about 10 months ago
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This is a Diwali like never before. And hope this is the last of this kind that we all see.

There is a sense of festivity in the heart and maybe to some extent, outside too but that usual zest, the high octave energy of human positivity is subdued. We all are celebrating but not with gay abandon but with a sense of trepidation.

So much has changed this Diwali. There are people thronging the shopping areas but most sane people are shopping online, there is no rush to buy fire crackers. Gift hampers have become weird – we now have “combos” of hand sanitisers, masks and gloves. Tailors are stitching “matching” masks and clothes. And for most of us, all this dressing up will be for again staying at home. Meeting close friends and family will be over Zoom. No hugs, no warm handshakes. We all are trying to be as human as possible without the human touch.

Every year, the festival is big for companies as all hope to make bumper gains during this season of frenzied buying. That hasn’t changed this year too. There is a lot of hope riding on this season; companies are hoping that the wavering and tethering demand finally takes off and people get into a mood of buying and loosening their purse strings. Bikes, cars, jewellery, apparels, white goods, electronics, mobiles, FMCGs, everyone is hoping that this will be their big season.

The Muhurat trading is not what it used to be earlier on Dalal Street. The women and children came dressed in their best clothes, bejeweled and dazzling. There were boxes of sweets going all around the street. Brokers’ offices used to be dressed up too – marigold flowers and intricate rangolis, diyas’ and torans’. There used to be an air of festivity and excitement, almost a feeling of bonhomie between the entire broking and trading community. Even the “Bhat” chaiwallahs with their chais and ukala’s used to go around serving with a smile on their face and a spring to their feet; doling out cups after cups in their own set of new clothes. The entire span of the Muhurat Trading was marked with the bursting of crackers and cheers all round. This time around, it would be pretty weird to see a handful of people wearing masks and that little hustle bustle of the Street will also be missing.

Today, most ask us, “what is Muhurat trading?” Indeed, it now remains a shadow of what used to be. It has become just a ritual to be followed. In this era of online trading and FIIs, Muhurat or Samvat trading is symbolic, like many other things, a relic of the past.

Muhurat Trading is essentially a Marwari and Gujarati tradition – it marks the beginning of a new financial year for the community. A coin which symbolizes wealth is placed on the account books before the puja, after which the Lakshmi Puja is done, followed by the Muhurat Trading. The belief is that Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi resides in homes where a puja is conducted, which also explains why lights are kept burning throughout the night. The Muhurat Trading is considered to be an auspicious occasion, buying some token shares to mark the beginning of the new year. And because it is “token” we typically see very low volumes and a market which just about closes in the green.

A few interesting tidbits about the Muhurat Trading:

  • It started on BSE in 1957 and on NSE in 1992
  • Looking at archives from 2001, the Sensex usually ended with gains as people prefer to buy and not sell; gains are small ranging from 0.2 to less than 1.5%.
  • Volumes are very low – less than 10% of daily trading volume.
  • Retail investors are the most active in this session with FIIs, Mutual Funds never or rarely participating.
  • Muhurat session of 2011 was marked by a flash crash on the BSE after which all trades in Sensex futures of that session had to be annulled.

Corona, markets, elections, interest rates, Fed, GDP, everything will remain; best to focus on the festival of lights, collecting a treasure trove of memories with loved ones. Diwali is indeed the time to eat, pray and love!

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