming back to Kandil Galli years after years and and has seen it grown into a bustling market that caters handmade Kandils to the whole of Mumbai

We ask Vishal, a local who was shopping for Kandils to decorate his home. Vishal says, "I moved into this locality12 years ago and during that time the so-called Kandil Galli was non-existing; there was literally nothing. But in the last five years or so, it has actually grown from one footpath to the other and to the lane behind and the entire main road. Now people from across Bombay (Mumbai) come here to buy kandils [he shows us few pretty little kandils he had purchased]. The sight of Kandil Galli is beautiful during Diwali. I am just done with my first round of shopping, I will be come back to buy more stuff. Happy Diwali!"

Thousands of Kandils, from Indian to Chinese and hand-made to ready-made are on sale at least 10 days before the festival arrives. Every year the festive season of Diwali sees a new trend in Kandil making, this year with the effect of plastic ban more citizens have opted for paper lanterns (Akash Kandil) which are hand-made, traditional and eco-friendly at the same time. We wonder, how has the plastic ban in Mumbai affected the livelihood of Kandil makers across Kandil Galli in Mahim.

Paper lanterns
This year, with an effect of the plastic ban in place a lot of people have moved towards paper lanterns and eco-friendly Kandils which has worked wonders for the lantern makers of Kandil Galli

"Every year there are lanterns made of plastic but this year with the effect of the plastic ban in place it has really worked wonders in our favour. This year, a lot of customers are moving towards paper lanterns and eco-friendly Kandil's. Whoever comes to Mahim during the festival of Diwali asks only one question: Where is Kandil Galli located?

"Visitors who come to Kandil Galli never go empty-handed as they get the option to choose from a variety of lanterns, and can buy according to their needs and requirements," says Gaurav who took over the business lantern making from his uncle after he passed away.

So if you want to decorate your house during Diwali, a visit to Mahim's Kandil Galli is a must.

Catch up on all the Diwali news, photos, videos and more over here: Diwali 2018

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