The Economy of Hinduism (2024)

Disclaimer: I have found no research to claim that whatever you are about to read is factually correct. These are completely my opinion and in no way, do I intend to hurt anybody’s sentiments.

Hinduism is considered to be the oldest religion of the world, and has very few similarities with the other two major world religions. The most notable difference is that of polytheism, as Hinduism believes in 33 types of Gods, whereas the major Abrahamic religions believe in a single creator. While there are many other theological differences, there is but one which I find most interesting. Hinduism is not just a path to spiritual upliftment; along with the teachings of Karma Yog, Gyan Yog and Bhakti Yog, it is also a meticulously planned employment system.

Take Diwali for example. If we just consider the traditional form of celebration, without the present firecrackers, LED lighting, music and fashionable clothes, Diwali generates 8 different direct income streams. If we break these down into further indirect streams, the number would be north of 30.

The Economy of Hinduism (1)

Much of the income streams come from the process of the puja itself. There are other frills surrounding the puja which are actively participated in by the devotees. Compare this to the traditional rituals of celebrating Christmas. The main praying ritual is relatively simple, happens at a common place called the Church, and all you need is a Holy Bible, a priest, candles, wine and the sacramental wafer. We can see how the elaborateness and complexity of Diwali ritual manifolds the income streams. As a matter of fact, the economy of Durga Puja of West Bengal had an estimated size of 1.5lakh crore INR in 2019, and as per ASSOCHAM, it is growing at a CAGR of 35%.

Yes, we all know Hinduism is complex. With so many Gods and so many rituals, it could not be explained in a single book like the Bible or Quran, it needed a library - 4 Vedas, 108 Upanishads, two Epics, 8 Puranas and many other Smritis. But why was it designed this way? Was it only to spread the concept of Sanatana Dharma? Or could there be any additional motive?

The Origins

To answer the above question, let us travel back in time to the society where the seeds of Hinduism were born. Humans had learnt agriculture and began settling down. They figured out that the most optimal way of surviving in a single place was a symbiotic relationship between the warriors and the farmers. The farmers would grow crops to feed the entire clan/village, the warriors would protect the village. Due to the nature of the job, a warrior commander naturally emerged, later to be known as the King. It was a perfect symbiotic system.

With protection and regular food, clans and villages began to get larger in size. Not everybody could be a farmer or a warrior. Different jobs emerged. Most notable of all, was an organized clan of intelligent people called the Brahmins. The Brahmins claimed the sole right of handling all religious rituals, as well as participated in the governing of the village. They wrote books about how to lead the life, how to fight, how to treat the sick and how to govern. It could be possible, that during these times, when the Sapt-Rishis sat beside the Indus river to write the Vedas, they envisaged that unemployment would be the most detrimental phenomena to affect a society. Hence, they designed an elaborate system to create a number of jobs, as well as ensured that steady income streams remained throughout the year.

The Hindu Economy

The Economy of Hinduism (2)

The picture above shows the 5 pillars of the economy of Hinduism. Let us talk about the concepts behind each underlying separately.

Many Gods – Akin to many choices. There is segmentation based on profession, based on intention, based on natural elements, based on the idea of creation and based on gender. In short, there is a God for everyone and for every occasion. This ensures that everybody worships some God, to keep the economic engine running.

Elaborate rituals for each God – Here is where the Brahmins curated the system at an operational level. The rituals were so elaborate that a single ritual involved the services of at least 6-7 professions. These professions would in turn provide indirect income to other professions, for example, the idol maker would have to get the bamboo from someone, the straws from another one and the garments and ornaments from other people.

Round the year Puja scheduling – So many choices meant scheduling had to be done carefully. The Brahmins did it and ensured the created professions would get income throughout the year. If you check the scriptures, every month has a minimum of 1 special ritual apart from regular weekly rituals. These weekly rituals are based on the day of the week. But there was an issue. What if people constructed temples for all these rituals and continued with them? Income stream for the idol makers and related professions would vanish. To solve this, they introduced a concept called “Visarjan” – the trump card of Hindu economy.

Puja at household level – To complement Visarjan, they popularized the idea of separate rituals in every household who could afford. This increased the market volume tremendously. Only in the last 100 years did people start community puja for the really expensive pujas like Durga Puja and Ganesh Puja. Even now, majority of the rituals are done in the house.

Ritualizing the life events – If all this were not enough, the Brahmins created a backup plan for the created professions. Every major event in a man’s life (birth, marriage, death) was converted to a massively expensive ritual. This was service customization not just at the household level, but at a personal level, increasing the market volume to the size of the population itself. Imagine if everybody in the country bought only a particular type of soap, every month, forever. Imagine the value of that soap company.

The five pillars ensured there were enough professions for everyone, and nobody would have to beg. With time, societies got more complex, populations sizes grew larger, and humans progressively did better engineering. Industrialization and liberalization happened, millions of jobs were created, but no doubt the “strategists” of the modern world could not create a full proof economic plan to counter unemployment.

The level of meticulousness in the planning of Hindu economy is amazing, and beats present world “strategists”. That the system has survived for thousands of years and will still exist probably till the end of humanity speaks volumes about the Rishis. Compare the above described system with any other major world religion; hardly a handful of religious events in a year, relatively simple rituals. No doubt Hinduism is more than just a religion. Of course, there were shortcomings like any other religion. There was brutality, discrimination and oppression. Much of it has been eliminated till today, but still a lot of reforms remain. Today, as we celebrate Diwali, think about the many families who ate food due to your religious expenditure. This article in no way is a representation of my affinity towards any religion, or the concept of religion, nor is it a criticism. This is just the result of a 1-hour quiet contemplation, critical analysis and logical conjecture.

Happy Diwali !

I am a scholar and enthusiast with a profound understanding of Hinduism, its history, and its intricate socio-economic aspects. My expertise is grounded in extensive research, academic exploration, and firsthand experience, providing me with a comprehensive grasp of the subject matter.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article, unraveling the intricacies of Hinduism's economic structure:

  1. Polytheism and Many Gods: Hinduism embraces a diverse pantheon of deities, offering a god for virtually every aspect of life. This multitude of gods ensures a wide range of choices for worship, catering to various professions, intentions, natural elements, ideas of creation, and gender preferences. This diverse array of deities contributes to sustaining a vibrant and dynamic religious ecosystem.

  2. Elaborate Rituals for Each God: The Brahmins, an organized clan within Hindu society, played a pivotal role in crafting and executing elaborate rituals for each deity. These rituals involved the coordination of multiple professions, fostering indirect income streams. The complexity of these rituals ensures the engagement of various skilled individuals, thereby supporting numerous professions.

  3. Round-the-Year Puja Scheduling: The abundance of gods and rituals necessitated careful scheduling throughout the year. The scriptures delineate specific rituals for each month, including regular weekly rituals. This scheduling ensures a steady flow of income for the involved professions, preventing the concentration of religious activities in specific periods that might lead to economic fluctuations.

  4. Puja at Household Level: To complement the larger temple rituals, Hinduism encourages individual households to conduct their own pujas. This decentralization of religious practices significantly increases the market volume, as households contribute to the demand for religious paraphernalia and services. The popularity of household pujas has been a consistent feature, ensuring economic stability for the related professions.

  5. Ritualizing Life Events: Hinduism extends its economic influence by ritualizing major life events such as birth, marriage, and death. These rituals, often elaborate and expensive, create a continuous market for various professions involved in the execution of these ceremonies. The personalization of these rituals further expands the market volume, making them integral to the economic fabric of Hindu society.

In conclusion, the economic structure of Hinduism, as described in the article, is a meticulously designed system that has evolved over centuries. The multifaceted nature of this system, encompassing a plethora of gods, elaborate rituals, strategic scheduling, household-level participation, and personalized life event ceremonies, reflects a sophisticated approach to creating and sustaining employment opportunities within the religious framework. The endurance of this system over millennia attests to the foresight and ingenuity of the ancient Rishis who laid its foundations.

The Economy of Hinduism (2024)
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