For a modern and cosmopolitan city, Mumbai certainly has some eccentricities that cannot be ignored. One of the most interesting things I have noticed, time and again, is that most cars and shops sport the nimubu-mirchi garland (lime-chilli). This garland literally consists of several green chillies strung together, with a yellow lime hanging at the bottom of it. Most taxis and rickshaws in Mumbai will purchase these contraptions, for a mere Rs. 10/-, and will hang them either in the rear view mirror or in the front of the vehicle. Children will be selling these on the streets and will mainly target taxi/ rickshaw drivers and people who own fancy cars (Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, etc). After all, own the top line cars is no small thing in Mumbai (where you pay 100% in taxes). Owning such a car, the, would surely attract the envy and scorn of the common man/woman.
Here’s one that is hanging in the front of the taxi:
The lime-chilli garland is actually believed to ward off the “evil eye” or, what we call in Hindi, the buri-nazar. Every culture and country has their version of the evil eye, and Mumbai is no exception.The garland is also known as the nazar battu and traditionally, has 7 green chillies and one lime strung together. It is popularly used amongst the Hindus and is believed that the contraption has the ability to “absorb” and contain and kinds of jealousies or ill-feelings that people may have about someone’s success and happiness, be it in the realm of family, business, or a new social enterprise.
The mythology that surrounds this contraption is as follows: While all Hindus welcome and cherish the presence of the Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and auspiciousness), they are also sure to keep her jealous sister, Alakshmi, away from the homes and business. Alakshmi is believed to bring poverty to a person’s life. Alakshmi is believed to like sour and pungent foods.Thus, the lime-chilli contraptions are hung at the every entrances of houses and shops, with the belief that Alakshmi will attempt to come into these dwellings, will stop at the entrance and consume the chillies and lime, will be satiated, and will not cast any misery that was originally intended. The contraption is meant to satisfy the malevolent desires of the goddess and also appease her. how clever!
Modern or not, Mumbai is a city of strange beliefs and practices. I am sure there are many such beliefs that cloak this city and are endorsed and utilized by all classes and castes in Mumbai. I was pretty amazed when I was wandering the hallways of the Taj Hotel over the weekend, and found that one of the top establishments in Mumbai, Ravissant, had the nimbu-mirchi garland hanging right outside its shop:
I was a little stunned at seeing this ultra-modern, ultra-chic store sporting the medieval garland, thereby publicly declaring it’s embrace of the supernatural and all beliefs attached to it. I guess the more prestigious you are, the more protection required from the evil eye? Go figure!