Culturally rich countries like India need not necessarily to follow the western model of solution address our own economic problems like unemployment and poverty. There are plethora of ways to solve each economic problem by adopting and promoting festivals in their true spirit
Dr S Lingamurthy
India is the land of festivals, cultural fairs and holistic congregations. Country celebrates a wide range of delightful events passionately and spiritually in commemoration of the Rishis, Gurus, Gods and Goddesses and the victory of good over evil since down the ages. As per the data of Rajya Sabha (Government of India-2013), there are 51 official festivals of which 17 are nationally and 34 are regionally or locally celebrated. Historically, these festivals have been reinforcing our cultural roots and values, enabling communities to preserve their traditions and bringing economic values. Each and every festival has its own holy story, spiritual history and contributes to country’s cultural heritage and collectivism of its people. All these auspicious festival roots are grossly connected with the economic agents such as agricultural bliss, business prosperity, entrepreneurship development and social benefits.
India is also equally significant for temples which are flourishing festival culture and attracting abundant wealth by offerings, donations in the form of cash, ornaments, lands and kind by the devotees with utmost belief and trust. Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala) is an icon for holding such huge stocks of gold and diamond ornaments and Sri Venkateshwara Swamy Temple known as Seven Hills or Balaji Temple (Thirupathi of Andhra Pradesh) is known for attracting hundreds of Crore rupees every year. With the usage of temples’ wealth, Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are running many subsidy and welfare schemes in a discriminatory way of majority’s beliefs like many other state governments do in India. Even though, these temples are evidenced for the welfare of the people through food distribution, free education and facilitating water and health facilities.
Therefore, it can be said that temples are the stocks of abundant wealth and festivals are vibrant of our holistic economic system.
All these festivals allow the local communities to connect with their talent, art, craft, food, dance and other forms of cultural landscape and promote significant livelihoods through entrepreneurial activities. They fetch an economic boom through the culture of exchanging gifts, sweets and fruits which are completely associated with the
economic agents such as producer, entrepreneur and consumer. In every festive season, demand for specific goods and services driven by cultural events and supply follows the demand by and large. Thousands of shopkeepers, who earn their living in temporary shops on the streets, find new opportunities
during festive period.
Many market players believe that launching a new product or service during festival time attracts more of its targeted customers as compared to non-festival season. Therefore,
producers and entrepreneurs wait for the auspicious occasion to launch their products or services according to their demands and to establish the pan-India brand. Hence, new products like automobiles, home utensils, furniture and electronics etc, enter the market during that time.
Festivals encourage the trend of sustainable spending specifically more from the higher ends of the social strata than the lower ends, and the lower ends tend to benefit from the consumption of the higher end by gaining additional income through entrepreneurial and tertiary activities.
Celebration of the festivals is the way of life of Indians. Whole society integrates during the festivals to
celebrate it privately and publicly in various temples, residential complexes, and at the streets by singing
devotional songs and organising peaceful processions of the Gods and Goddesses and exchanging sweets, gifts, etc, amongs the relatives, friends and neighbours. Therefore, it explores the situation to understand Indians
co-existence of customs and culture with the economic agents.
The 12th five year plan of India more specifically emphasised on inclusive economic growth by
accommodating the marginalised
sections into the mainstream economic system. In this practice, planning architects and policy makers are still to achieve their goal on account of splitting up of the people on the basis of gender, religion, social status and
economic class by vigilant or reckless following of western economic theories. This kind of incomprehensive economic approach can never integrate the Indian society as a whole. We need to have more comprehensive understanding of people’s customs, traditions, festivals and culture. On the other hand our festivals have
succeeded in integrating the people to attain the peace, prosperity and social integrity of the whole society.
Evidence through Lord Ganesh Festival
The Ganesh Chaturthi festival is observed during the month of Bhadrapada according to the Hindu calendar. It commences on the Chaturthi day and is celebrated for a period of 3 to 11 days and ends on the Anantha Chaturdashi day with the immersion of about 1 lakh Lord Ganesh idols at the tanks and lakes of Bhagyanagar, popularly at Vinayak Sagar (Known as Hussain Sagar) where more than 2 million people come together chanting slokas, singing devotional songs, bhajans though they belong to different political parties, religions and ideological backgrounds.
This popular festival is fully driven by the society without any intervention of the government body by forming groups with likeminded people, friends or neighbours called Ganesh Utsav Samitis. The Samiti is involved in the collection of funds, managing finance, planning and procurement of the items for the festival, preparation of the pandals or mandaps (where the Lord Ganesh idol is installed), arrangement of logistics, preparation of the public Prasadam (publicly offered sweets or food) and all other necessary activities for the smooth functioning of the festival, from placing the order of idol to immersion of the idol.
Various Samitis celebrating the Ganesh festival compete with one another for the decoration and the size of the Ganesh idol. Many skilled artists who are involved in making these beautiful Ganesh idols in different sizes and poses come from both the religions Hindu and Muslim. Apart from this, planning and coordination with government and non-government organisations is a vital aspect of this festival and it provides tremendous opportunities for ordinary people to develop various interpersonal skills, coordination skills and leadership skills.
Today, this festival has been creating wide range of opportunities for various small-scale entrepreneurial activities such as event management, public sound systems, musical
instrument players, tent houses, idol makers, photo/ videographers, garland makers, transporters in addition to
providing around 12 days of
employment to purohit (Brahmins). Thousands of agricultural labourers and non form labourers who come from Mahaboobnagar, Medak and Nalgonda districts get into the income generating activity before and during festive days through selling the puja material like patri (leafs), fruits, flowers, etc. in the streets of Bhagyanagar town.
Idol manufacturing activity is
centuries old traditional activity by the families of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Majority of the families migrated to the old city and its outskirts and made temporary sheds to prepare the idols beside the main roads in Uppal, Nagol, Saroor Nagar, Hayat Nagar, Kukat Palli and Dhulpet of old city, etc. All these families have been living in Hyderabad for decades together in idol manufacturing activity.
The idol manufacturing activity is almost a year long task. It starts in the month of December and ends in September every year. All the family members including their children involve in this activity throughout the year. During the peak season of the demand for idols, the manufacturers engage people on the basis of daily wage and at ordinary work rate. Therefore, during the last three months (peak stage of work) it is observed that more than 50 thousand labourers come from various northern states of India for fastening the idols peripherals and artistic work. Hence, it is claimed that Ganesh festival alone in Bhagyanagar town is providing employment opportunities to more than 1 lakh people throughout the year directly and many more stakeholders during the festive season indirectly. It is observed that each Idol in Hyderabad is creating more than 90 man-days of
employment for four persons directly and on an average 10 days for all stake holders indirectly during festival. This is a significant foot print in supplementing the government efforts in providing employment to its youth in the capital city of Telangana State. The major expenditure of this festival ranging from Rs 80 thousand to Rs 20 lakh is incurred on the decoration, sound system and its colourful
illumination of the pandal for the entire festive days. Then the expenditure on idol comes which varies the cost from Rs 8,000 to Rs 2 lakh based on its size, pose and artistry. Purohits (Brahmin) who charges to perform puja are given Rs 1,000 or more as Dakshina per day. And in addition to all above, more than Rs 1,000 spent every day for the holy items like garland, flowers, coconut, Lord’s shawls, prasadam and all. Each pandal of the Ganesh Samithi ranges from Rs 0.1 million to Rs 2 million. Hence, the gross expenditure including all pandals of the Ganesh festival is more than Rs 500 billion. It includes expenditure on all the Pandals and personal expenditure of the devotees, the profit or wage and retaining investment of the thousands of unorganised business persons, idol makers, decoration workers, skilled and unskilled labourers including women who largely belong to backward classes and marginalised sections.
Like all the festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi is the symbol of collective decisions on every corner of economic matters. Every year, the budget for the celebration of this festival keeps on increasing significantly. The entire responsibility of the expenditure is on the shoulders of its devotees who
generously contribute to the pandal’s in cash or kind or in both. Generally, the majority of the donations put in by the above middle class and higher
strata of the society.
Festivals are seen as a major source of entrepreneurship, income and tourism at local and national levels. There
areplethora of opportunities for each state in India to attract international tourists and develop a policy
framework for entrepreneurial activities. Increased local, national and international tourism during the Ganesh festival significantly contributes to the economic development of the rural areas and livelihood for local people. Any economic slowdown does not affect Indians’ sustainable expenditure on festivals owing to their deep-rooted family savings for precautionary expenditure of their children, family members and customs. Therefore, culturally rich countries like India need not necessarily follow the western model of
solution to address our own economic problems like unemployment and poverty. There are plethora of ways to solve each economic problem by adopting and promoting festivals which integrate us economically.
However, it is observed that idol manufacturers are facing serious problems due to lack of basic necessities like ration card, drinking water and proper work shed. Providing the basic necessities to these people is the primary responsibility of the government. They need to be ensured of credit support with normal interest rate along with insurance for idols, market connectivity, storage facility and threats from the outrageous.
(The writer is Post Doctoral
Fellow at JNU)