Diwali Firecrackers – Nostalgia for Indian-Americans

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Art on Firecrackers for the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali

Tarzan – Photo Credit: counterclockwise via Compfight cc

Diwali  Firecracker Art

Anyone who has experienced Diwali in India will remember the mounds and mounds of firecrackers – the bichus, phuljaris, phatkas, chakkars, twinkling stars, rockets, the atom bombs and the scores of wondrous little contraptions which lit up the night sky. Oh, the delight, the fear in lighting the match and then seeing the colors, the beauty – and the big bangs – explode!

Of course, we are now in America, a country where it is illegal for individuals to burn any fireworks. It’s always an orchestrated, disciplined show put on the Fourth of July to be seen as awe-struck bystanders, as spectators.

In India,  every  street kid with even a few rupees to buy crackers and every family patriarch with tokras full of crackers is a showman,  creating magic.  Yes, fireworks are serious business at Diwali and occupy big people – and little people.

Indeed, what is Diwali without fireworks?  Bollywood has used  Diwali as a dramatic storyline device in which the heroine or the hero or sometimes the hero’s mother goes blind or disfigured after an accident with firecrackers on Diwali and of course real life is also full of accidents which occurred on Diwali with people maimed or blinded on this really auspicious day.

Yet firecrackers continued to be a big part of Diwali in India – until finally their continuing explosion caused havoc on the environment. This year there is a ban on fireworks. As NPR writes, ” Citing air quality and noise levels as their main concern, at least two courts have issued separate rulings seeking to curtail fireworks.” According to Hindustan Times, ” India’s Supreme Court banned firework sales in the national capital region of Delhi, and in a neighboring area, a high court “fixed the time slot of 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for bursting crackers on Diwali in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.”

Will people abide by the rules or will the pull of a childhood ritual be too strong? That remains to be but here we witness a fast disappearing art – the firework wrapper – going up literally in smoke.

 

Sivakasi – Fireworks Capital of India

Sivakasi is a town in Tamil Nadu famous for its fireworks and match factories, and produces  70 percent of  India’s fireworks – although it is now finding heavy competition from China.  Writes the Business Standard: “There’s a sense of the inevitable in Sivakasi town. There have been intense campaigns against firecrackers in cities and the people are buying less of the pyro products of the town. Besides, access to cheaper fireworks from China is cutting into the earnings of the industry. On top of that, the government has cracked down on unlicensed manufacturing units. The industry estimates that up to 80 units have shut shop in the past one year and around 20,000 people have lost their jobs.” You can read the article Sivakasi Cracker Industry Looks for a Sparkle

 

 

Shopping for Diwali firecrackers

Shopping for Diwali firecrackers Photo Credit: igb via Compfight cc

Diwali Nostalgia – This too is Art!

Here we share the wrappers of those lost, long-gone Diwalis when every kid with a handful of fire-crackers was king –  yes, power was setting the match to that bichu or anar firecracker!  The art on these wrappers is engaging, amusing and tells so many stories. I wonder who designed these wrappers and where those nameless, unknown artists are today.

Of course, this is art-for-a-moment which is ripped to pieces immediately to get to the all important fireworks. The next morning, after the smoke and burning smell has cleared, these images lie on the floor with the remnants of firecrackers, amidst the  ashes…

Diwali Firecracker Wrappers – A Lost Art

 

Related Diwali Articles:

The Joy of Fireworks

Diwali 101 – From Darkness to Light

Diwali in India, in America

The Diwali Chronicles

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About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

1 Comment

  1. Lavina Melwani on

    Sabina Himani via Facebook

    Great article … such a shame to see these being overtaken by cheaper Chinese imports.