| Women purchase bottle gourds at Anta Ghat market in Patna on Wednesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
A bottle gourd for Rs 80. Any takers?
Yes, many. Despite such a dear price tag, bottle gourds sold like hot cakes on Nahay Khay, as it is considered one of the most important vegetables required for Chhath.
What was bothering the residents was the abnormal hike in bottle gourd’s price, which rose by Rs 20 in a matter of 12 hours.
The price shot up to Rs 80 a piece on Wednesday from Rs 60 on Tuesday evening. Thus, it left no option for the devotees performing Chhath rituals than to pay through their nose.
“This is an abnormal price but we do not have much options on Nahay Khay. We cannot cook any other vegetable but lauki, which has been consumed on Nahay Khay for ages. Vegetable sellers know this fact and this is their time of making hay,” said Namrata Singh, a resident of Rajvanshi Nagar. Another reason for the rocketing price was the last-minute rush to buy the vegetable. Since it was going off the shelf, residents started buying in bulk leading to a demand-supply mismatch.
Market watchers, however, said there shouldn’t have been a demand-supply mismatch because Bihar produces enough bottle gourds to feed the state and others.
“Biharsharif (around 70km southeast of Patna) and the diara (riverine belt) are rich in producing bottle gourds. There shouldn’t have been a short supply. This is a result of hoarding for Chhath. Opportunist vegetable sellers have done it to make money on the festival,” said Priyangshu Kumar, a teacher with a government school.
Kalpana Sahay, a resident of Kidwaipuri, echoed him saying: “Vegetable sellers are looting us. Can you imagine a bottle gourd selling at Rs 80? These were being sold at Rs 40 a piece till Tuesday morning. Within 24 hours, the price has doubled. We are helpless because tradition demands us to cook the vegetable.”
Explaining the reason behind consuming bottle gourds on Nahay Khay, Motihari-based priest Brahmachari Shivanand Sharma said: “Bottle gourd can be easily digested and it also keeps the stomach healthy. It is necessary to keep ourselves healthy, especially during Chhath.”
He added that having bottle gourds on Nahay Khay also has a mention in the Skanda Puran. The priest explained why, during Chhath, food is cooked on the mango wood flames. “Mango wood helps the food cook properly because of its low flames,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, Chhath devotees had thronged nearby vegetable markets to purchase bottle gourds. Some were even sold with plastic wrapped on them.
“We have wrapped the bottle gourds to keep it clean because it will be used for the rituals. Many avoid purchasing bottle gourds that are kept in the open on the roadside. People should not blame us for the high price because prices of every vegetable has gone up. It’s obvious that the prices would go up,” said Mukesh Kumar, who sells vegetables on Boring Road.
He added: “As far as prices of bottle gourds are concerned, this is the only time when we get a chance to earn some money. No vegetable seller would miss this opportunity because bottle gourds are a must on Nahay Khays. Devotees would purchase it at any cost.”