Diwali

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The religious aspect

See graphic

Ritual of renewal , India Today , Nov.7,2016

Inner cleansing and light

The Times of India, November 11, 2015

B K Brijmohan 

Diwali celebrates inner cleansing and light

Diwali, which falls on the darkest new moon night of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar, celebrates light and knowledge that comes from inner cleansing. The festival is celebrated by people of various faiths, but for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, it commemorates special events that symbolise the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Before Diwali, people clean or decorate their homes and workplaces.On Diwali night, they light oil lamps or candles in their homes and offer prayers, usually invoking Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

These practices have become ritualised over time, but they have deep spiritual significance, related to the renewal and rejuvenation of the human soul in its journey through time.

The cleaning done prior to Diwali is an expression of the cleansing that the soul needs to undergo in order to hold the wealth of wisdom and virtues that God grants it. It is said that Goddess Lakshmi avoids places that are not clean, so people discard disused items lying around their homes and make sure that every corner of their dwelling is clean before Diwali.

While it may be possible to hoard material wealth in a grimy home, the real wealth of the soul, which is spiritual awareness, purity and contentment, cannot be sustained in an impure mind.

A person whose mind is fouled by vices will have no inclination to seek wisdom or cultivate the finer qualities that divinise humans. Even if such a person is given spiritual knowledge, he will not retain it for long, and will shed it just as soiled cloth repels water instead of absorbing it. The cleaner the mind, the more one is attracted to all that is good and noble, and it is such a mind that seeks enlightenment. The multifarious lights that illumine homes during Diwali are a symbol of the human yearning for the light of true knowledge.

Just as darkness inspires fear and causes sorrow in the form of mishaps, ignorance of one's true identity leads to all human suffering, as bodyconsciousness gives rise to vices such as lust, anger, attachment and ego, which corrupt our thoughts and actions.

There is something beyond the physical body and mind, which is pure and eternal, called the soul. The celebration of Diwali refers to the light of this higher knowledge, dispelling the darkness of ignorance which masks one's true identity as an immortal, immanent being.

Happiness is the fruit of tions, which in turn flow from good actions, which in turn flow from pure thoughts and feelings. Noble thinking will come naturally to us only if we have cleansed the mind and culti vated virtues such as love, kindness, purity and truth which enrich human life and bring joy to relationships.

The deities worshipped during Diwali are symbolic representations of virtues.Goddess Lakshmi, the deity most commonly associated with the festival, is shown seated on a lotus flower, holding a lotus blossom each in two of her four arms, while one palm is raised in blessing and another showers gold coins. The lotus is a symbol of purity , as the flower remains untouched by the mud in which it blooms. The blessings and gold signify generosity and abundance.

Such are the qualities we need to invoke during Diwali in order to enrich our lives, as without them no amount of material wealth can bring us happiness.

A Realisation of The Inner Light

Yogiraj Mangeshda, Celebrate Realisation Of The Inner Light, October 19, 2017: The Times of India


'We bow down to thee, O energy of ` the lamp, the light emanating the Supreme Brahmn, representing Vishnu. May this energy remove all sins as we offer our salutations to this supreme light.' The Sanskrit word Deepavali means `row of lights'. It symbolises victory of good over evil and celebrates light and life at both spiritual and personal levels. Deepavali is a time to turn inward and light lamps of knowledge and truth in our hearts and minds to dispel forces of darkness and ignorance within us, allowing our innate brilliance and goodness to shine forth.

Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, is the principle deity associated with this festival.People pray to her for assistance in cultivating and accumulating spiritual wealth, such as compassion, forgiveness, and loving kindness. Deepavali is also the time to reflect on and evaluate our thoughts, words and actions over the past year.It's a time to acknowledge one's prejudices, negative behaviours, and bad habits to begin the process of transformation wit hin. It is a time to discover how w more loving, kind, respectful and skilful towards us and others.And since all wealth, material or spiritual, should be shared with others who are less fortunate, Deepavali is also a time to reflect on ways to assist others. Where numerous lamps are lit with a candle or lamp, Deepavali is a symbol of the divine. The supreme light is One and other lamps are Jivan Jyothis. One of the most significant festivals in Hinduism, Deepavali is celebrated across the world. The festival is not just about outer illumination; it promotes awareness of the inner light that is the core of every human being. People spend a lot of time and energy cleaning their homes. I consider this to be partial cleaning. What about our thought process? When was the last time we cleaned our hearts? With spiritual amnesia, we play illusionary roles and pursue illusionary goals, but get only disappointment and distress.

Cleaning and purifying your mind and heart from the inside, is the true meaning of `celebration'.

Getting up before sunrise during Brahma muhurat or Ghatika, taking the Abhanga snan, Holy bath, followed by crushing the Karit fruit under the feet, signifies the destruction of evil within us.Along with this, cleansing the heart of all grudges, bitterness and negativity is equally important. People visit temples, distribute sweets and happiness and enthusiasm prevails. This enthusiasm should continue through the year and not just on one day . While material wealth lasts for a short time, spiritual wealth may continue after birth. Darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge and unhappiness into bliss ­ this, in the real sense is the essence of the divine festival.

Celebrating realisation of this inner light, shows the seeker, the path of righteousness even at the darkest of times.The awakening to one's true Self, introduces one to immense peace, universal compassion, love and awareness with the oneness of all things ­ cosmic knowledge.

Let every one of us illumine our hearts and be the source of light and happiness, for everyone who comes in contact with us. Love unconditionally , forgive unconditionally , and be in alignment to receive the cosmic abundance of love, light and happiness. `Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu.' Let all beings experience happiness.

Diwali celebrates the light of knowledge

BK Brijmohan, November 7, 2018: The Times of India

(The writer is chief spokesperson of Brahma Kumaris Organisation)


Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated on the darkest new moon night of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar. It marks the victory of good over evil. For Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, it also commemorates historical or mythological events that symbolise the triumph of knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Rituals associated with Diwali have deep spiritual significance. Before Diwali, people clean and decorate their homes and workplaces. On Diwali night, they light lamps in their homes and offer prayers invoking Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. These practices are ritualised expressions of rejuvenation of human soul in its journey through time.

The cleaning before Diwali symbolises cleansing that the soul must undergo to be able to receive and retain the wisdom and virtues that God gives. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi does not enter homes that are not clean, and so people get rid of clutter and make sure that every corner of their dwelling is clean before Diwali.

While one can hoard money and possessions in a messy house, the true wealth of the soul, which is wisdom, cannot be retained in an impure mind.

If the mind is polluted by vices, one will have no inclination to seek wisdom or cultivate virtues that make humans divine. Even if one is given spiritual knowledge, one will not be able to retain it, just as heavily soiled clothes do not absorb water and instead repel it. And an evil mind will use even the knowledge it has to achieve wrong ends, as illustrated by the story of the demon king Ravana, who is said to have been a great scholar.

The cleaner the mind, the more one is attracted to all that is good and noble, and such a mind seeks enlightenment.

Lamps that adorn homes during Diwali symbolise the light of knowledge. Just as darkness causes fear and brings sorrow in the form of mishaps, ignorance of one’s true identity leads to suffering, as body-consciousness gives rise to vices that corrupt our thoughts and actions. Diwali does not just mark the mythical victory of Rama over Ravana; it is a celebration of the light of spiritual knowledge dispelling the darkness of ignorance which masks one’s true identity as an immortal being.

Happiness is the fruit of good actions, which in turn flow from pure thoughts and feelings. Noble thoughts will come naturally to us only if we have cleansed our mind and cultivated virtues such as love, kindness, purity and truth which, like the fragrance of flowers, enrich human life and bring joy to relationships.

Deities invoked during Diwali are physical representations of virtues. Goddess Lakshmi, popularly associated with the festival, is shown seated on a lotus, holding a lotus blossom, one each in two of her four arms, while one palm is raised in blessing and another showers gold coins. The lotus is a symbol of purity, as the flower remains untouched by the mud in which it blooms. Blessings and gold signify generosity and abundance.

These are the qualities we need to invoke during Diwali in order to enrich our lives, as without them, no amount of material wealth can bring us true wellbeing and happiness.

Significance Of Deepavali

Anandmurti Gurumaa, The Real Significance Of Deepavali, Oct 29 2016 : The Times of India


Deepavali is the festival of light. On the night of Amavasya, New Moon ­ it is believed that the darker and blacker the night, the more one appreciates the light emanating from the lamp. But this lamp can only emit light till there is oil in it, till the wick burns. Once the oil is consumed, once the wick burns out, the flame, too, gets extinguished.

Similarly , we may strive with all our might in our worldly affairs, yet in the end, it is all in vain. Till the body feels energetic, active, we pull on, for at that time it makes no difference. But when the vigour and vitality of the body begin to diminish, problems start. And once strength goes away , living with one's own body becomes a burden. The eyes are unable to see, the ears fail to hear and one feels challenged; helpless.When body and mind are both suffering, and we are in pain, we realise that whether one has 10 lakh rupees or 10 crore or 10 billion in the bank, it is of no use.

We tend to take all kinds of precautions, make all provisions possible to ensure that “I will be safe“, but in the end, all we get is disappointment. That is why , despite strength and capability in the body , if the intellect doesn't really function, there is no realisation. And when the intellect finally does realise it, it may be too late because by that time the body is incapable of doing anything. The lamp which is lit outside is indeed pleasing to the eye and it gives light ­ but to dispel the darkness of the mind, we need to light the lamp of dhyana or meditation and jnana or knowledge. And once these lamps are lit, their light can never go out, for it is sustained by the oil of vairagya or dispassion in the mind that fuels it. Without dispassion, this lamp cannot burn. And it is the fuel of dispassion from which rays of knowledge burst forth, giving rise to wisdom with the power of discrimination that enables us to distinguish between truth and untruth.

Once you learn something, you cannot forget it. And once we know something, we cannot pretend that we don't know it. That is why it is said that once darkness is dispelled, once the light shines bright, then one does not stumble or trip ever again.

Deepavali, the festival of lights, is rich in symbolism. Celebrated on the darkest of nights, it indicates that for those who light the lamp of knowledge in the darkness of life, there is luminosity, both within and without. For those who don't, the mind abides in darkness because the outer light is temporary .

Every person should strive to dispel the darkness that cloaks his mind. And it is ignorance which keeps the mind in the deepest, densest darkness, which makes us believe that we are living a good life that will always stay that way . We do not understand that just like the oil in the lamp burns away, one day the lamp of our life too will get extinguished.

Deepavali in the true sense celebrates the rooting out of darkness from the mind by lighting the lamp of dhyana and jnana.

Karnataka

By BL Sridhar, Manik Sonawane

In Karnataka Deepavali is celebrated [a day after much of India] also called as padya the first day of the Kartika month first lunar fortnight.It is believed that the king of devas Indra became vary of the increasing power of king Balendra and pleaded with Lord Vishnu who donned the Vamana Avatara and sought a space of three feet.King Balendra who was known for his donations at the time of performing Yagnas readily agreed. Immediately Vamana in one measure of his foot covered the entire sky.With the second he covered the whole earth.He then asked for his third foot space.By now king Balendra had realised that Lord Vishnu had come in the form of Vamana. However as a stoic truthful person he offered his head to rest his third foot.Vamana immediately pushed him to the patal ,but granted him a boon to respect his steadfastness.King Balendra asked Lord Vishnu to Gaurd his house for eternity. In Karnataka they celebrate Deepavali to commemorate this event by lighting lamps and worship King Balendra for his truthful nature and being blessed by Lord Vishnu.

In Karnataka they call this festival as Deepavali not Diwali.


Fourth Day Of Deepawali Is Celebrated As Padwa ( पाडवा ) OR Bali Prati Pada -- A New Year Day Of A Begining Of Chaitra Month And Indicates A Start Of A Spring Season .

Diwali greetings in different languages

❇Sanskrit:

शुभ दीपावली । सर्वे भवान्तु सुखिनः

Shubhah Deepavalihi.. Sarve bhavantu sukhinah


✴Telugu:

Andariki Deepawali shubakankshalu


✳Tamil:

Anaivarukum iniya Dheebavali nal valhthukkal.

Deepavali naal vazhthagal.

எல்லோருக்கும் இனிய தீபாவளி நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்!


✴Malayalam:

Ellavarkkum santhoshavum ahlathavum niranja Deepavali ashamsakal

എല്ലാവര്‍ക്കും സന്തോഷവും ആഹ്ലാതവും നിറഞ്ഞ ദീപാവലി ആശംസകള്‍.


❇Tulu:

Nikulu Materegla deepavali parbada shubhashya!


✴Kodava:

Ninga eelariku santosha Deepavali.


❇Kannada:

DeepavaLi habbada hardika shubhashayagaLu.

ದೀಪಾವಳಿ ಹಬ್ನದ ಹಾರ್ದಿಕ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು

ಮೋಜಿನದೀಪಾವಳಿ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಹಾರ್ಧಿಕ ಶುಭಾಶಯಗಳು


✴Konkani:

तुन्का सग्गाठंकयी दीपावली ची हार्दिक शुभेच्छा ।

antu asile pura lokaku amgel kadechan Deepavali parbeche shubhashay.


✳Marathi:

तुम्हा सर्वाना सुखी अणि आनंददायी अश्या दिवाळीच्या हार्दिक शुभेच्छा

Tumha sarvana, sukhi ani aanandmayi asha ya Diwlicha hardik shubbhecha.


❇Gujarati:

Diwali ni hardik shubechao ne nutan varshabhinandan.


Diwali na divas par tamne ane tamara sahu pariwar jan ne diwali ni subhecha pathvu chu.


✴Kathiyawadi:

Nava varsh na raam raam/ jai shri krishna


✳Kutchi:

Aanke madi ke di Diwali ji lakh lakh vadhaiyu


✴Sindhi:

Tawankhey , tawanje gharawaran and dostan khey dil sa dyari ju wadayu.


❇Balochi:

Washen Diwali Shomara Murad Bath.


✴Malwa:

Deepawali ki Ram Ram.


✳Marwari:

Ram Ram sa Diwali ra jualda karu sa,aapne or aapre sagla pariwar ne diwali ra ramasama karu sa.

थे लोंगा ने दिवाली की हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं.


✴Saavji:

Tumne ani tumara samasta parivaar ne Deewali nu shubbheccha.


✳Rajasthani:

Aap re or aap re ghar walo ne mari tharaf su diwali ki gani gani shubha kamnaye.


✴Shekhawati:

Thane Diwalli ki bhot bhot badhaiaan mahri aur soon.


❇Hadoti:

Tanne diwalli ki bhat bhot badhai mahri aur choon.


✴Sadri:

Raaur ke shubh Deepavali.


❇Punjabi:

त्वानूं सब नूं दिवाली दी लख लख बधाइयाँ।

Twahnu Diwali diyan lakh-2 badhaiyan!!


✴Kashmiri:

Tohi chuv Diwali hunz hath hath Mubarak

Diwali’ us pet tohi saarni mubarak. Lassun te Pahlun.


✳Hindi:

आप सभी को खुशियों और उल्लास से भरी दिवाली की शुभ-कामनाएं !

Aap Sab ko prasannata evam anand se paripoorn Diwali ki shubhkaamnaayein!


✴Urdu:

Deepavali ki dilli mubarakhbaad app sab khavateen o hazrat ko.


✳Bhojpuri:

Raurake Diwali ke badhayi ho.


✴Nepali:

शुभ दिपावली को पावन अवसरमा हार्दिक मंगलमय शुभकामना


❇Maithili:

Aahan sabgote ke mithilawasi ke or sa Diwali ke hardik subhkamna.


✴Bangla:

Sakalkeyi Diwali)priti o antarik subhecha. Asha kori, ei Dibas apnar jibone Anando niye ashe


✳Asomese:

दीपावली’र हार्दिक शुभेच्छा जौनाइसु आपुना’र लौक


✴Dimasa:

Deepawali Ni Khirbkhe Aani Hamjauma Odehe Khasauma Rilahadu.


❇Odia:

Apana sabhinku subha abong anandamaya DIPAVALI ra hardhik subha kamala


✴Romanian:

Deepawali fericite.


✳Spanish:

Deseamos feliz Deepavali.


✴Arabic:

ديوالي سعيد جداً

diwali Ya saeed jidan


❇French :

Vous souhaite un joyeux Deepavali


✴German:

Herzlichen Glueckwunsch zum Diwali

The five days of Diwali

Romesh Mengi , Deepawali "Daily Excelsior" 15/10/2017

Deepawali which has its origin from Sanskrit, meaning “line of lights” and is a festival of the triumph of good over evil. Over the years the name has been pronounced as Diwali, especially in Hindi, whereas it still remains Deepawali in Nepali.

The Origin of Diwali

According to the epic Ramayana, Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama from his 14-year exile after rescuing Sita and killing the demon Ravana. The people of Ayodhya illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fireworks to celebrate the return of their king.

In rural areas of India, Diwali, which occurs at the end of a growing season, is a harvest festival. Harvests normally brought prosperity. After reaping their harvest, farmers celebrated with joy and gave thanks to God and the demigods for granting them a good crop.

At the time of the reign of Emperor Prithu, he ordered that all cultivatable lands be ploughed. When the rains came, the land became very fertile and grains were planted. The harvest provided food not only to feed all of India, but for all civilization at the time. This harvest was close to Diwali time and was a good reason to celebrate Diwali with great joy and merriment by a wider community.

In the Adi Parva of the Mahabarata, the Pandavas also returned from their exile in the forest during Diwali time, giving people another reason for celebration.

Thus, there is a tradition of lighting oil lamps that symbolize the victory of good over evil and freedom from spiritual darkness.

Hindus, also make preparations to welcome goddess Lakshmi by drawing Rangoli, and Paduka (footsteps) on the entrance that would allure goddess Laxmi to visit one’s home and bring prosperity along with her on the occasion of diwali.

The Five Days of DiwaliThe first day of Diwali is called Dhan Teras (Dhanvantari Triodas), and it marks the official beginning of the Diwali festivities. This day has great significance in many parts of India; people consider this as a very auspicious day and Muhurat. The thirteenth lunar day of the Krishna Paksh (as per the Hindu Calendar), the dark fortnight of the month of Karthik, Dhan Teras is a special day. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari is believed to have come out of the ocean with Ayurveda, the science of medicine, for the benefit of mankind. A huge amount of buying, specifically gold, silver and precious stones, ornaments, new clothes and utensils done on this day. In the evening, children light crackers, and people also light some earthen lamps outside their home. In some parts of India, like Gujarat, this day is religiously held even more important than the actual Deepawali day, and people hold Lakshmi, Kuber (the Hindu God of riches) and Ganesha Pooja on this day.

The second day of Diwali week is called the Kali Chaudas or Narak Chaturdasi. In some parts of India, it is simply the Choti Diwali, the day before Diwali. On this day Lord Krishna is known to have destroyed the demon Narakasur, freeing the world from fear. On this day, it is believed that one should massage the body with oil to relieve it of tiredness, bathe and rest, so that Diwali can be celebarated with vigour and devotion. It is also believed that one should not light diyas or step out on this day, and rather stay at home and relax. However, in modern times, on Choti Deepwali, people go to each other’s homes to wish ‘a Happy and Prosperous Diwali’ and also exchange gifts and sweets. The third day of these festivities is the actual Diwali/ Deepawali, when Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped, along with Lord Ganesha. People light diyas and candles in their homes, and the streets all across India light up with millions of sparklers, crackers and fairy lights. After worshipping MahaLakshmi in the evening with their families, people visit temples and gurudwaras . They also exchange sweets as prasaad.

The fourth day is celebrated in various forms all across India. In Northern states of India, this day is widely celebrated as Govardhan Pooja and Vishwakarma Day, when people worship their instruments, arms and machinery. Most of the business establishments, thus, remain closed on this day.

The fifth day of Diwali festivities is celebrated as the Bhai Dooj or Bhai Beej or Bhai Teeka/ Tilak . Brothers visit their sisters on this day, and the sisters celebrate and prepare sweets specially in honour of their brothers, wishing a long, happy, healthy life and great success for them.

From Darkness Unto Light…

In each legend, myth and story of Deepawali lies the significance of the victory of good over evil; and it is with each Deepawali and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope.

From darkness unto light – the light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds, that which brings us closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India and the scent of incense sticks hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope.

The lamp which is lit outside is indeed pleasing to the eye and it gives light — but to dispel the darkness of the mind, we need to light the lamp of dhyana or meditation and jnana or knowledge. And once these lamps are lit, their light can never go out, for it is sustained by the oil of vairagya or dispassion in the mind that fuels it. Without dispassion, this lamp cannot burn. And it is the fuel of dispassion from which rays of knowledge burst forth, giving rise to wisdom with the power of discrimination that enables us to distinguish between truth and untruth.

Once you learn something, you cannot forget it. And once we know something, we cannot pretend that we don’t know it. That is why it is said that once darkness is dispelled, once the light shines bright, then one does not stumble or trip ever again.

Deepawali, the festival of lights, is rich in symbolism. Celebrated on the darkest of nights, it indicates that for those who light the lamp of knowledge in the darkness of life, there is luminosity, both within and without. For those who don’t, the mind abides in darkness because the outer light is temporary.

Every person should strive to dispel the darkness that cloaks his mind. And it is ignorance which keeps the mind in the deepest, densest darkness, which makes us believe that we are living a good life that will always stay that way. We do not understand that just like the oil in the lamp burns away, one day the lamp of our life too will get extinguished.

Celebrations, festivities, lights, crackers

Air pollution

2016: Chinese crackers under fire; Sivakasi’s share

Why Chinese crackers have come under fire; Sivakasi’s share; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, November 6, 2015

See the graphic on this page

Why Chinese crackers have come under fire; Sivakasi’s share

and graphics on

Air pollution: Delhi


Air pollution: India

The extent of pollution in Delhi/ 2016

See graphic:

Six metals, elements found in Delhi's air during Diwali 2016

The extent of pollution in the metros/ 2017

The extent of Diwali pollution in the metros/ 2017
From: October 24, 2018: The Times of India

See graphic:

The extent of Diwali pollution in the metros/ 2017

2017: Ban gives Delhi its cleanest Diwali air in 3 years

Ritam Halder, Delhi breathed cleanest air in 3 years last Diwali, October 24, 2018: The Times of India


EXPERTS FEAR AIR WILL WORSEN DUE TO PHULJHARIS AND ANARS THIS YEAR

On Diwali in 2017, Delhiites breathed the cleanest air in three years, and the ban on sale of firecrackers had a definite role to play.

Data by SAFAR and Central Pollution Control Board shows the city on Diwali 2017 had an air quality index (AQI) of 319, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category. During this air quality, people are asked to avoid all outdoor physical activities and stay indoors as much as possible. However, in 2016 AQI on Diwali was 431 and 343 in 2015. In 2017 the morning after Diwali, the AQI was 340, but later worsened to 403. In 2016, the AQI in the same period was 445, while in 2015 it was 360.

Supreme Court on October 9, 2017 had banned sale of firecrackers in the NCR till October 31. However, there was no such order against buying and bursting. However, even though firecrackers were burst in most parts of the city, the volume was much less due to lack of easy availability. While some people claimed to have travelled out of the city to buy their stock, others said they had used last year’s leftovers.

An analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that despite the cracker ban, air pollution levels breached the emergency standards on Diwali night. “But it is also clear that without the ban, the levels would have been far worse. Calm wind and more moisture in the air in the morning post-Diwali worsened the pollution buildup,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), CSE.

A forecast by SAFAR days before Diwali had stated that the air quality would be directly proportional to firecrackers burst and vehicular emissions. The report said prevalent weather conditions would not allow polluted air from neighbouring states to reach Delhi until at least October 21.

The forecast had taken three scenarios into account. If the city burst the same amount of firecrackers as 2016, the pollution level would be higher than 2014 and 2015, but less than 2016. If the number of crackers saw a 50% reduction, the pollution would be less than 2014, but greater than 2015. If no firecrackers were burst, Delhi would see the cleanest Diwali since 2013.

However, right after Diwali, the NCR went through an unprecedented pollution crisis when the air became unfit to breathe for a week staying in the “severe” category between November 7 and 14. The worst was on November 9, when the AQI hit

486. Dust from the Gulf region was later identified as the main reason for the smog, contributing slightly more than stubble burning.

In 2016, Diwali had triggered the worst smog in 17 years forcing Delhi government to shut down schools and construction sites. It was the city’s worst Diwali in three years in terms of air quality as a deadly cocktail of harmful pollutants and gases engulfed the city in thick smog. SAFAR had said that the air quality was not only severe, but had plunged to its worst in three years mainly due to low wind movement and falling boundary layer that traps pollutants close to the surface.

2018: Little change in pollution despite SC push

Little change in pollution despite SC push, 310 arrests for bursting crackers, November 9, 2018: The Times of India

Few Takers For Designated Places For Fireworks

Most Flout 8-10pm Time Restriction

Tradition trumped law and concern over air pollution as a large number of Delhiites openly defied the Supreme Court’s guidelines and celebrated Diwali on Wednesday by bursting traditional firecrackers despite a major crackdown.

While reports suggested fewer crackers were burst this year than in 2017, air quality the day after Diwali was almost as bad. The average AQI recorded on Thursday was 390, at “very poor” level bordering on “severe” and just 13 notches below last year’s post-Diwali level (403). CPCB said early morning pollution the day after Diwali this year was higher than last year’s level.

In a first for the capital, police registered 634 cases and arrested 310 people for bursting crackers. The crackdown, however, failed to deter people. Some 2,776kg of banned crackers were seized on Diwali while being clandestinely sold or supplied in some areas.

However, this was just a tenth of the crackers burst across the city on the festive night, according to estimates. Most violators were caught bursting crackers in gated colonies or outside their houses on the basis of complaints by residents. Most of the complaints were received from west and southwest Delhi, while the maximum number of cases were registered in outer Delhi.


Share of farm fires in bad air pegged at 10%

Sharp Dip In Temperatures, Lower Wind Speed Contributed To Diwali Nightmare

Delhi’s air quality on Diwali day oscillated between “poor” and “very poor” as authorities warned of severe rise in pollution even if the fireworks were contained at 50% of last year’s level. On Thursday morning, most air quality monitoring stations across the city had “very poor” to “severe” air quality.

Last year, Delhi had an air quality index of 319 on Diwali day, which falls in the very poor category on Diwali. However, this was much better than 2016 when AQI on Diwali was 431 in severe levels and 343 in 2015. In the wee hours of the day after Diwali 2017, the AQI for Delhi was 340. In 2016, the AQI of the day after was 445 while in 2015 it was 360. This year, it stood at 390.

Showing vastly different AQI levels than the central pollution board, government’s pollution research body, SAFAR, said the AQI in Delhi on Thursday was “severe plus” with a reading of over 500. This was worse than last year’s post-Diwali day but better than the levels in 2016.

“Air quality index entered severe category at 2am early morning on November 8 and will remain severe until late evening of November 11. However, air quality is recovering from afternoon and likely to touch very poor range by night, provided no additional local emissions are added. The contribution of PM 2.5 in PM 10 has increased from 50% (normal) to 70% last night, indicating increased share of locally generated pyrotechnic emissions,” said SAFAR in a report on Thursday.

According to Central Pollution Control Board officials, significant drop in temperature of about 8 degree C, reduced wind speed especially during night were two important factors that might have contributed to delayed dispersion because of which higher PM concentration values are reported during night hours.

“The average mixing height on Diwali day in 2017 and 2018 was in similar range (400–600 m). The average wind speed was also similar

(1.6 m/sec) in both the years but the wind speed decreased to 0.8m/sec on Diwali night… Wind direction was from northwest which might have added pollutant load from stubble burning,” a CPCB official said.

The contribution of stubble burning in overall PM2.5 concentration during Diwali this year has been estimated as 10% by IITM.

“More active fire incidences have been reported this year on Diwali (4,203) compared to Diwali of 2017 (1,702). Particulate levels started increasing since 9pm on November 7, and remained quite high during night. The areas represented by monitoring stations at Ashok Vihar, Jahangirpur, Nehru Nagar, Okhla phase II, Rohini, Vivek Vihar and Wazirpur recorded very high particulate values during 11pm to 6am. This may be due to unfavourable conditions coupled with pollutants generated from fireworks,”

the CPCB said, adding that particulate concentrations were slightly higher this year as compared to 2017.

Jahangirpuri, arguably one of the most polluted spots in Delhi, had the highest PM10 reading at 4,499 microgram per cubic metre, according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee real-time monitoring at 11pm and was the highest across DPCC stations on Diwali night. Wazirpur, at 1am, saw PM2.5, the finer particulate matter, touching an astronomically high 4,659 microgram per cubic metre, the highest across all DPCC stations this Diwali. The permissible limit of PM10 and PM2.5 are 100 and 60 microgram per cubic metre.

Fires, burn cases on and before Diwali

2015, Delhi: 400 cases, highest in 10 years

The Times of India, Nov 13 2015

400 cases in 36 hours, city has most fires in 10 yrs

Around 400 fires were reported from the capital in the last 36 hours, making it the highest in the past 10 years. Officials said 290 fire-related incidents occurred on Diwali. However, no deaths or major injuries were reported. The fire department deployed fire tenders at 20 vulnerable spots, including congested areas and key markets. Around 1,800 personnel out of the department's strength of 3,000 were on duty, while 175 to 180 fire engines were deployed. Officials said most cases were reported from 9pm on Diwali till the next morning. In 2015 the department attended to 220 calls while in 2014, they had responded to 75 calls .

 Highest fire alerts in capital since 2015

Sidharth Bhardwaj, Highest fire alerts in capital since 2015 despite cracker ban, November 9, 2018: The Times of India


On Diwali in 2018, the fire department received 271 emergency calls, the highest since 2015. Confirming the number, the chief fire officer of Delhi Fire Service (DFS), Atul Garg, said they had received 290 calls in 2015. The figure shows a steep rise this year compared to 204 in 2017. In 2016, the number stood at 243.

A senior DFS official said that following the Supreme Court order banning nongreen firecrackers, they had expected a quiet affair with the focus on the two-hour window from 8pm to 10pm when cracker bursting was allowed. However, the hourly break-up of the calls made on Wednesday showed that the numbers started increasing from 2pm and peaked from 8pm to midnight, when 125 incidents of fire were reported.

“The incidents were mostly reported from west, northwest and east Delhi where at least 15 calls were received,” an officer at the control room said, adding that the number was less in south and central Delhi this year.

DFS teams on bikes, formed to easily enter narrow lanes, continued patrolling till Thursday morning. DFS had cancelled all leaves for Tuesday and Wednesday and deployed more than 200 teams across the city.

Initial investigations show that in many places, garbage caught fire, probably from firecrackers. An official said DFS had received 110 such calls. Of the 271 calls, 256 were of fire incidents of various categories. “A lot of these fires started due to half-burnt crackers landing on flammable materials. In many areas, mainly shops were gutted as people tend to dispose of waste cardboard and paper on the terrace of the shops. Many buildings were damaged in such fires,” he said.

Between the midnight and 8am on Thursday, the control room received 74 emergency calls. Last year, it had received 59 calls during the same time period.

Apart from the fire calls, the quick reaction teams also attended to five animal rescue calls and saved a man from drowning.

Sivakasi

Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Town in the Sattur taluk of Tinnevelly District, Madras, situated in 9° 27' N. and 17° 48' E., 12 miles from Sattur, and midway between that town and Srivilliputtur. It is a Union, with a population (1901) of 13,021. Many of the Shanan merchants are well-to-do, their trade being chiefly in tobacco, cotton, and jaggery (coarse sugar). Sivakasi was the scene of the outbreak of the disturbances of 1899, which arose out of a dispute as to the right of the Shanans to enter the local temple. Several lives were lost in these riots, and a punitive police force of 100 men under a special Assistant Superintendent is now stationed in the town.


Firecrackers and the law

They have no religious sanctity: Delhi HC

The Times of India, Nov 07 2015

Abhinav Garg

HC says crackers as bad as explosives

 They have no religious sanctity; limit availability to make ban effective

Citing spiralling levels of pollution in the city, the Delhi high court on Thursday backed a “public outcry“ against bursting of firecrackers. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw observed crackers were no less dangerous than other explosives and their availability should be restricted. “Owing to less stringent control on use, firecrackers are available far more easily than arms and are rampantly used,“ the court observed.

It said that over the years this had resulted in incidents of fire and injury on Diwali that were only going up. Now hospitals have to gear up for the onslaught and be in a state of preparedness, especially on Diwali night, it pointed out.

“Certainly , no one can claim a right to burst firecrackers at the cost of injury to another,“ the court observed, rejecting a woman's plea for a temporary licence to sell crackers in her shop. It was hearing a challenge to Delhi Police commissioner's refusal to grant a temporary licence to one Manisha Sharma for sale of firecrackers.

The HC also pointed out that bursting of firecrackers doesn't have any religious sanctity. Instead, it adversely affects the environment and causes various ailments. “Diwali, though called a festival of lights, has religious context only in illuminating the buildings traditionally with diyas, which over a period of time got substituted with candles.There is nothing to suggest that bursting of firecrackers is related to any religious tenet,“ the court noted. “Firecrackers clearly fall under the Explosives Act 1884 and are hazardous in nature.They emanate sound and foul gases and fine particles,“ the court added.

It pointed out that the Supreme Court has restricted the number of hours during which firecrackers can be burst on Diwali but it remained more on paper because of difficulties in enforcement. “The only way of enforcement is to limit the availability of firecrackers in the city,“ Justice Endlaw said, adding, “I am of the view that it is not in public interest for this court to direct the authorities concerned to grant a temporary licence to sell firecrackers when the authorities have refused the same to the petitioner.“

The court also observed people of Delhi lived mostly in multi-storeyed buildings with no open spaces to burst firecrackers, running the risk of these crackers exploding in a neighbour's house. “Due to this, several countries have prohibited bursting of crackers within the city and earmarked open spaces, particularly waterfronts for this,“ the judge said.

“Delhi today is severely impacted environmentally , with newspapers reporting the air quality to have attained dangerous standards, severely affecting breathing of citizens, owing to burning of paddy in agricultural lands in neighbouring states. Cases of breathing ailments are on the rise and frequently becoming fatal. This was unheard of in earlier times when the practice of bursting crackers as an expression of joy may have commenced,“ Justice Endlaw said.

No fresh licence but rules out complete ban on firecrackers:SC

AmitAnand Choudhary, No fresh licences to sell crackers: SC, Nov 12 2016 : The Times of India


People in the National Capital Region may not be able to use firecrackers to celebrate festivals and marriage ceremonies as the Supreme Court on Friday said it would ask Centre not to issue fresh licences to sellers and suspend the existing licences to tackle the pollution crisis.

Ruling out the proposition to ban use of firecrackers as a measure to curb rising pollution levels, a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur, Justices A K Sikri and S A Bobde said that ban on use was not feasible as it would be difficult to implement the order.

The bench said it was mostly children who used firecrackers and it would be almost impossible for enforcement authorities to implement its order. It said ban on sale was the most feasible way to control using of crackers in the city .“How can our order to ban use of firecrackers be enforced? What could be done to a 10-year-old child if he uses firecrackers despite our order? It would be difficult to enforce our order. Our order should be enforceable,“ the bench said.

The court said cutting off the supply of firecrackers in the NCR would be an effective way to curb the practice of using firecrackers in the city. It said firecrackers were not being manufactured in the NCR so no order was required to stop them from carrying their business and its order should be confined to selling of crackers.

“Union of India can be asked to suspend the existing license granting to wholesale sellers. We would ask the government not to issue fresh license and the existing license should not be renewed. License to store firecrackers be also suspended and the sellers would be given time to dispose of their existing stock by taking them out of the NCR,“ the bench said.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions, including one filed by three petitions, including one filed by three infants, seeking court's direction to ban use of firecrackers in Diwali and other festivals. The infants two six-montholds Arjun Gopal and Aarav Bhandari and 14-month-old Zoya Rao Bhasin had last year moved the SC through their advocate fathers to seek several measures to mitigate pollution and exercise their right to clean air guaranteed under Article 21of the Constitution.

The court, which had refused to ban crackers last year, is examining the issue as the pollution level has gone up alarmingly this year. Expressing concern over pollution, the bench said that 30% children in the city were suffering from asthma and the sale of firecrackers could be banned in public interest.The court said that it was not only human beings, but animals and birds too were suffering and drastic measures needed to be taken to resolve the crisis.

2017: SC ban on crackers in Delhi/ NCR

Please see:

Crackers, firecrackers: India

SC: only ‘green’ crackers allowed, bans online sale

AmitAnand Choudhary, SC says only ‘green’ crackers this Diwali, bans online sale, October 24, 2018: The Times of India


Diwali may never be the same again. The Supreme Court permitted only “green” firecrackers with reduced noise and emission levels and fixed a two-hour period for bursting them during festivals and other celebrations to reduce air pollution.

While turning down the plea for a blanket ban on the manufacture and sale of firecrackers across the country, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan set out stringent standards for their manufacture besides putting restrictions on bursting them.

The SC also banned the online sale of firecrackers through e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart.

The SC said: “On Diwali day or on any other festivals like Gurpurab, etc, when such fireworks generally take place, it would strictly be from 8pm till 10 pm. On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, when such fireworks start around midnight, it would be from 11.55pm till 12.30am only.” The timing would apply to other occasions like weddings.

The court also banned “joined firecrackers” (series crackers or ladis) and directed police to ensure that only “green” crackers are sold in the country.

In one of the directions, the court said firecrackers which have already been manufactured but do not fulfil the conditions fixed by it will not be sold in the NCR.

CRACKER VERDICT

Stricter green measures in future if situation warrants: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down the plea that restrictions should not be imposed on bursting of firecrackers during Diwali as it is a part of the festival and would amount to violation of rights of manufacturers to carry on their trade and business. The bench said it did not find merit in such contention and hinted that more stringent measures could be imposed in future “if the situation so warrants”. The court accepted the plea of the Centre which suggested that the use of green crackers be allowed as the emission of particulate matter would be reduced by 30-35%.

“We proceed on the assumption that burning of crackers during Diwali is part of religious practice. The question is whether it should be allowed to be continued in the present form without any regulatory measures, as a part of religious practice, even if it is proving to be a serious health hazard. We feel that Article 25 (Right to Practise and Propagate Religion) is subject to Article 21 (Right to Life) and if a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not to entitled to protection under Article 25. In any case, balancing can be done here as well by allowing the practice subject to those conditions which ensure negligible effect on health,” the SC said.

Referring to a report filed by the Central Pollution Control Board, the bench said the study revealed that PM2.5 mass concentrations increased due to firecrackers and on Diwali, both PM10 and PM2.5 had increased 2 to 3.5 times in Delhi. “It can be discerned from the above that the air quality had worsened during Diwali. There were more patients with symptoms of eye, increased coughing and patients with high metal levels in urine. Even noise level had increased. These are the adverse impacts of firecrackers, though the study mentions that statistically it was not a significant increase,” the court said.

The court directed the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation to review the clinical composition of firecrackers, particularly reducing aluminium content, to make them less polluting and environmentfriendly and ordered it to report within two weeks.

“PESO will ensure that firecrackers with only permitted chemicals to be purchased/possessed/sold/used during Diwali and all other religious festivals... and other occasions like marriages. It shall test and check for the presence of banned chemicals like lithium/arsenic/ antimony/lead/ mercury,” it said and directed it to suspend the licences of manufacturers in case of violation of the SC’s guidelines.

SC: In NCR, only community bursting of crackers in designated areas

AmitAnand Choudhary, October 24, 2018: The Times of India


The Supreme Court allowed only community bursting of firecrackers at designated places in the national capital region where smoke-filled air and spike in pollution levels during Diwali have emerged as major causes of concern.

Although a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan passed a series of directions, including the manufacture of only “green” crackers across the country, it also passed an order specifically for NCR to deal with the pollution crisis. The court directed the Centre and governments of Delhi, Haryana and UP to take steps to enforce its order to allow only community bursting of firecrackers and demarcate public spaces in NCR for the same.

“The Union of India, government of NCT of Delhi and state governments of NCR would permit community (bursting of) firecrackers (for Diwali and other festivals)... For this purpose, particular area/fields would be pre-identified and pre-designated by the authorities concerned. This exercise shall be completed within a period of one week from today so that the public at large is informed about the designated places one week before Diwali,” the bench said.

The court said the crackers which had already been produced and do not fulfil the “green” conditions will not be allowed to be sold in Delhi-NCR. With just a few days left for Diwali, it is likely that manufacturers would not be able to produce the required quantity of “green” crackers to meet the demand in the national capital region.


This year’s Diwali, ‘thain thain’ wali

Taking a cue from a UP cop who mimicked the sound of gunfire while trying to apprehend miscreants, a Facebook page has invited Delhiites to celebrate Diwali by shouting “thain thain” instead of bursting crackers, report Anam Ajmal & Sidharth Bhardwaj. At least 7,000 people are “interested”. P 3

SC: SHOs will be liable for violation of firework norms

All the official respondents, and particularly police, shall ensure that fireworks take place only during the designated time and at designated places... They shall also ensure that there is no sale of banned firecrackers. In case any violation, the station house officer of the area police station concerned shall be held personally liable and this would amount to committing contempt of court,” it said.

The apex court had last year imposed a temporary ban on the sale of crackers before Diwali (which was on October 19) but the ban was lifted on November 1. The court had said that the ban of sale of firecrackers should be tested at least once in Diwali season and suspended licences given to firecracker-sellers in NCR till October 31 last year.

The apex court said its last year’s order had resulted in comparatively less pollution during Diwali as per the report of the Central Pollution Control Board.

Firecracker rules in other countries/ 2018

Firecracker rules in other countries, as in 2018
From: October 24, 2018: The Times of India

See graphic:

Firecracker rules in other countries, as in 2018

Firecrackers: health hazards

Two doctors’ reports relied upon by the SC

Court refers to 2 docs who raised red flags about health hazards, October 24, 2018: The Times of India


The Supreme Court order on firecrackers quotes at least two top doctors, who have raised red flag over the health impact of increased air pollution post-Diwali.

One of them, Dr M K Daga, did a study to assess the difference in health parameters before and after Diwali and found increased values of barium and strontium — metals used in firecrackers — in the urine samples of many people included in their survey.

Speaking to TOI, the professor, director of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), said the study was conducted last year on about 800 people from different parts of Delhi. “We conducted a door-to-door survey where people were asked about respiratory, skin, air, eye and other relevant symptoms pre-and post-Diwali. Urine samples of randomly selected subjects were also taken,” Dr Daga said, adding that though there was some increase in cough and breathlessness, these did not translate into any significant illness requiring immediate medical attention.

“Air quality did worsen during Diwali and symptoms of eye, increased coughing, relatively more hospital visits, increased noise levels and high metal levels in urine reflect the adverse impact of firecrackers bursting. However, it was not significant statistically. A longterm study would be required to assess long-term health impacts of firecracker bursting,” the MAMC study quoted in SC order states.

Another doctor, Dr Arvind Kumar from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, contended that in the aftermath of Diwali, there was an increase in the number of people coming with chest ailments and many of his operated patients returned with complaints of cough and breathlessness, without any other cause for the same. “This has forced me to carry out innumerable chest X-rays and CT scans to confirm that the complaints are due to the exposure to toxins,” the thoracic surgeon said.

Dr G C Khilnani, professor and head, department of pulmonary medicine at AIIMS, said that even though Diwali is still a fortnight away, they are already seeing many existing patients with respiratory health issues complaining about exacerbation of symptoms. “In my Monday OPD, more than 80% patients came with complaints of wheezing and coughing. I had no choice but to enhance their inhaler dosage and some of them had to be prescribed steroids,” he said.

Dr Khilnani added that the worst affected due to air pollution are usually young children and senior citizens, and those with lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart patients.

Firecrackers: history

‘Give Mughals the credit’

Manimugdha Sharma, Diwali fireworks not very old, give Mughals the credit, October 17, 2017: The Times of India


The Supreme Court ban on cracker sales in Delhi has been denounced by many . Traders are upset for obvious reasons -it implies economic losses for them.But the rightists too have criticised it for being an “antiHindu plot“. Many , in fact, claim it is like the “Mughals banning Diwali crackers“.But what does history say?

History shows the beginning of fireworks displays in India was concurrent with the rise of the so-called Islamic empires. To condense the timeline, gunpowder originated in China in the 9th century and its use in pyrotechnics began a little later. The Mongols got acquainted with gunpowder use during their attacks on China and took the technology into Central Asia, the land of the crescent in West Asia, and Korea and Japan in the Far East.

When the Mongol hordes started entering India, they brought this fiery tech with them and introduced it to the Delhi Sultanate in the mid-13th century . So, when did people in Delhi first witness fireworks?

Professor Anirudh Deshpande of Delhi University , a military historian, says fireworks were used to welcome the envoy of Mongol ruler Hulagu Khan , an event that renowned medieval historian Firishta said occurred in March 1258 in his book Tarikh-i-Firishta (also called Gulshan-i-Ibrahimi).It took place in the court of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud in Delhi, and 3,000 cartloads of fireworks (seh hazar arrada-eatishbazi) were brought for the occasion.

Lt Col (later General) John Briggs of East India Company , who had translated this book into English, was “at a loss“ to explain what Firishta meant by 'atishbazi' and thought it was the `Greek fire' used by Muhammad bin Qasim and Mahmud of Ghazni. But Professor Iqtidar Alam Khan, in his landmark work on the use of gunpowder in India, argues that this was real gunpowder fireworks. A century later, fireworks displays were being held in Delhi during the reign of Sultan Feroze Shah Tughlaq. Ta rikh-i-Firuzshahi specifically talks about evening fireworks on Shab-i-Barat. By the early 15th century , gunpowder technology had reached south India through Chinese merchant ships that carried “bombards“, according to Khan. The Zamorin and others began using it for pyrotechnics, though not as weapons of war.

“Gunpowder was present at the court of Vijaynagar in 1443-44, according to Persian ambassador Abd al-Razzaq, who describes a Mahanavami, or possibly New Year, festival complete with fireworks, music and dancing,“ points out Dr Katherine Butler Schofield who teaches at King's College, London.

The Portuguese, who came to India before the Mughals, also used fireworks. “The Jesuits used to try to impress Akbar with them,“ reiterates Schofield. “And there is a chapter on fireworks in Nujum ulUlum, the major 1570 work of Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur.“ The Mughals and their Rajput contemporaries, Schofield says, used fireworks extensively , “especially in the dark months of the year -late autumn and winter“. “The chronicles of the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb describe fireworks being used for weddings, birthday weighings (tuladan), coronations (including Aurangzeb's), and religious festivals like Shab-i-Barat. Abu'l Fazl describes Akbar creating an effigy of his enemy Hemu, filling it with fireworks, and lighting it up early in his reign when he was only 13 years old (1556),“ she said.

The Mughal attitude to Diwali could be gauged from what Fazl writes in the first volume of Ain-i-Akbari: “His Majesty (Akbar) maintains it is a religious duty and divine praise to worship fire and light; surly, ignorant men consider this forgetfulness of the Almighty and fire worship.“

So how true is the claim that Emperor Aurangzeb banned Diwali fireworks? “His supposed `farman' floating on social media is at best a modern copy or an outright fake (it's on modern paper and uses contemporary Urdu orthography),“ claims Schofield. “There is no religious reason why Aurangzeb would have banned fireworks.Holi was celebrated in Aurangzeb's war camp in the Deccan in 1693, according to the Italian traveller Gemelli Careri, so why not Diwali? There is, in fact, a painting of Aurangzeb's daughter Zebunnissa celebrating Shab-iBarat with fireworks in Delhi in the late 17th century .“

It's hard to fix a date but historians agree that Diwali as we know it today with fireworks originated during the Mughal Age. “The Mughals patronised Diwali. It became a court festival from Akbar's time. It became a festival for everyone, not just Hindus,“ asserts historian Professor Harbans Mukhia.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Nawab Vazir of Av adh and Nawab Nizam of Bengal patronised both Diwali and Durga Puja and organised spectacular fireworks displays. “Fireworks became inherent to Diwali from the late 18th century.There are Lucknow Nawabi paintings of fireworks at Diwali and European paintings of fireworks at Durga Puja in Murshidabad and Calcutta,“ Schofield informs.

Deshpande indicates that the widespread use of incendiaries at Diwali started in the post-colonial period after fireworks became affordable.“Given the poverty levels in India before 1947 and the strict state controls on gunpowder technology , the association of fireworks with Diwali on a substantial scale is clearly a postcolonial phenomenon,“ says Deshpande. “This reminds us of the 'invention of tradition' argument of Eric Hobsbawm --that traditions are often manufactured and given a vintage by the ruling classes for identifiable ideological reasons.“

Firecrackers, types of

2018: CSIR/ NEERI’s ‘green crackers’

Vishwa Mohan, What is a ‘green cracker’? This institute just made one, October 24, 2018: The Times of India


Firecrackers That Are Low-Emission And Dust-Absorbent

No firecracker can be absolutely pollution-free, but scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have arrived at formulations which may well be categorised as ‘Green Crackers’ due to their substantially reduced emission levels and their ability to absorb dust.

One of the formulations can even produce water molecules, which suppress dust and significantly reduce hazardous particulate matter.

Besides, prototypes of e-crackers (electronic crackers) are ready for adoption if people are willing to make the switch.

Developed by scientists at CSIR’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), these formulations have been sent to the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) — a statutory authority entrusted with framing rules under the Explosives Act, 1884, and the Inflammable Substances Act, 1952.

“Once PESO approves these formulations, manufacturers will go ahead with production. We can even handhold the manufacturers so that they can quickly scale it up to meet demand,” said NEERI director Rakesh Kumar.

The Supreme Court in its order insisted that only ‘Green Crackers’ and ‘improved crackers’ be used. CSIR’s Green Crackers should lead to a 30-35% reduction in particulate matter and a significant decline in hazardous nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide.

“It’s due to in-situ water generation in the crackers itself. The system produces water molecules after reaction and thus act as dust suppressant,” said NEERI scientist Sadhana Rayalu.

She told TOI that the institute also provided other formulations, including one with lower aluminum content, which may reduce emissions substantially.

It’s now up to PESO to approve these formulation quickly and pave the way for use of ‘Green Crackers’ as quickly as possible.

Though this solution for a green festival may not be available to the public ahead of the upcoming Diwali, the one notified by PESO in 2017 is likely to show results this year. PESO had then directed firecracker manufacturers not to put antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in any form whatsoever in their firecrackers.

The science and technology ministry had early this year asked another of CSIR’s institution — Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI) — to develop cost-effective e-crackers so that more and more people can use this clean alternative.

“We are ready with prototypes which can generate patterns of colours and noise within the prescribed limit. We are now waiting for its production. I hope manufacturers will come forward and opt for this technology to produce e-crackers,” said Santanu Chaudhury, CEERI director.

Diwali abroad

United Nations headquarters, 2016

United Nations headquarters, 2016

For the first time ever, UN lights up for Diwali, Nov 01 2016 : The Times of India and agencies


For the first time ever, the United Nations celebrated Diwali this year and how.

The global watchdog's headquarters in New York was lit up in bright hues for three days, from October 29 to October 31, with the message `Happy Diwali', accompanied by the image of an earthen lamp, projected on the facade.

“Light over darkness, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil -the UN lights up. Happy Diwali!“ tweeted Peter Thomson, the president of the gene ral assembly , on Monday . He also invited all the UN ambassadors to attend an event on the occasion.

“Lighting up. @UN lights up for #Diwali for 1st time (sic),“ India's ambassador to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.

This is the first time that Diwali has been celebrated at the UN. In 2014, the UN general assembly adopted a resolution that acknowledged the “significance of Diwali“.

As the festival is observed in many UN member states, the resolution called on UN bodies to avoid holding meetings on Diwali.

From this year, Diwali has been declared an optional holiday for the UN, India's permanent mission to the organisation said in a special video message. In June, the UN building was lit up in recognition of International Yoga Day , with images of yoga postures projected on the headquarters' facade.

2016: Diwali in the White House, Oval Office

Obama celebrates Diwali, lights first-ever diya in Oval Office, PTI

The Diwali diya in the Oval Office, 2016
Official White House photograph
2016: Barack and Michelle Obama celebrate Diwali, light the first-ever diya in the Oval Office
News live TV


"This year, I was honoured to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office —— a lamp that symbolises how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue," Mr. Obama said on the White House Facebook page.

US President Barack Obama has celebrated Diwali by lighting the first-ever diya in the Oval Office of the White House and hoped that his successors would continue the tradition.

Mr. Obama, who was the first president to celebrate Diwali personally at the White House in 2009, talked about this momentous occasion in a Facebook post soon after he kindled the diya in his Oval Office with some Indian-Americans working in his administration.

“I was proud to be the first President to host a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009, and Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali,” Mr. Obama said.

“This year, I was honoured to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office —— a lamp that symbolises how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue,” Mr. Obama said on the White House Facebook page, which became viral on the social media.

By late night it was liked by more than 1.5 lakh people and shared more than 33,000 times.

“On behalf of the entire Obama family, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness on this Diwali,” Mr. Obama said.

“To all who are celebrating the festival of lights across America and around the world, happy Diwali. As Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists light the diya, share in prayers, decorate their homes, and open their doors to host and feast with loved ones, we recognise that this holiday rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance,” said the U.S. President.

“It also speaks to a broader truth about our shared American experience. It’s a reminder of what’s possible when we see beyond the differences that too often divide us. It’s a reflection of the hopes and dreams that bind us together,” he said.

Mr. Obama said that it is a time to renew collective obligation to deepen those bonds, to stand in each other’s shoes and see the world through each other’s eyes, and to embrace each other as brothers and sisters —— and as fellow Americans.

2018: Diwali in the White House

Chidanand Rajghatta, November 14, 2018: The Times of India

Diwali celebrated in White House, USA, by President Donald Trump
From: Chidanand Rajghatta, November 14, 2018: The Times of India


US President Donald Trump lit a traditional Diwali lamp (“Diya”) in the White House, calling Indians a “very, very special people” and exulting about US-India relationship, ties he said “can act as a bulwark for freedom, prosperity, and peace.”

The short ten-minute event in the Roosevelt Room at the White House had familiar ad-libbed Trump asides, digressions, and playing to the gallery, but with his daughter Ivanka Trump also in attendance, it was as warm as it was unexpected, considering he had just returned from Europe amid the usual tumult in his administration, and there was no advance notification of his participation.

There was also the usual storm in the tea-cup with the conscientious objectors and critics complaining that he failed to greet Hindus on the occasion and that he referred to South East Asians when he meant South Asians.

It happened because an initial tweet from the @realDonaldTrump account after the event picked a line from the middle of his speech and recognized the festival as "a holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains" without mentioning Hindus.

But Trump began his remarks by saying “I am thrilled to be here for the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and I am honored to host this beautiful ceremony at the White House.” It took two more tweets for Trump (or his Twitter handlers) to post the opening line of his remarks which had referred to the Hindu Festival of Lights, by which time critics had a Twitter meltdown.

“We’re gathered together today to celebrate a very special holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains throughout the United States and around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family and friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New Year, a very special New Year,” Trump said later, after breaking off to briefly talk about the California wildfires, adding, “Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and Southeast Asian heritage who enrich our country in countless ways.”

“Together, we are one proud American family. Do we agree with that? Huh? I think so. Huh? I think we do. Right? (Laughter.) You better believe it,” he ad-libbed, turning around to banter with several Indian-Americans in his administration while expressing gratitude “to numerous Americans of Indian and Southeast Asian heritage who fulfill critical roles across my administration.”

South East Asia typically refers to countries east of India, south of Japan and China, and north of Australia. But this White House is not exactly famous for its precision with words or geography.

Among those Trump greeted personally on the occasion was Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Neil Chatterjee, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, Uttam Dhillon, the Acting Administrator of Drug Enforcement Agency, and Neomi Rao, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Also present on the occasion was India’s ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna, whose term as envoy ends on December 31.

Typical of the showmanship the President is known for, he announced that he was nominating Neomi Rao to be on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the seat of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was recently elevated to the Supreme Court.

“We were going to announce that tomorrow and I said, ‘You know, here we are, Neomi, we’re never going to do better than this right?’ I thought it was an appropriate place. So, we’re 24 hours early, but she’s going to be fantastic. Great person,” Trump said. He also kidded with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying “I just didn’t like one decision he made, but that’s all right. Not even a little bit. But he’s independent,” referring presumably to the issue of net neutrality.

There was also the familiar complaint about trade with India backed by a compliment.

“The United States has deep ties to the nation of India, and I am grateful for my friendship with Prime Minister Modi. We’re trying very hard to make better trade deals with India, but they’re very good traders. They’re very good negotiators, you would say, right? The best,” Trump joked, adding, “So we’re working, and it’s moving along.”

Winding up with more lavish compliments for Indians and calling them “tremendous, tremendous people,” Trump said “America is a land of faith, and we are truly fortunate to have these wonderful traditions woven into the tapestry of our national life,” a sentiment many of his critics seem to doubt given his remarks and policies against minorities and immigrants.

It wasn’t just thin-skinned Hindus who fumed about Trump’s purported passing over of greeting them during the Diwali event, even though he began by recognizing the “Hindu festival.” The U.S President was also torched on Twitter by Americans who had problems with him hosting a Diwali event in the White House after he had bailed out of World War One commemoration events in Paris and Washington DC.

“It would have been far better to have honored our fallen heros (sic) from WW I at a ceremony in France Saturday. Our warriors deserved honor and accolades at the Ceremony but you abdicated your responsibility to preside over the honors to stay in your room and SULK like spoiled BABY,” responded one critic to Trump’s Diwali post.

“I guess if you get it wrong the first time, you get someone to right (write) it for you the second! You couldn’t visit Arlington yesterday, yet you help Hindus celebrate today? There is something very wrong with this picture. You’re in it!” said another handle after Trump updated his Twitter feed to mention it is a Hindu festival. Another added: “The light always wins.... Just reminding you. Your heart and soul are as black as night.”

Meanwhile Indians continued to flame him. “Thanks Sir. Diwali is celebration of Sri Ram+Sita return to Ayodhya, symbolically banishing the Darkness/Evil. Pl don't caption it 'Festival of Lights' like its showbiz. We don't call Christmas 'Festival of Tree or Turkey'” read one snarky tweet.

There was no winning for Donald Trump’s Diwali outreach.

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