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Economy of India: Why does India import so much gold?

     With the Olympics here, a billion hearts are praying for gold. But then, Indian hearts have always beaten for the yellow metal. Or rather, I should say, gold has always set the Indian heart beats racing...

In India, gold has always been much more than a precious piece of jewellery. It is an inseparable part of our culture, our religious rites and traditions, lending occasions that touch of something special. Without a gift of gold, all occasions appear incomplete.

In Hindu mythology, the very origin of creation has its roots in gold. Brahma, the creator of the Universe in Hindu mythology, is known as hiranya garbha, or the one born in a golden womb. Legend has it that God planted a seed in a dark and lifeless Universe, which became a golden egg, out of which emerged Brahma. I share with you the Hiranyagarbha Sukta (translated from the Sanskrit into Hindi):

वह था ह्रन्यगर 81;भ सृष्टि से पहले विद्यमान  57;ही तो सारे भूतजगत का स्वामी महान जो है अस्तित्व 50;ान धरती आसमान धारण कर ऐसे किस देवता की उपासना करें हम अवि देकर जिस के बल पर तेजोमय है अम्बर पृथ 81;वी हरी भरी स्थापित स्थिर स्व 52;्ग और सूरज भी स्थिर ऐसे किस देवता की उपासना करें हम अवि देकर गर्भ में अपने अग्नि धारण कर पैदा कर व्यापा था जल इधर उधर नीचे ऊपर जगात देवो का ऐकमेव प्राण बनकर ऐसे किस देवता की उपासना करें हम अवि देकर ओम! सृष्टि निर्माता स्वर्ग रचियता पुर्वज रक्षा कर स्तय धर्म पालक अतुल जल नियामक रक्षा कर फैली हैं दिशाए बाहू जैसी उसकी सब में सब पर ऐसे ही देवता की उपासना करें हम अवि देकर ऐसे ही देवता की उपासना करें हम अवि देकर....

Fantastic shloka, isn't it? It's as much of pleasure to recite it as to delve into the meanings in its layers.

Hindu mythology also deems those goddesses as the most beautiful those who are described as golden-hued. Swarna is a common Indian name or prefix of a name. Gold is also regarded as a symbol of purity, as it is a metal which goes through fire. It's this attribute of purity that makes gold a must-have for every sacred occasion.

From a symbol of purity, gold came to viewed as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune as well. Gold was the first currency exchanged between people. Gold survived wars and natural calamities, with not a dent in its monetary value.

The custom of gifting gold at weddings is so deeply entrenched in the Indian psyche that all families start investing in gold or saving for gold as soon as a baby is born, especially the girl child, the saving called stree dhan, to be gifted to her at the time of her marriage. Of course, demand for a certain amount in the form of dowry has cast a shadow on this beautiful tradition.

Many festivals dedicated to gold purchase are fuelling this passion for gold. Diwali, and Dhanteras on its eve, are seeing more and more people going all out for fulfilling their desire for gold. Akshaya Trithiya is another day to bring gold home. Every region of India has its own brand of gold jewellery and customs associated with gold.

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