Waxing beautiful
Anuradha Thakur

* Candlefish has been so named since Alaskan Indians use dried fish of this species as a lamp. Since the fish is very oily, they simply push a piece of bark through it, which serves the purpose of a wick. Found in the North Pacific Ocean, it is a small silvery saltwater fish, about one-foot in length.
Candlemas is a Christian festival, observed on February 2 every year. It is believed that Justinian I, the emperor of Byzantine, started the festival. It commemorates the presentation of infant Christ in the temple and purification of Virgin Mary.

Though candles formed a significant part in every household prior to the advent of electricity, today these form an important part of our festivities. Talking of candles, one cannot forget mentioning the famous candles of Nanital. 

A little known attraction of the town is the wide variety of pretty candles it offers.

Cast in different shapes and beautifully adorned with colourful motifs, these serve as wonderful decoration pieces. The heart skips a beat at the very thought of lighting these up and destroying these attractive objects.

The production of these candles began as an attempt to make attractive souvenirs, but it soon turned into a roaring business with the ornamentally designed candles proving a great fascination for the tourists. 

New designs and innovative styles of adornment were devised to further escalate the demand for these ingenious creations.

Ranging from thick white candles with colourful designs, predominantly green leaves with red and maroon cherries or green leaves with yellow or red flowers; there are wax sculptures, usually of Shiva, Durga, Ganesh and Hanuman.

Other items crafted in wax include woman carrying pitcher, boy carrying drum, a joker and animals like duck, dog and rabbit. Eatables like grapes, ice cream and sundaes hold their own charm.

The material used to make candles has varied over the ages. While Romans preferred Beeswax candles; in Europe, it was tallow (animal fat), which constituted the primary manufacturing material for candles since the Middle Ages. 

The 18th century saw the advent of Spermaceti, a kind of wax obtained from the head of whale, as a material for manufacturing candles. A mixture of paraffin wax, stearic acid and beeswax has dominated the scene since the mid-19th century. 

In addition to this, hydrogenated vegetable oils and other waxes are also used.

Initially candles were created by making the wick of flax or cotton fibre, and dipping the same into melted wax. It was removed and allowed to cool and solidify in the air. 

The steps of dipping and cooling of wax were repeated again and again till the required thickness of the candle was obtained. 

Even today, taper candles are manufactured by this method. However, most of today’s candles are manufactured by moulding with a machine.

Do not forget to get one of these stunning waxy beauties upon your visit to this dazzling town, and bedeck your home for years to come.