It’s believed as per Hindi traditions that the people of Ayodhya celebrated the return of Lord Ram by lighting Diyas or earthen lamps and that’s how the day derives its name of Deepavali or Diwali.
The enthusiasm of many people to celebrate Diwali by bursting firecrackers is not dying down despite many state governments taking measures to ban firecrackers to check air pollution. Bursting firecrackers has become an integral and inseparable part of Diwali celebrations across the country.
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It’s also a big business opportunity for those involved in the manufacturing and sale of firecrackers. Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu has become the main hub for manufacturing of firecrackers. However, in recent years due to the steps taken by many states to regulate the production, storage and selling of firecrackers traders across the country have been complaining about the loss to their businesses during Diwali.
This has also sparked a debate, over the bursting or burning of crackers on Diwali, among the supporters and advocates of green ways of celebrating the festival of lights.
Diwali is celebrated to mark the return of Lord Ram after 14 years of exile and defeating the demon king Ravana. However, there is no historical evidence of when bursting firecrackers became a part of Diwali celebrations. It’s believed as per Hindi traditions that the people of Ayodhya celebrated the return of Lord Ram by lighting Diyas or earthen lamps and that’s how the day derives its name of Deepavali or Diwali.
History of fireworks
The use of fireworks to celebrate Diwali must have started after about 1400 AD after gunpowder came to be used in Indian warfare, according to late historian PK Gode as mentioned in his book “History of Fireworks in India between 1400 and 1900” published in 1950, Indian Express reported.
The invention of gunpowder by medieval Chinese alchemists, both terrified and fascinated people due to its flash and bang. Apart from its military value, gunpowder also started to be used for show and gimmick. According to one historical assumption, it was the Arabs who introduced gunpowder technology to India and Europe from China.
One of the early references to the pyrotechnical show of using gunpowder in India was made by Abdur Razzaq in 1443, the Indian Express report added. Describing the events of the Mahanavami festival, Razzaq, the then ambassador of the Timurid Sultan Shahrukh to the court of the Vijayanagar king Devaraya II, wrote that “various kinds of pyrotechny and squibs, and various other arrangements” exhibited in the kingdom during the festivities.
There are also references in historical texts of fireworks being used in weddings in Gujarat in 1518. According to late historian Satish Chandra, Ibrahim Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, spent Rs 80,000 on fireworks alone in 1609 AD.
Association with Diwali
Even though there are many people who believe that the use of crackers is deeply linked with Diwali celebrations there is not enough historical evidence to prove this.
Even after the discovery of gunpowder, fireworks were limited to the rich or royalty. During the Mughal period, fireworks became a show of prosperity and grandeur on special occasions.
It is likely that the use of firecrackers during Diwali did not start before the 18th Century when Maratha rulers organised fireworks for the general public.
It is only after India gained independence that Indian industries started manufacturing firecrackers and they became popular among the people.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)