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Gold is a symbol of materialism, greed and vanity. Although gold is not the only thing symbolic of excessive ostentation, I did want to write about it especially in the light of the global reaction to gold prices plummeting.

The first thought that came to my mind in reaction to the fall in gold price is ‘what did the ancient Rishis think about gold?’ I knew that the Bhagavad Gita indirectly condemns giving too much value to gold.

For example, Ch 6 v 8 says “A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything — whether it be pebbles, stones or gold — as the same.

and Ch 14 v 22-25 says something very similar.

The Bhaagavat Purana is a little less indirect in its condemnation! In fact, it says the evil in the world is found in five places – wherever there is gambling, where people get intoxicated, where there are lustful women, in slaughtering places and in gold.

Gold here probably means any kind of excessive wealth, considering that gold was the major currency of the ancient times.

But gold in particular is still a status symbol, especially in India. What an irony that the country that produced such great scriptures as the Gita and Bhagavatam that condemn valuing gold, is also the world’s top consumer of gold.

Go to any Indian wedding and witness the outlandish display of wealth in the form of gold. Parents of potential grooms hoard gold jewellery for their future daughters-in-law. The country devours 1000 tonnes of gold in one year! That means India spends $50 trillion on gold every year!

One would argue that this is simply reflective of India’s massive population. But, considering that more than 60% of the country lives below the poverty line, how can one argue that this is a result of a large population? It is a lame argument to say that this uber consumption is simply a result of numbers. Let’s assume then that this is simply a numbers game. If that were the case, India’s ‘massive’ population should also be giving away massive amounts of wealth, right? Nope. India ranks 133rd in the world in charitable giving. 

In fact, only 19% of the population donate money to charity. Maybe it is these 19% that also consume those 1000 tonnes of gold, so there is no reason for me to judge. Wait, no, that is not good reasoning either. We rank 86 in terms of absolute money donated. Any country that can spend $50 trillion on gold should at least be in the top 50 of money donated in charity if indeed this is a numbers issue. But it isn’t. It is an ideology issue. We are materialistic and selfish. We adorn our bodies with thousands of dollars worth of jewellery. That is enough to feed several lower income Indian families for an entire year.
Instead, that money is dangling on the necks of our ‘progressive’ leaders and brides. Then it is stashed away in our carefully guarded vaults under the silly pretense that gold will be ‘a saviour in times of financial hardship’. Meaning it will buy lots of money when the price of gold goes up again.