Diwali is known the world over as the Indian festival of lights. A nearly three-week long festive season leads up to five consecutive days of devotional and celebratory events, each of which is marked by elaborate rituals as defined in Hindu scripture. The festive weeks are filled with much activity. Indians spring clean their homes and decorate with a variety of lighting fixtures and colorful art. On Diwali night houses are lit up with candles, earthen lamps and decorative electric lights. It is a bright and gleeful time for Indians.
An economic phenomenon
According to scripture the Diwali season is an auspicious time to make new purchases of all kinds. It is traditional for Indians to buy new clothes and house wares to ensure that they are dressed in their absolute best and their houses look bright and shiny on Diwali night. Businesses in India have always taken advantage of this fact. Shop windows start filling up with new wares at the onset of the festive season. Supermarket chains offer their best discounts on the largest range of products. Ecommerce sites such as Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and others overflow with all manner of discount and cash back deals. For thousands of small and medium enterprises the Diwali business accounts for more than half of their annual turnover. The competition to get the customer’s attention is hectic.
The best known international brands including IKEA, Toyota, Nike, Apple, Samsung and others fully capitalize on the phenomenon of Diwali by strategically timing the launch of new products and the opening of new outlets. Diwali is an important time for the financial sector due to the inflow of the largest percentage of remittances through money transfers by NRIs. Most Indian private sector firms award bonuses to employees before Diwali, which further fuels the buying frenzy. Major Indian auto makers such as Tata Motors and Mahindra are known to make huge capital investments to design entire product development cycles to be able to launch a new car in advance of a Diwali season. The annual turnover of most businesses in India is significantly affected by their ability to make the most of the Diwali shopping season. The behavior of Indian consumers around this time is not far short of hysteria.
This most significant of Hindu celebrations is a predominantly family event. The vast majority of schools are closed for two straight weeks for Diwali. Most offices remain shut for days or function with merely skeleton staff. Indian expats commonly plan their annual visits back home around this time. It is important for Indians to be with their loved ones during the Diwali festive season.
In recent decades, spurred by a rise in incomes, Diwali is increasingly becoming associated with consumer excess. Indians tend to buy more than they need and use the festive spirit as an excuse to be wasteful. For many, Diwali has become synonymous with air pollution. One of the highlights of Diwali is fireworks. Indians have unrestricted access to fireworks which, combined with rampant misuse, routinely makes for very toxic air in Indian cities. Hindustan Times, a leading Indian newspaper, reports that air pollution linked to Diwali kills thousands annually. Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have found that toxic pollutants from fireworks remain suspended in the air for a week and more after Diwali. Prominent hospital chains in India report a 40 % rise in respiratory illnesses in children. Pediatricians report a threefold increase in pediatric respiratory illnesses immediately following Diwali.
The case for moderation
Indians already suffer from the pernicious effects of polluted air owing to the country’s overly facile pollution control norms. Diwali further exacerbates the deplorable situation. The long term health of Indian children must be prioritized over the momentary amusement derived from fireworks during Diwali. One solution would be to restrict the sale of fireworks to the general public. To take an example from many developed nations, despite a comprehensive ban on sale to the public, Indians may continue to enjoy firework displays organized by authorized government personnel at designated places and times. The largest democracy in the world should set an example by proving that festivity can be without excess.
This year, to celebrate the five special days of Diwali, Ria is helping to spread the light: we’ll add £3* to money transfers to India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh starting on October 15th. Visit https://www.riamoneytransfer.co.uk/promos/diwali for more information.