In part due to not properly checking ahead, I've just discovered that it's Diwali this weekend. I'm currently in India on a work trip, visiting a number of people in an office here.

Based on something someone said in passing over lunch, I get the feeling that I may be presented with a small gift in the next few days. My attempt to find out if I should get something was rebuffed with roughly "no no, you don't need to, you're from Europe and not a Hindu". However, the way it was said made me think it might be a "you don't need to, but you might want to, and we're too polite to explain what...."

For a non-Hindu who finds themselves in a country like India during Diwali, what sort of small gifts could you look at getting for colleagues / the office, assuming you didn't think to bring anything with you on the trip? (I'm in Karnataka if it matters a lot!)

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    I would really forget about it and get nothing. – Fattie Oct 26 '16 at 21:36
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    Note that Laxmi is the goddess of "helping young girls," particularly in terms of education and so on. If you want to give to Laxmi to celebrate her, what you do is donate (example) some books to (example) a local female school or orphanage - that type of thing. – Fattie Oct 26 '16 at 21:40
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    Getting good sweets are bit tricky for outsider, better go for dry-fruits boxes or chocolate boxes – Ankit Sharma Oct 27 '16 at 9:40
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    For more information on Ankit Sharma's input, see conversation in Hinduism chat. – Fiksdal Oct 27 '16 at 10:12
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    Told one of my colleagues I wanted to buy Diwali sweets for friends back home, got taken to a good shop, then bought enough of the suggested boxes for both friends at home and all of my team. Also bought a platter for the office by asking "what would you get if you wanted to celebrate a birthday or similar with the whole office". I believe it went down well.... – Gagravarr Oct 30 '16 at 9:30

You said in chat that the colleagues you want to give gifts to report to you as their senior.

I live in South-India. I asked a Hindu friend about this. He lives in Bangalore, Karnataka and is retired. His career was in the financial sector in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The business culture is very similar between those cities.

He says that it's quite appropriate for you to give gifts to your team.

He recommends you give them sweets. You can go to a confectionery shop and buy these neatly wrapped boxes of Indian sweets.

User @AnkitSharma, who lives in Bangalore has provided some details in chat. He says that many items contain milk, so hygiene and quality are important. He recommends that you go for a known store. Typically there are larger chain stores that are known for hygiene and quality. For example, Sri Krishna Sweets, Anand Sweets and Kanti sweets. As per @AnkitSharma's suggestion, you may want to be careful with smaller vendors. Also, boxes don't need to be produced locally, you can get factory-sealed branded boxes. Also, dried fruits, nuts and chocolates are also good options.

Image attribution, fair use.

One of my friend's relatives suggested books. They are quite cheap in India, and they are more lasting than sweets. It depends on whether you know what sort of books your colleagues might like, though.

He also said that owners of businesses typically give more expensive gifts to their employees (like smartphones, etc.) but that wouldn't apply to you since you're just a manager who is visiting temporarily and you're not (correct me if I'm wrong) the owner of the business either. So cheaper items seem like the way to go.

My attempt to find out if I should get something was rebuffed with roughly "no no, you don't need to, you're from Europe and not a Hindu".

While it's true that you'd probably be excused for not giving something (on the basis that you're a foreigner) it would still be quite appropirate for you to give something. In India it's very much appreciated when foreigners participate in local traditions.

However, the way it was said made me think it might be a "you don't need to, but you might want to, and we're too polite to explain what...."

Spot on. Politeness is a big thing here, and especially towards people of senior rank. This certainly sounds like they were just being very polite (as is normal here) and didn't want to risk sounding like they were trying to solicit gifts.

My advice: Get some nicely wrapped sweets, nuts, dried fruits or chocolates for your team. An individual box for each person wouldn't be a bad idea. They don't have to be expensive, 200-300 INR a piece would be alright. Where I live (town in Tamil Nadu) you can get a decent box of sweets for that price, but it might be more expensive in Bangalore. Books and similar cheap items would also be appropriate.


Diwali gift suggestions from the Society for the Confluence of Festival of India (SCFI)

No festive season is said to be complete without relishing your taste buds with delicious gulab jamun, soan papdi, rasgulla, barfi. The perfect treat for all gourmets, you can present sweets in case you are not able to decide on anything else.

Dry Fruits
People love to receive Dry Fruits on Diwali. The advantage with Dry Fruits is that they can be stored for long periods of time besides you don’t have to bother about the specific taste of the person as in the case of sweets. Dry Fruits are relished with joy in the winter season that is approaching at the time of Diwali.

Diwali Gift Hampers
Amazingly crafted attractive Diwali gift hamper is the bright choice for enjoying the blissful celebration. You can make your own or can go for ready made hampers, which consist of chocolates, Lord Ganesha statue, diya, dry fruits etc.

Silver Gifts
Silver Gifts are the traditional gifts for the occasion of Diwali. These are available in huge variety and trendiest of designs at the time of Diwali Festival. Lakshmi - Ganesh Silver coins besides crockery items and small silver showpieces are quite popular as Diwali Gifts.

Decorative Pieces
Home decoration pieces are something which people might not buy for themselves but love to receive as gifts. Diwali is the time to make new beginnings, so spruce up the place of your closed ones with resplendent charisma of wall hangings, wooden sculptures, metal lantern etc.

Diamond Gifts
Bejewel the moments of Diwali festival with the ravishing, elegant diamond gifts, melange of aesthetic beauty and style. Diamond studded pendant, necklace, ring, are intricately designed to glitter the festive occasion.

Diwali Laxmi Ganesh Gifts
Present beautifully crafted Laxmi Ganesh gifts and let the almighty powers bestow their love and affection on all your closed ones. Vividly crafted Laxmi Ganesh brass mandir with white metal sculptures are here to make the divine presence.

Other Popular Diwali Gifts
Household gifts like gadgets, chinaware along with the apparels, paintings, crackers, candles, books also enjoy great utility value. As the festival connotes with the enrich traditional values various pooja items like pooja thali, diyas, gold gifts, office stationary are also gaining immense popularity.

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    I think in this setting, fruits, sweets, token silver (just small coins) and the smaller of gifts in the last section. Not the bigger gifts, those are more for when you are in a longer relationship. – Willeke Oct 26 '16 at 20:00
  • @Willeke totally agree and thought it might be useful for OP to see the whole article, and not run out and buy diamonds :-) – Giorgio Oct 26 '16 at 20:28
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    Purely FWIW, one man's opinion, I would totally disagree with this list. If anything just very simply buy a bag or tray (for like 200 Rs) of sweets ("Begali sweets" or whatever) and leave them on a desk. – Fattie Oct 26 '16 at 21:38
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    @Willeke nah, getting Diamonds for your colleagues/employees is a totally reasonable thing to do – CMaster Oct 27 '16 at 8:39
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    @CMaster In India, the owners of a businesses may actually give expensive gifts to their employees for Diwali. I think the value of the gifts would probably be proportional to the salary and prestige of the job. For example, an unskilled worker in a shop may get a saree worth INR 600. The head of a department at a successful software company may get a much more expensive item. I don't think jewelry is unheard of, although I'd have to check. Expensive consumer electronics are quite common, that I do know. Of course, OP doesn't own the company AFAIK, so he should obviously get something cheap. – Fiksdal Oct 27 '16 at 13:03

Best Diwali gift ideas for employees:

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1 First and most appropriate gift for the festive season is a dry fruits gift box for Diwali. So you can choose from wide varieties of Diwali gift packs. enter image description here

2 Say a Happy Diwali with a greeting card and some diyas or floor rangolis.

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3 It can be some crockery or lamps or lanterns.

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4 Traditional Indian sweets could also be an ideal choice

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    Why is this written like the "advice" page on some kind of shop website? – CMaster Oct 27 '16 at 8:38
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    While the other suggestions are good, I would not recommend suggesting puja acessories or ritual items, or indeed any serious religious items, as a token-gift - no matter how the holiday is themed. They may not offend the recipient, per se, especially if the giver is willing to take advice, but suggesting a non-follower purchase actual religious items is uncomfortable, especially if the giver has their own religion (most have non-compete clauses), and treating serious religious or ritual items like holiday trinkets is also uncomfortable, especially if the receiver is devout. – Megha Oct 27 '16 at 9:42
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    @Megha I edited mt answer and followed your suggeation :) – Ali Awan Oct 27 '16 at 11:18
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    @AliAwan - So I see. It is a good answer, other than that :) – Megha Oct 28 '16 at 1:43

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