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Indian Worshippers Go Berserk Buying Gold

Despite higher gold prices, the Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi saw strong buying...

THE WORLD'S number one buyer of Gold Bullion appears to be going a bit berserk this festive season, says MineWeb's Shivom Seth in Mumbai. 

Even as the country ushered in Ganesh Chaturthi on September 1, celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesh, the god of wisdom and prosperity, many households have stretched their meager savings to include small articles and intricate ornaments of gold, as an offering to the deity.

The elephant-headed god Ganesha is widely worshipped across the country as the god of wisdom and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture. Artistic clay models of the Lord are made for sale by skilled artisans and are beautifully decorated depicting the Lord in various poses and in his various moods - as a child, a dancer, as a benign and gracious host.

Over the years, devotees across India have been keen to please and placate and pander to the Lord with their gold offerings. This year, this has come to the fore ever stronger, despite the ruling high price for both gold and silver.

Traders say that festive season is a big time for Buying Gold and other precious metals. Rajesh Exports, India's biggest jewelry house, expects gold buying, whether in jewelry, coins, bars or medallion form, to rise to 250 metric tonnes over the next three months, ending November 30. 

This year, the firm has said it expects buyer demand will be 25% higher than the same period last year and that elevated Gold Prices have not dented investor interest.

India's wedding and festival season has boosted Gold Prices every year since 2002, with September the strongest buying month, said traders, even though the wedding season will kick in only at the end of the month.

Every household in India, however meager their annual income, goes to great lengths to stash up on some gold, silver and precious metal during this time.

As Subhangi Khapre, housewife in a Mumbai suburb said, "Every year, we make it a point to include some small gold ornament to grace the deity. This year, with prices inching past $620.67 for 10 grams, it has been a bit steep. Thankfully, prices slid by around $39.19 two days ago and we did all our buying then.''

Adds bullion retailer Toradimull Zaveri, offering of the precious metal to Lord Ganesh has surged even more this year. Never mind the exorbitant prices.

"There is a certain household in down-town Mumbai that has decked up the deity with a 5.6 kilo gold necklace worth $32 million ($ 32,664,119.93). I can't give you more details at this stage, but our goldsmiths were at it day and night for over a month to get the ornament ready before D-day,'' said Zaveri.

Though Zaveri spoke of just one instance of the madness that seems to have descended on most households in India during the 10-day Ganpati festival, the need to bring home what some would consider an ostentatious ornament was born out of a simple idea, that the idol looks beautiful with gold and so why not drape it with an ornament that has a labyrinthine design and get the neighbors to talk about it for days on end.

"It is the wow factor. Every small household in India now wants to show off the fact that they are doing well, and that their homes are prospering and that the Lord has taken care of them this past year. It is their way of saying thanks for all the benediction and blessings that have come their way. The idea is why not go the whole hog and get more and more people to say wow and be amazed,'' said Kailashbhai Daveria, bullion trader.

It is not just homes in India that have got an added sparkle this year. Devotees are also being very magnanimous in doling out the largess, a fact that can be seen in large scale donations across the country during this time to their favorite Lord.

A certain establishment called the Goud Saraswat Brahmin association, which has a huge idol installed in a pandal for public consumption at Sion, in midtown Mumbai, has received two major gold donations this year, one for the trunk of the elephant-headed idol, which weighs up to 216 gram and the other for the palanquin, which weighs in at a colossal 3 kilo.

"This gold is as a thanksgiving by the devotees whose wishes have been fulfilled,'' said Satish Nayak, a trustee of the association. Already and over the past several years, 68 kilo of gold and 465 kilo of silver worth $ 399 million ($ 399,125,707.47) has adorned the idol.

"It has been a part of tradition to Buy Gold during the Ganpati, Navratri (when the Mother Goddess descends on most Indian households) and Diwali season and this is still followed even today,'' said Pankaj Mehta of Pallankin Jewellery House.

He added that the price rise had not stopped people from Buying Gold jewelry for the festive season that has commenced in September. ``We are expecting a 20-25% growth in gold jewelry sales, in just this month alone,'' said jewelry house owner, Bachubhai Bamalwan.

The only setback, if it can be called that, is that retailers complain that the increase in price has led to changes in designs of gold ornaments. ``There are more lightweight designs that are flying off the shelves here as people look to get maximum impact for a smaller expense. We have realized this need and this trend, and have accordingly crafted lightweight pieces which will have a great impact,'' said Sekara Bhosale, bullion trader.

Though India's wedding season runs from late September to December, traders said that over the past two decade, gold has risen by an average of 16% from September through to December. Apart from weddings, Indian jewelers also tend to buy the precious metal in kilos before the start of Diwali, or the festival of lights.

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Founded in 1999 as part of the Johannesburg-listed MoneyWeb media group, Mineweb is one of the world's leading sources of mining and metals-investment news, comment and analysis. Managed since 2003 by professional mining engineer Lawrence Williams – formerly of Mining Journal, and with more than 30 years' technical and financial experience in the sector – MineWeb provides thorough, international coverage of the natural resources industry.

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