Deepawali, an annual autumn festival of lights, falls on the darkest night of the Hindi month, Kartik, coinciding with the English calendar months, October-November. The festival has a lot to do with science and the environment. Apart from its connection to Indian spiritualism, Hindu religion, and community life, it seeks to make our houses and surroundings fit to live in, with regards to sanitation and cleanliness.
In cyclical nature, what comes after the rainy season is the good of autumn, which, however, inherits a plethora of wastes, weeds, breeding flies, insects and reptiles. All these somehow pose a threat to human inhabitation. Deepawali is designed so as to steer clear of all of them, and make our habitation disease-free and worth living.
India is a land of spiritualism, where Deepawali is celebrated with the divine concept of victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. In this light, it stands to reason that there should be no room for pyrotechnics, firecrackers and other explosives during the festivities.
Moreover, setting off firecrackers has not been a part of Indian culture, civilisation and tradition of celebrations. It is the commercialisation and globalisation of firecrackers which has made inroads into India, hitting the country’s philosophy, ethos and rituals the hardest.
Until India was invaded, the country had no knowledge of gunpowder used in fireworks, which were invented in China, where the practice was to scare and drive away evil spirits during their cultural events and festivals.
The credit or discredit goes to Babur who brought gunpowder to India. The use of black powder gave Mughals technical advantage in terms of weapons. Fireworks containing an explosive mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur with typical proportions of 75:15:10 are now used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes in the country.
Deepawali is celebrated after the eighteen days of Dussehra, a ten-day-long celebration. What follows next is Chhath, wherein the surroundings of a water body, like a pond or a river, such as the Yamuna in Delhi and the Ganga in Patna are cleaned, and a prayer is offered to the Sun God at the stroke of sun-down and sun-up.
Given the pollution levels in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR), the Supreme Court of India rightly passed an order to curb the use of firecrackers for the betterment of citizens’ lives. Moreover, untoward incidents of people burning their hands and bodies because of celebratory fireworks, and sordid reports of children getting injured are another reason for this decision.
The tradition of celebrating Hukkaloli on Deepawali Day has been very specific and natural in Mithila, a part of Bihar, where Goddess Sita was incarnated in treta, one of the four epochs. The festival of lights, not firecrackers, has been in tradition since the era of Lord Ram.