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Court: Gods Can't Trade Stocks

Lord Ganehsa: Not a trader. Indranil Mukherjee/AFP hide caption

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Indranil Mukherjee/AFP

A court in India ruled last week that Hindu deities can't act as traders in the country's stock market, the Hindustan Times reports.

"Let gods remain in the temples, let them not come out for commercial trading," the judges wrote.

The panel struck down a religious trust's request to open trading accounts in the names of five Hindu gods, including Lord Ganesha, the Hindu deity associated with successful new enterprises.

The trust's representatives pointed to historical instances of Indian rulers bestowing gifts of land on Hindu gods, the Times of India notes. But the judges didn't buy it.

"Under which provision of Hindu law are Lord Rama or Ganesha considered a person?" Justice P. B. Majmudar said in court, according to DNA India. "Bank accounts are operated by human beings, you cannot prosecute the deities if something goes wrong."

The trust, owned by a wealthy family in a city called Sangli, had successfully registered tax identity cards in the names of the five gods, but hit a road block when they tried to open a type of account used to trade stocks in India.

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Why would a family-owned trust want to open bank accounts in the names of gods in the first place?

I asked Subhadra Channa, a University of Delhi professor who studies the anthropology of religion.

In an email, she told me that she had never heard of anyone opening an account in a god's name. But in some parts of India, certain gods are treated as family members — offered gifts and consulted on family affairs.

Opening an account could be an extension of this practice, she wrote. "Or, maybe they thought that the gods would be luckier than humans in trading!"

In any case, Channa told me, she wasn't surprised by the news. Hinduism offers relatively few "definite rules of conduct," and people practice the religion in many different ways.

"Hinduism is a loosely structured putting together of multiple practices and beliefs," she wrote. "Therefore, nothing comes as a surprise to Hindus."