Mysore market

Written by Jane Harris No Gravatar

Stuart gave his seat to a lady on the crowded bus from Wayanad to Mysore today.  The other passengers told him that as a guest in their country he couldn’t be expected to stand.  They quickly rearranged themselves and found space for him.

We are staying on the outskirts of Mysore in Karnataka.  As in England the inhabitants of these suburbs are more conservative than their in-town counterparts. As a female, I have been warned against wearing anything other than top-to-toe cover even indoors where we might be spied through the door or silhouetted against the ubiquitous net curtains.  It’s hot.

We have a small rooftop apartment, above the home of our hosts.  A great spot from which to watch life going by.  As the sun went down yesterday groups of men moved door to door singing songs and lighting lamps.  We asked our hosts the reason for this but they are unable to elaborate beyond saying that it is a tribal tradition that will increase in frequency throughout December.

This morning the front of each house was decorated with an elaborate pattern.  We learnt that these are called ‘kolams’ or ‘rangoli’ and are used to attract the goodwill of the gods.  They are made at sunrise using a rice flour paste. The paste can be eaten by small creatures thereby ensuring that giving is the first act of the householder’s day.  The design and presence of the kolam also conveys complex social messages about the prosperity and health of the householder.

For me, the main attraction of Mysore is its market.  Long rows of small red slated booths offer an astounding array of healthy looking fruit and vegetables – many familiar, others not. Several rows are dedicated to flowers.  These are not intended for home use but as temple offertories.  Jasmine, lotus and other flower heads can be bought  by the sack load or as ready made garlands – stitched together by men, women, girls and boys sitting on purpose-build platforms in the centre of each row. Incense and body dyes are also sold.

As we walked around tonight, the electricity supply failed. The market was made magical as stallholders brought out candles to light their wares – although I am quite sure it would have been possible to navigate that produce-laden labyrinth by smell alone.

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