How Commercialisation of Festivals by Media Impacts Youth

Manash Pratim Goswami*

Abstract

India, the land of varied cultures and traditions, can also be called the land of festivals and fairs. From East to West, North to South, wherever we go, we will surely have at least one festival or a fair every month. Be it cultural or religious, festivals provide opportunities to enjoy and get together.

According to initial figures of the 2011 census, the youth population in India is around 550 million. The phenomenal rise in the youth population has made India the youngest nation in the world.

In the age of media boom, festivals are more than cultural expressions or identity. The bigger idea of the business or media houses behind celebrating festivals is to make people spend, which has resulted in a marked makeover in celebrating festival.

To lure more footfalls of the young crowd away from traditional ambience, festivals now are celebrated around the malls, disco, pubs etc. Business houses have been trying to create festive occasions every now and then. Promotional campaigns became more youth-centric. Companies in association with media have started portraying shopping as a glamorous, status and fun oriented experience, thereby leading to the celebrations of western festivals by the youth, like Valentine’s, Friendship’s, Mother’s days etc. The popularity of the festivals and companies grew with attractive promotional and media campaigns and so did the sales of the companies.

People with good purchasing power support such festivals which have wider and broader appeal because of their commercialisation. They are called pseudo-secular people. On the contrary, people who do not support such festivals and their commercialisation criticise it as degradation of cultural and moral conduct.

Media is not only interested in engaging the youth in spreading harmony, peace, love and maintaining discipline in their lives but also in joining hands with business houses and inform their audiences on how to spend money on lavish clothes, jewellery and parties etc during festive times. This research paper is an attempt to answer few questions regarding the impact of media in the commercialisation of festivals among youth.

Introduction

Festival

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, festival is a series of performances of music, plays, films/movies, etc, usually organised in the same place once a year. It can be a series of public events connected with a particular activity, occasion or idea. It is generally organised for entertainment where participants display some of the best human feelings like joy, friendliness toward fellow humans, creativity etc. On the other hand, commercialisation can be defined as an act of making something into a business run for profit.

Commercialisation of festivals

The existence of our varied cultures and festivities amalgamates the multiplicity of religion, caste, creed and language. But today, in the age of media revolution, festivals are more than cultural expressions or identity. The larger idea of the business or media houses behind celebrating festivals is to make people spend. For instance, Raksha Bandhan, celebrated along the length and breadth of this vast country, has undergone a marked makeover due the commercialisation of festivals, mainly promoted by media.

The manufacturing and service industries have been trying to create festive occasions every now and then. The objective of commercialisation is clear-cut-to make people spend. For them, it’s more about spending money and exchanging gifts than following customs. This trend of consumerism is making traditions more assertive yet simultaneously flattening them. It is redefining the festivals as per the business needs and to be more accessible across communities, undoubtedly for profit maximisation. They are trying to present festivals as a fashion statement rather than to spread the underlying values.

Commercialisation introduced a new trend among people to celebrate festivals not connected to their religion. In fact, they celebrate festivals not only as a customary practice but also to exhibit their purchasing power.

Looking at the present trend of commercialisation, it is pretty evident that where business houses smell money they tend to commercialise it. If Mother’s Day is commercialised, so is Raksha Badhan, Bhai Duj, Holi, Diwali, Christmas and almost all other festivals. There are online and offline greeting cards for all such occasions, customised gifts are made available , malls, shops and restaurants are decorated, media gets advertisements and celebrities entertain audience with their performance.

Commercialisation of festivals is the direct result of globalisation. Globalisation brought with it a close nexus among different organisations of the world. The liberalisation of economy and globalisation of markets has given birth to a new breed of entrepreneurs and consumers.

After the summer of 1991 with the adaptation of the policies of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation by India, multinational companies landed in India and started to make lucrative offers during festive times by celebrating Dandiya Dhamal, Durga Puja and Diwali Dhamaka, Christmas Bonanza, Valentine Day, Friendship Day etc.

Festivals, media and youth

According to the ministry of youth affairs and sports, India has the largest youth population in the world and it is poised to increase further in the coming decades. It sounds a little surprising, but it is true that 70% of India’s population is of those below the age of 35 years.

The Indian media has been targeting mainly the youth. It has been changing the behaviour of the youth from the traditional way of celebration of festivals to spending money on lavish clothes, jewellery and parties. Media has been constantly promoting celebration of festivals by youth around the malls, disco, pubs etc. With the help of the widespread reach of the media, business houses have been trying to create festive occasions every now and then. Youth centric promotional and advertising campaigns are being launched. Companies have been portraying shopping as glamour, status symbol and fun oriented experience, thereby leading to the emergence of western festivals for the youth like Valentine’s, Friendship’s, Mother’s etc.

Today, media houses are not much interested in trying to engage people in introspecting about how they can improve themselves and bring harmony, peace, love, and discipline in their lives and the ones they consider ‘near and dear’. Media and entertainment industries are only adding to that glamour quotient by relaying new, enticing images of festivals. For example -Karwa Chauth, a popular festivals among the women of north India, is typified by the Karan Johar films-the moon and the channi scenes. Today, for many of the newly-wed women, Karwa Chauth is not all about observing a fast, praying for the long life, well being and prosperity of the husband but all about the new sari and the kitschy jewellery that ‘matches’ with it. Thanks to the media, the diverse regional festivals are making their presence felt in the national mainstream.

Research problem

Every festival has certain significance and impact on people celebrating it. Over the years, media has been criticised for commercialising festivals so much that youth who celebrate such festivals have started overlooking their real objective. In this paper an attempt has been made to study the impact of media in the commercialisation of festivals among youth.

Objectives

The objective of the study is to (a) find out the significance of festivals in our media-driven society (b) understand the changing trend of celebration of festivals in our society (c) the impact of commercialisation on celebration of festivals among youth.

Hypothesis

Before conducting sample study on the topic chosen some assumptions have been drawn on the basis of experiences and review of literatures. Those assumptions are (a) commercialisation has brought forth the real significance of festivals (b) media changed the way of celebration of festivals in the past few years among youth (c) media, through commercialisation, has in a way promoted the otherwise ignored festivals.

Review of literature

To understand the impact of media in commercialisation of festivals on youth some available literatures were studied. It includes the following

Name of Article: The Changing Mood
Author: Shefalee Vasudev
Publication: India today
Issue: November 4, 2002

Shefalee Vasudev highlighted the mood of a section of people in our society who are bored and fatigued with the big noise, the big expectations and the diminishing returns of big money and the stifling pollution that choke the festival of lights.

The author also mentioned that amidst the abundant festivity, the lights and the gifts, there is conscious and evident change in the way people are making efforts to quieten, simplify and individualise Diwali. Within tradition, there is conservation. Within revelry, there is sobriety. Commercialisation and mindless revelry had made Diwali a festival of deafening noise and one-upmanship, an excuse for vulgar conspicuous consumption. Gifts became bigger than the people who exchanged them, pujas became occasions to announce bank balances, women wore their husband’s material success in zardozi saris and gold jewellery. More spending, more gambling, a time to buy and sell favours. Then this festival of gold had a free fall because of pollution, noise, respiratory illnesses, a nervous competitive edge in relationships because of expensive gifts and the rigours of ritualism. Parents keen to pass on the relevance of Diwali to children found that money was doing all the talking. .

Name of Article: Straight Answers
Reporter: Jhalak Bhavsar,
Publication: TNN
Issue: Oct 13, 2004

The article is about the occurrence of noise pollution during the time of Navratri and Durga Puja. It is true that loudspeakers and huge music systems have nothing to do with devotion to god.

Citing an example of noise pollution in Ahmedabad, Jhalak Bhavsar is of the opinion that loudspeakers are not required at all during festivals times. She feels that festivals are about celebrating togetherness — their beauty lies is celebrating them in the traditional way, for each festival has its own religious significance.

Name of Article: Environmental Concerns Over Festival Figures In India
Reporter: Kimberley Mok, Montreal, Canada
Publication: Environmental News Network
Issue: 10. January 2007

“However, with the immersion of thousands of statues every year into India’s rivers and lakes during festivals such as the ones for Durga and for the elephant-headed god Ganesh, Indian environmentalists have raised concerns about the toxic content of the statues as the celebrations become increasingly commercialised.”

“The commercialisation of holy festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja has meant people want bigger and brighter idols and are no longer happy with the ones made from eco-friendly materials”.

“Traditionally, the idols were made from mud and clay and vegetable-based dyes were used to paint them but now it’s more like a competition between households and between corporate who sponsor the idols to gain publicity.”

“No one is saying that the immersion of idols should not happen – religious practices should be respected,”

“But the government should impose guidelines to craftsmen who make the idols to use eco-friendly materials and organic paints so that we give the environment as much respect as we give god.”

Commercialisation of festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja has meant that people just want to show off their purchasing power by spending huge sums of money on bigger or the biggest idols. People nowadays don’t bother much about the samgri required for puja but they always remember which colour of the dress or the sari will depict their mood correctly. This is the impact of commercialisation on our rituals and festivals.

Name of Article: Diwali: When Consumption Reigns!
Reporter: Daphne Kasriel
Publication: http://www.euromonitor.com
Issue: 20 Oct 2009

This article informs us that companies join other brands in launching new products or in announcing attractive schemes and discounts at a time when Hindu shoppers are itching to spend on their families, friends and colleagues. Brands are keen to make an impression with quality corporate gifts, taking in everything from crockery sets to winter breaks.

Name of Article: Commercialisation of Navratri Banned in Sabarkantha
Reporter: Local Correspondent
Publication: www. deshgujarat.com
Issue: 26th of September, 2008

This article deals with the ban on commercialisation of Navratri festival in Sabarkantha. To prevent commercialisation of Navratri festival, the District Collector of Sabarkantha M. Thennarson issued a notification banning distribution or selling of invitation card or entry ticket during the Navratri in the district.

Name of Article: Falguni Pathak – ‘Navratri Music Has to be More Traditional Than Bollywood’
Reporter: Anita Iyer
Publication: http://www.radioandmusic.com
Issue: 22 Sep 09

This article presents the views of a famous singer, Falguni Pathak,who is known for her songs with typically dandhiya rhythm. All of us know that dandhiya is a folk dance of Gujarat which has a beautifully designed costume of chaniya choli, but nowadays people are forgetting those traditional dresses and favouring jeans-tops and short or mini-skirts to perform dandhiya. But this is all about disrespecting the theme of festivals. Pizzas, burgers and patties have taken the place of dhoklas, chakras, theplas etc. The changing trends of society and commercialisation have changed the traditional festivals into modern ways where no one knows the real significance of it yet celebrates it for fun, masti and parties.

Methodology

The method of research chosen for this study was survey. The views of the youth, in the age group of 16-25 years, collected through questionnaires were assumed to be appropriate for this study. It was also believed that the findings from survey questionnaires can then be generalised to be applicable to the larger population that the sample represents.

  1. Universe: Youth belonging to the age group of 16-25 years, living in Delhi, with different levels of purchasing power, has been considered for the study.
  2. Sample Size: 300 people, between 16-25 years age group, living in different pockets of Delhi, have been taken as the sample size for this study. During the data collection, choice of sample has not been given much priority, as prime objective of the study was to find the impact of media in the commercialisation festivals.
  3. Unit of Research: The youth, male or female, living in different pockets of Delhi, who are media savvy and enjoy being a part of festivals that give them reasons to celebrate.
  4. Tool of Data Collection: A questionnaire consisting of 20 questions has been deemed as suitable tool for data collection. All the questions framed for the study have not been included in the analysis, but in order to achieve the objectives of the study each question has been framed in a meaningful and logical way.

Findings

Festivals in the absence of media

Option Response Percentage
Yes 132 44
No 96 32
May Be 72 24

Table-1

Fig-1

44% of the sample believes that festivals will be losing their significance in the absence of the proactive nature of media, while 24% still think that festivals will be celebrated as they were in early times. 32% of the sample is not sure about it.

Commercialisation of festivals, media and youth

76% the youth agrees that commercialisation of festivals by media is helping the youth to understand the meaning and importance of different festivals celebrated in the county, 24% disagree with it.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 228 76
No 72 24

Table-2

Fig-2

Changing trends of celebrations

Majority of the respondents (92%) agrees that the way of celebrating festivals has changed in the past few years.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 286 92
No 18 6
Not Sure 6 2

Table-3

Fig-3

Commercialisation of festivals and ways of Celebration

The respondents believe that media plays a pivotal role in the commercialisation of festivals and the way they are celebrated. 68% of the youth believes that commercialisation of festivals by media has in a way promoted the otherwise ignored festivals.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 204 68
No 96 32

Table-4

Fig-4

Impact of commercialisation of festivals on youth

The study also reveals that 82% of the total respondents accepts the fact that commercialisation of festivals by media has been creating a lot of impact on today’s youth.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 246 82
No 54 18

Table-5

Fig-5

Medium for commercialisation

More than other forms of mass media, 48% respondents held TV and 35% believe film as being responsible for adding glamour quotient to festivals.

Option Response Percentage
TV 144 48
Films 105 35
Other 51 17

Table-6

Fig-6

Changing meanings and customs

On commercialisation of festivals by media, 54% agrees that commercialisation has changed the true religious meaning and tradition of celebrating festivals; whereas 16% does not agree and 30% believes that it may have changed the customs and religious meaning of festivals.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 162 54
No 48 16
May be 90 30

Table-7

Fig-7

Commercialisation for better choice of goods

As a positive aspect, 74% believes that commercialisation of festivals gives better choice of goods to purchase, 10% does not believe so and 16% is not sure about it.

Option Response Percentage
Yes 222 74
No 30 10
May be 48 16

Table-8

Fig-8

Conclusion

From the study, it has been realised that commercialisation of festivals by media have far reaching effects across the youth living in different pockets. Although commercialisation and consumerism of festivals have come under severe criticism from time to time for misleading people about their true religious meanings and ways of celebration, it has given more reasons to people to enjoy. The inferences from the study have made it clear that the main objective of commercialisation is to create more occasions to spend more money. On the other hand, it has been promoting the otherwise ignored regional festivals.

Along with critics, the respondents also held media responsible for commercialisation of festivals. On the flip side, majority of the respondents believe that more commercialisation means better choice of goods to purchase and helping hundreds and thousands of people to be employed in different sectors.

References

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