Shiva’s wrath – Divali, creative destruction and central banking

First of all, Happy Diwali to all the viewers of this blog. Hope you all had a great time and continuing to have one on a really extended set of holidays.

It has been a while since this blog last posted. What better way to start than to point a speech linking Diwali with central banking. I had pointed earlier how Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago celebrates Diwali keeping all these mythological stories as its theme. Earlier ones were on Ramayana and this year it is on Lord Shiva:

Sita Ram, good evening and a warm welcome to every one of you who graciously accepted our invitation to attend Central Bank’s 2015 Divali celebrations. This is the fourth year Central Bank has opened its Divali celebrations to the public in this noteworthy manner…and it’s truly our honour to give this valuable gift of art and culture to our country during the festive Divali season.

In 2012, when we started these more engaging Divali celebrations we began with the traditional story of Lakshmi who is easily associated with Divali, as she is the Goddess of Light and Prosperity.

In 2013, we took a different approach. We realized there were themes and lessons in the Ramayana that were very applicable to the Central Bank. So, we chose Hanuman for our Divali program. We highlighted how Central Bank, like Hanuman, is a faithful servant to the people of our country and how we diligently ensure their financial protection, no matter the size and ferocity of the Ravans (demons) we take on.

Last year, we continued our exploration of the Ramayana, staging a dance performance entitledPaanch Kahani. It is Hindi for five stories. We selected five unusual stories from the Ramayana, each with a powerful message for central banking.

The first story was about Shravan Kumar, a lesser celebrated character in the Ramayana, but incidentally the entire reason the epic Ramayana was written. His life was one of devotion to his parents and this is what led to his death and triggered the chain of events that is the Ramayana. The second story was about King Dashrath who accidentally killed Shravan Kumar but as king of Ayodhya was duty bound to keep his promise. The third and fourth stories are about Ram’s brothers, Bharat and Lakshman who personified servant leadership and loyalty, respectively. The final story was about Ram’s twin sons, Luv and Kush-representing the future.

In 2015, we have again taken a different path. Tonight, we present Lord Shiva: Creative Destruction, a dance drama by Rana and Susan Mohip. “Creative Destruction” seems to be a paradoxical term. At first blush, it does not seem to be associated with the universal message of Divali, the triumph of good over evil. Nor does it seem to be relevant to central banking and the economy.

Creative destruction is obviously as old as it can get:

However, generations of economists have associated the term “Creative Destruction” with the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who writing in the 1940s described capitalism as “the perennial gale of creative destruction”. It has become a shorthand description on how economies evolve, incessantly destroying old jobs, companies and industries, incessantly creating new ones.

….So while economists associate the concept of creative destruction with Schumpeter, the idea itself is a very old one, well before Schumpeter. Going back further in time, the process of creation and destruction plays a central role in Hinduism. Here we find one of the most complex and certainly one of the richest cosmological illustrations of the dynamics of creation and destruction.

At the heart of Hinduism are the three supreme godheads of the pantheon: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. Brahma creates the universe; Vishnu protects what comes into being; Shiva, in turn, is the destroyer of the universe, fated to destroy it as it winds down in order to bring about its regeneration. After Shiva finishes his work of destruction, Brahma, in turn, begins the creation of the universe: thus the cycle is infinite.

Shiva is responsible for change both in the form of death and destruction. What does that mean? Simply put, it means that destruction is for a purpose. It is not annihilation, but transformation.


This year the story was on birth of Loard Ganesh. What are the lessons for economcs/central banking?:

The message is when we are too egotistical; the root problem must be cut. By cutting the head of the boy who was egotistical, Shiva was cutting the root problem of the mind that thinks too highly of itself. Why replace the boy’s head with the head of an elephant? The elephant represents both Gyan Shakti and Karma Shakti. The large head of the elephant signifies wisdom, understanding and discriminating intellect. Elephants don’t walk around obstacles, neither are they stopped by obstacles. By replacing the boy’s head with the head of an elephant, Lord Shiva replaced it with something that was beneficial to the world and for the betterment of the people. Although the birth of Lord Ganesh appeared to be destructive, it was indeed creative and would benefit everyone involved.

The message associated with the birth of Lord Ganesh has relevance for us here at the Central Bank. Our power and authority to manage the financial system comes from the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We must exercise this great power without being egotistical. We must exercise our power in a fair and just manner, with knowledge of what actions are best for the overall health of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy.

Tonight, we will also see another aspect of Shiva as both the creator and the destroyer. In this capacity, he is often represented as the Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. His Tandava dance is the dance of the universe, as it endlessly moves from creation to destruction, destruction to creation.

Nice bit.

Trinidad and Tobago’s central bank can indeed connect all these dots and do it pretty proudly. The Indian one might be just ridiculing all these ideas as hypothetical, irrelevant and irrational stories. They might say that all this isn’t based on superior western thought which is what we aspire to be. Even those who brave such talks might be dubbed and called names..

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