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If not pollution, Hindu groups still have 2 good reasons to support firecracker ban on Diwali

The use of firecrackers during Diwali did not likely start before the 18th century, when Maratha rulers would organise firework displays for the general public.

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Delhi’s toxic smog has made global headlines for years — with US President Donald Trump making the most recent jibe at India’s ‘filthy’ air. Yet, year after year, some Hindu groups have been viciously protective of their ‘right’ to celebrate Diwali as per traditions — that is, by bursting polluting firecrackers.

Every year, suggestions to ban or restrict the use of firecrackers are met with accusations that it is all part of a concerted agenda to target Hindu festivals.

This year has been no different.

Recently, spokespersons of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Swadeshi Jagran Manch opposed the ban on firecrackers imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), saying that “use of crackers is deeply linked with Diwali celebration.” An environmental call is often projected as an attack on Hinduism.

But is it?

“The use of fireworks in the celebration of Diwali, which is so common in India now, must have come into existence after about 1400 AD, when gunpowder came to be used in Indian warfare.”

This oft-quoted excerpt from late historian Parshuram Krishna Gode’s The History of Fireworks in India between A.D. 1400 and 1900 — published in 1950 — shows that the festival of Diwali predates the use of firecrackers.

So, the assertion that firecrackers are an integral part of Diwali and, by extension, Hindu culture is a bit overstretched.


Also read: Chinese fireworks ban to green crackers, Rs 1 lakh penalty — What states are doing for Diwali


Someone else’s legacy

Hinduism is believed to be the oldest religion in this world, with its origins dating back to more than 4,000 years ago. Deepavali, which is interpreted as the festival of lights, dates back to at least 2,500 years ago.

That is much before the Chinese invented gunpowder in the 9th century. According to historians, it was not until the 13th century that firecrackers made their way into India through the Mongols.

According to Gode’s account, Kautukachintamani — a Sanskrit volume by reputed royal emperor-author Gajapati Prataparudradeva (1497-1539) in Odisha — had descriptions of formulas to manufacture fireworks. It is possible that Chinese formulas were modified with the use of Indian substitutes because the ingredients were not available in India.

Even a few centuries later, the use of fireworks was limited to the affluent or the royalty. They became a sign of prosperity and grandeur during the Mughal era — and noted historians say that firework displays were common during weddings, coronations and Islamic festivals such as Shab-e-Barat.

The use of firecrackers during Diwali did not likely start before the 18th century, when Maratha rulers would organise firework displays for the general public.

It was not until after Independence — when Indian industries started manufacturing firecrackers and Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu emerged as a hub — that the general population began the widespread use of firecrackers during Diwali.

Firecrackers are thus a legacy of the Chinese and the Mughals, which the Hindutva groups are usually keen on distancing themselves from.


Also read: Why Diwali firecracker ban is explosive combination of health, religion, politics, economics


Understand the risk

Being a Hindu myself, the history of firecrackers and how far back the tradition of using them on Diwali goes, hold no particular significance for me.

What is more important is that firecrackers leave a toxic mix of heavy metals, smoke and dust in the air — sometimes for days — putting everyone’s health at risk.

A study conducted by researchers in Pune last year shows that a person can be exposed to anywhere between 4,800 and 64,500 micrograms per cubic metre of PM 2.5 within a few minutes.

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s air quality guidelines recommend that over 24 hours, an average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5 exposure is considered safe.


Also read: SC cracker ban fails: Can legal diktats alter cultural habits or did police not do enough?


It’s not just firecrackers

Even so, bursting firecrackers just for a few hours should not have had population-wide consequences, but for a number of mitigating factors.

The cold air and the lack of favourable winds do not let the smoke from the crackers dissipate. Instead, it hangs around, exposing even those who did not participate in the festivities.

Along with this, north India already has high levels of pollution, owing to the smoke blowing in from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana as well as the existence of several polluting industries.

While it is true that firecrackers are not the main source of pollution, they worsen the air quality for several days — something that could altogether be avoided if we have the cooperation of the self-proclaimed guardians of Hindu culture.

Irrespective of whether the use of firecrackers on Diwali is a recent phenomenon or deep-rooted part of our tradition, the fact remains that the culture predates the modern-day evil of pollution.

If only our ancestors had pollution monitors that touched the maximum reading on Diwali nights, perhaps they too would have limited their celebrations to lighting diyas.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. @thenextdoorneighbour Islam ke against likhne ki himmat hai teri (example- loudspeakers and goat slaughtering) anti-hindudism ko jo itna support de re ho.

  2. Why there are so lame and tired arguments ? My eight year old son can do better. If you strongly believe in whatever you are writing , please put in some effort and come up with something worthwhile, not this really low quality article.

  3. not true. the use of gun powder has been way before chinese . look at todays twitter thread from true indology .
    iam ok with ban on fire crackers where the pollution is at peak (till they have a time frame and task force to mitigate the key factors that cause pollution and firecrackers is definitely THE key factor)
    just becoz all the national media is in Delhi , dont ask for ban all across the country. delhi is not India…..
    thnaks mohana for coming out of closet…. (abt ur views on Hindutva)

  4. Why don’t you people research properly before publishing such nonsense?
    Please don’t mislead people with such half baked knowledge….

  5. I support your ideas but it should be uniform….animal slaughtering is also bad on eid it should be banned as well…

  6. Why do these appeasers think they can speak for hindus but become silent when it comes to non hindus, Throw such fakes out.

  7. Atheist mind your own business, Don’t interfere in hindu cultural activities, This is just way for this group to supress hindu culture.

  8. Diwali – Spreading Air plus noise pollution.
    Ganpathi utsav – Spreading water pollution.
    Devi utsav – Spreading water pollution.
    Holi – Wasting fresh water and polluting ground water.
    Bhakri eid – poluting water and adding more green house gas.
    New year – spreading air pollution again.

    common noise pollution.
    mandir automatic ganta spreading noise pollution
    masjid 5 time spreading noise pollution
    church spreading noise pollution on sundays prayer

  9. Factually incorrect article, but sort of expected from thePrint.in journalists who sell their souls for money. Please stop preaching and peddling your fake stuff.

  10. Hearing these ludicrous attempts from the lefties, celebs and sundry to dampen the Diwali spirit, I am doubling my family’s firecracker budget this year.

    • Yesss that’s better yall don’t deserve to celebrate festivals!! Y’all don’t care about nature, do you? Stop making everything about religeons

  11. Brazenly Factually incorrect. Arthashastra written in 300 BC mentions a powder called Agnichura. Nilamata Purana written 600 AD mentions firework illumination on diwali to show path to dead ancestors. And many more of such references. So in totality, INCORRECT ARTICLE. And Shekhar Gupta wants donation with such articles?

  12. Another day another clown. Sigh….

    You are right firecrackers didn’t exist 4000 years ago, neither did electricity. Should Hindus stop using electricity too? Are other religions willing to share this burden too or its the usual drama of targetting Hindus to prove the woke credentials?

    Now lets address the great environmental problem. Again you are right, firecrackers do contribute a lot air pollution but not all of it. Shouldn’t the governments and milaards try to fix the root cause of the issue instead of selective outraging over firecrackers?

    Since everybody and their grandmother is an environmentalist on Diwali, Holi and a feminist on Raksha Bandhan and Karwa Chauth, I propose a simple solution.

    Let’s ban firecrackers on Diwali and slaughter of animals on Eid. It takes 10,000 litres of water to raise 1kg of goat meat. On an average 40 million goats are slaughtered, weighing no less than 10kgs. That makes it 400 BILLLION litres of fresh water wasted every year. 400 BILLION litres can help tens of millions of water stressed Indians.

    You know we all should make some sacrifices for the common good. Let’s make this world a better place by banning meat permanently and as well as firecrackers. Our future generations will be grateful for it.

    • Muje y smj m nahi ata .. diwali p hi ku ban.. pura sal ban kro…

      Holi p news aege tumhari.. pani waste kr diya…

      Bikau media..
      Showing only single face.. paisa do..
      News channel m or tv serials m koi fark nahi hai..

  13. If not for Hindu groups , can you pleas ask all so called secular peop5of India to stop using firecrackers? Such a shame that you being in Hindus in every possible discussion.
    Would you dare to tell Muslims to stop killing bakris on EID ?

  14. I understand and agree with you. But calling for Muslim prayers five times a day through loudspeaker falls under same category. As we known loudspeakers are modern additions. O will gladly support this proposition if writes bold enough to write about everything. I don’t fire crackers by the way.

  15. Using the same analogy, loudspeakers were not a part of inherent Islam either. There was no loudspeaker in Mecca in Mecca in the seventh century.

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