Diwali is one of the many, happening occasions for Indians. Also known as Deepavali, it is one of the major festivals celebrated by the Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Newar Buddhists during the Hindu lunisolar month Karthik (mid-October to mid-November) for five days.
The five-day-long festivities begin with ‘Dhanteras’, the symbol of annual renewal, cleansing, and auspicious beginning for the upcoming year. ‘Dhan’ means wealth and ‘teras’ means the thirteenth day i.e thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of ‘Karthik’, marking the outset of Diwali.
‘Naraka Chaturdashi’ marks the second day of festivities a.k.a ‘Choti Diwali’. This day marks the liberation of souls from ‘Naraka’ i.e. hell. As per the legends, on this day Lord Krishna defeated the demon ‘Narkasura’ and liberated 16000 princesses from his confines.
The third day is the day of ‘Diwali’ aglow with lights everywhere, it coincides with the last day of the dark fortnight of the lunar month. It is on this day, as per legends, Lord Rama came back to his place Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. Goddess ‘Lakshmi’ is worshipped in Hindu tradition on this day, whilst in Bengal goddess ‘Kali’ is worshipped.
The day of Diwali is followed by ‘Govardhan Puja’ (a.k.a. Padwa) and ‘Bhai-Dooj’ on the fourth and fifth day respectively. Both these days are associated with legends of Lord Krishna. Moreover, the artisan Sikh and Hindu groups celebrate the fifth day as ‘Vishwakarma Puja’
This ‘festival of light’ is reflective of Indian culture and its key tenet ‘diversity’.
It is often said that ‘Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. Does the aforementioned statement hold relevance in contemporary times? Does the way we celebrate Diwali today symbolizes the same notions?
The answer is ‘No’.
If we go by the way Diwali is celebrated nowadays, then to my mind modern version of ‘Diwali’ symbolizes ‘evil over good’, light over darkness, and ignorance over knowledge’; because of the toxic side-effects of modern-day Diwali in terms of air and noise pollution resulting in deterioration of air quality and making it more evil in nature and gifting free health issues to innumerable people. Besides, the way we celebrate the festival nowadays is a sign of ignorance.
Also, one controversy which gains momentum with the onset of Diwali season is that ‘are firecrackers needed for Diwali Celebration?’ The answer without any hiccups, in my opinion, is of denial.
Firecrackers are not needed in any way to celebrate Diwali. I have reasons to elaborate on this argument of mine.
Firstly, Diwali is older than two millennia and firecrackers first were made in China only in the 9th century A.D. and began to be used in the 14th century only. So, two different time-frames prove that firecrackers are not part-and-parcel for Diwali celebrations.
Secondly, let us assume firecrackers are part of our culture and are intrinsic to Diwali celebrations. But, we have many examples in the past where we chose rationality over our tradition, for instance, in case of ‘sati’. So we can abolish such traditions too which endangers the existence of living communities on this planet. Also, if it is proved in any way that firecrackers are part of Diwali and are mentioned in our historical texts, then in my opinion we should not let the words within the confines of a book cover, decide our present and future.
Thirdly, our priorities as a society validate my argument that firecrackers are not necessary for Diwali Celebrations. We can’t prioritize our seconds-lasting entertainment over the lives of our family persons and fellow humans. (For more clarity, air pollution in Delhi claimed more than 54000 lives in 2020). We cannot be that insensitive and risk our lives and environment.
I agree with the argument that firecrackers contribute a minimal proportion to air pollution. But, we should not see the use of firecrackers on the occasion of Diwali in isolation. Diwali is celebrated at a time when geographical happenings do not allow the free flow of winds and the polluting agents remains trapped in the atmosphere. Besides, it is not just the air pollution that is a cause of concern, the noise pollution is equally disastrous and acts as a silent killer.
Therefore, it is the right time to be a patriot, a nationalist, a protector of traditions, and a ‘human-being’ who acts humanly, and avoids firecrackers, making Diwali a festival of lights, happiness, and prosperity.