Why Do Tamil People Love Gold As Much As They Do?

jewels

“Whether it’s in the Tamil community or any other community, if you’re wearing lots of jewelry or carrying lots of money, criminals will target you.”  The police officer on the evening news was as polite as he could be.

My uncle watching the news nodded his head in agreement.  “All these women, they don’t change.  Why are they wearing jewelry to temple?  Why can’t they go without it?” he asked in disbelief.  There has been a string of gold robberies in Toronto and its suburbs, involving thieves snatching gold chains from aunties going to temple or taking their dogs for a walk. But the aunties have been fighting back. They have been wearing fake jewelry and voluntarily giving these pieces to thieves on demand and having a good laugh about it afterwards.

It is still ironic that my uncle chose to criticize women wearing jewelry to temples though.  He has two bulging gold rings on his fingers.  I often see him wearing a thick gold chain and gardening in his backyard without any shirt on.  He lost the same chain the last time he went to the gym.  “Bloody buggers…someone broke into my locker and took away my chain,” he recounted.

What is it about Tamil people and their attraction to gold?  Is it not just another precious metal that sits idle at home or in bank lockers most of the time? I was determined to find out.

My first stop was a wedding.  There is no better place to find out about gold jewelry than a Tamil wedding. There is gold everywhere, whether it is real gold or decorations in golden color. There is gold jewelry on everyone from the bride and groom, all the way to the guests and little ones running around and playing tag in the wedding hall.

“What do you think about gold?” I asked the groom. He was puzzled and then composed himself. “Don’t talk to me about gold. I just spent 6k on a thaali,” he said dryly. The bride sitting next to him grinned—not sure why, but it may be because she was wearing jewelry from head to toe.

My next stop was a gold jewelry store with a blinking ‘open’ sign. The owner carefully looked at me from inside and buzzed me into the store. My face brightened as I entered from the visual pleasure of looking at all the well-crafted jewelry on display, like a child entering a candy store. It was gold galore. There was gold jewelry in every shape and size, in every artistic form for every visible part of the human body. There was jewelry made up of pure gold and pieces embedded with diamonds and gems. Gold has been considered an alternative investment in the financial world and the gold price tends to fluctuate with inflation and panics. The gold price shot up during the last financial crisis and the owner made a killing selling the inventory. I could glean it from the Mercedes parked outside her store.

Gold

Generally, Tamils don’t consider gold a financial investment. It is seldom sold unless as a last resort in financial difficulties. We tend to hoard while the rest of the world speculates buying and selling. It acts as an alternative currency in times of war and uncertainty. I remember my grandmother clinging to her jewelry as the only possession throughout the ordeals of the war.

Tamils’ association with gold begins from day we are born. From a gift of gold chain from a rich uncle on the 31st day celebration, to the chains and rings that will come as gifts on birthdays, puberty celebrations and weddings – all of which get recycled as time passes. It is considered part of the culture and heritage, a decorative item and a family asset that gets passed down, across generations and through children. Owning gold is considered a sign of wealth and wearing it, a show of affluence.

The gold price has fallen in recent months and along with it the robberies. The uncles and aunties are at peace with themselves. But in spite of the spikes in robberies, the love for gold has not gone down.

Images courtesy of International Business TimesEbay.in and Pinterest.com.

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Author

Ron

Ron

Living in a truly international city called Toronto. My interests are mostly economics, investment, the world and its people. In my spare time, I read, think, travel and workout.

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16 thoughts on “Why Do Tamil People Love Gold As Much As They Do?

  1. Waste of time all this article said was tamil people wear gold because it is a sign of wealth. Some more insight please.

  2. gold is inherited through daughters mainly in tamil families – from mother to daughter. there is symbolic connection between your family, your jewelry, and land, which travels with the women through dowry. However, with war and immigration, it is often liquidated as cash but people still hold onto gold.

  3. I am not an expert on gold.  This is what I gathered from whatever I read:
    -Romans introduced gold to the Tamils in 300 – 500 BC.  Romans came to Tamil Nadu/Kerala/Sri Lanka to buy spices and gems in exchange for gold and gold coins.  There is reference to gold in Tamil epics like Cilapathikaram and manimekalai
    -Gold was used to decorate Hindu gods, especially the female gods, giving it a divine characteristic.  This should have made the commoners to want to possess it.  I remember my grandmother used to store all her jewelry in the room dedicated to the gods (we used to call it padath arai – meaning room dedicated to the gods.
    -The regions that Tamils hail from don’t have a well-developed and regulated capital market (at least till now).  Probably any excess income could have been used to buy an ‘appreciating’ asset like gold and land.  Land was limited, so gold provided an alternative.
    -Yes.  Gems and metals were thought to have medicinal properties, one more reason to own and wear them
    -Yes.  It is passed down through generation through daughters in the form of dowry.

  4. Hindu temples are built according ancient scriptures that align the temple with directions facing specific planetary degrees and magnetic lines. Under each permanent statues there is in scripted copper plates which attracts the magnetic field. Long story short, when we circulate the shrine the metal on our body is supposed attract with the positive magnetic field under the deity. According to customs men are supposed to remove their shirts when they enter the temple. main reason is to get the positive magnetic field to their body. Women cannot remove their tops, hence the jewelry. Some people get carried away with excessive amounts and fancy jewelry. The five senses are being used to attract your attention to the deity.
    Incense sticks – Smell, Ringing the bell/Mantra chanting  – Hearing, Holy herbal  water – Taste, Deity – Sight, The lamp that the priest brings out – Touch
    The holy herbal water is kept in a silver or panchloka (5 metals) vessel and is kept by the side of the deity to attract the magnetic field. Even though you dont get a large quantity to drink , everyday worship is suggested to recharge your body.

  5. “They have been wearing fake jewelry and voluntarily giving these pieces to thieves on demand and having a good laugh about it afterwards.” tamil aunties for the win

  6. I feel like the author should have done more research to make sure all his facts are true. For example, gold jewelleries are never made from pure gold. Usually have some copper mixed in so that they don’t break easily.

  7. Really great premise for an article. However I do wish that it was fleshed out a bit more. The main question was never truly addressed.

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