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Is Bursting Firecrackers Really An Integral Part Of Diwali Tradition?

Well, the answer is complicated. Diwali is ‘essentially’ a festival of lights, but for decades, Indians have associated firecrackers with it. First, let’s go back to the origin of this festival. Deepavali, literally means a row of lights, or lamps. Diwali is celebrated as it is believed that on this day Lord Ram returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and completing his 14 years of exile. To mark the joyous occasion, the citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps to signify the victory of light over darkness.

But there is not a single proof whether people of Ayodhya had burnt fireworks on the arrival of Lord Ram. However, there are strong scriptural proofs of people lighting diyas. Burning of firecrackers also finds no mention in Ramayana or other scriptures.

“There is no mention of firecrackers in the puranas at least. It is known that firecrackers were first made in China. At least till 1000 AD, we don’t find any such references in our texts. Hence, Diwali is called the festival of lights and not sounds,” author Anand Neelakantan, who has written many novels, inspired by Hindu mythology told Asian Age.

Firecrackers were first invented in China, sometime in the 7th century and later spread to other countries because of its popularity. The first evidence of gunpowder being used for fireworks display dates back to the Tang dynasty in China during 700 CE. Chinese believed that loud bursting sounds and lights would ward off and scare evil and notorious spirits away.

It is believed that the gunpowder technology was brought to India and Europe from China by the Arabs.

Over time, it assumed religious significance of symbolizing the victory of good over evil and got tagged along with Diwali too, as well as other festivals. Bursting crackers during Diwali later gained further prominence with the coming up of Sivakasi as the Fireworks Inc for India.

“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,” late historian P K Gode wrote in his account, History of Fireworks in India between 1400 and 1900, which was published in 1950.

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