The cracker ban has taken everyone by surprise. And this has led to scores of stories being circulated on the social media. Some talk about how only Hindus are being targeted, some say about how crackers were always bad and should have been banned before itself, some talk about how it is our culture to burst crackers and some prove how it is not, some blame BJP and some AAP, and so on and so forth. In this ruckus, some very important arguments about Sanatan Dharma and Hindus are being raised. Let’s take a look at these points:
CRACKERS WERE NOT PART OF BHARAT IN THE PAST: One very important topic discussed is that Diwali or Deepavali as it is also known as, is the Festival of Lights. So, according to many, if it was about welcoming Sri Rama back to Ayodhya, then it was only done with diyas and not crackers. In fact, Indians did not use explosive/combustive materials at all, is the common misconception. Fireworks comprises of three main pyrotechnic compositions – The first is Potassium Nitrate also called Saltpetre which our ancients knew as “Agnichurna” in Sanskrit. In Ayurveda it is called “Suvarnalavana” akin to Rock Salt, used for preparing medicine for indigestion. Then there is Sulphur which is called “Gandhaka” in Sanskrit. It is a yellow powder which when ignited gives out fumes and smoke. The third component is charcoal which is “Angharaka” in Sanskrit and we all have used charcoal at some stage. It is believed that the fireworks mixture has it origin in our country and this knowledge spread to east gradually. Gunpowder was first used by the Chinese. Firecrackers had different names in different regions such as Pataka, Vedi, Ateeshbazi, etc. So, in short, our ancients did have the tradition of fireworks and it is very much in our culture. The celebrations at temples would not end without fireworks which is practiced even today. (*Information Courtesy – Mr. Sreeram Manoj Kumar, Bengaluru). In fact, in Kerala, fireworks display are particularly an important part of local festivals and temple culture. During the Mughal rule too, fireworks were common.
A 1633 painting shows the marriage of Mughal prince Dara Shikoh with much pomp. Fire illuminations in the background show that such displays had become common in grand events.
NOISE NOT A PART OF OUR CELEBRATIONS IN THE PAST: The fact is that we Hindus are credited with discovering the Sound which forms the vibration in the whole Universe, not just our Solar System. The word ‘OM’ is That Sound. When we burst noisy crackers, it is also our way of acknowledging this Sound & its discovery, along with the Divine Light – (Para Brahmn as Light & Sound).
HINDUS HAVE POLLUTING TRADITIONS: Nothing could be further than the truth. In fact, Sanatan culture is the only culture present in the world which worships all the elements of Nature. Let us now take a look at some of the rituals & festivals (apart from Diwali) which are now being SHAMED by the ‘intellectuals’:
• Floating of flowers & Prasad in the water during worship is now criticized. But these flowers actually integrate and decompose in the mud below. If anything, ponds & lakes need to have turtles, fishes in them, which automatically keep the water clean by consuming these very flowers and Prasad. Unfortunately, we want to eat up the fish & turtles & then want to say that the flowers are polluting the waters.
• Cremating the dead is supposed to cause air pollution & deforestation, is the latest assault on Hindus. How can anybody even claim this? Every bacteria, virus, illness infecting the dead body gets destroyed when the body is burnt. That apart, burning is the cleanest way to dispose off the dead. Off late, people have started using Logs made of CowDung to cremate their loved ones. This in fact purifies the air even more. The trunk of the tree is never used for cremation – it is the branches which are used. So how does this cause deforestation? Giving wrong information about a ritual to suit any underlying motives does not make the ritual/custom bad.
• Visarjan of Idols pollutes water bodies. In the past, the idols were made of Clay or mud. These would disintegrate in the water & would not pollute the water. The problem started when Idols were made of Plaster of Paris & other materials, which would not disintegrate quickly. What is needed is a regulation of the materials used for making the idols. Many families which bring Ganapati or Durga idols home now, during the festivals, have started to use idols made of clay or Cow Dung. These are then immersed in either water bodies or in tubs in the backyard and the water used for watering the plants.
• Holi causes water shortages and pollution of water & bodily injuries. Using of chemical colours is what has caused bodily harm. In most of Bharat, awareness has increased & instead of using chemical colours, people are now using organic, natural colours, like in the past. Also, Holi, a festival played for one day in a year, cannot be the cause of water shortages anywhere. People need to look at industries polluting & misusing water (like the meat industry / tanneries & leather industries) to understand that it is indeed not Hindu rituals & festivals which are responsible for water shortages and pollution.
• Govinda / Dahi Handi is another festival which is blamed for causing bodily injuries. The fact is that this is a source of not just enjoyment to the spectators – it is also a recreational sport which keeps the children/youngsters participating in it, very fit and agile. As the heights increased, injuries did increase marginally. But awareness brought about a change in the form of doctors in attendance & insurance for all the participants, to cover hospitalization and treatment of injuries.
As we can see, Hindus are very amenable to making changes to suit modern times, without letting go of their traditions. Respect to the environment is something that is inbuilt in all our rituals. With the passage of time, some distortions did creep in. What is needed is a social effort to oust these distortions. And Hindus have accepted these challenges, by blending in the modern with the traditional. Use of Natural colours, cow dung logs, Idols made of Cow dung/clay, all this point out to a responsible community effort. In the case of Diwali, we need to go back to our past & remake crackers which are neither as noisy, nor as colourful, nor as polluting as the crackers of today. These dangerous crackers made their appearance, about 15-20 years back & are mainly imported from China. What is needed is the awareness drive to make people understand that they should not buy such crackers. Also, inventors/entrepreneurs need to rediscover/reinvent crackers which were used in the past and which can be used today.
Putting a blanket ban on the sale of crackers, that too only till a specific date, smacks of an attempt to forcing a short-sighted, illogical judgement on the people. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if it actually spurs larger sale of crackers in surrounding areas & bursting of more noisy, smoke-filled crackers in Delhi & NCR areas. In fact it would spur people to take law in their own hands, the far-reaching effects of which would be disastrous for the Nation. The cracker ban needs an urgent review.