Diwali: How and when did firecrackers come to India?

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  • Rajiv Lochan
  • Historian, Punjab University

Firecrackers

Photo source, Getty Images

Mumbai Municipal Corporation has banned the firing of firecrackers in public places. These steps have been taken against the backdrop of the corona.

In Mumbai, fireworks that do not sound as loud as flowers or rain are allowed only on Diwali night from 8 to 10 p.m.

This raises the question: What is the connection between Diwali and firecrackers? Diwali has been celebrated in India since time immemorial. But when did fireworks become part of it? And where did the fireworks come from?

A study of mythology and myths reveals that firecrackers did not originate in our culture.

According to ancient scriptures, Diwali is a festival of joy and light. But there is no mention of anything as loud as firecrackers.

The tradition of loud fireworks was in China. The Chinese believed that the loud sound of firecrackers would quell evil thoughts and bring prosperity.

It is believed that Atish Dipankar, a Bengali Buddhist cleric, brought this culture from China to India in the 12th century. It is possible that they acquired it from China, Tibet and East Asia.

Photo source, Getty Images

Photo caption,

When did firecrackers come to India?

According to the Rig Veda, Nritti, who brings misfortune, was also considered a goddess, and was given the status of Dikpala (one of the nine deities of the direction).

This goddess is prayed to. She is prayed to return. You are told not to come again. Nowhere is it said to send her back with a loud firecracker.

But still India has had light and loud fireworks since ancient times.

Myths from two thousand years ago mention things like firecrackers.

Photo source, Reuters

Photo caption,

While the fireworks are being prepared.

The famous pre-Christian text Kautilya Arthashastra refers to a churna, which ignites flames at a rapid rate. If this chemical was closed in a tube, it would produce crackers.

After the end of the monsoon season in Bengal, a layer of alkaline chemicals was accumulating in the fields. When this layer was ground, a flammable substance was formed immediately.

If sulfur and the right amount of coal were added, the flammability of the mixture would increase.

Photo source, Getty Images

Photo caption,

Fireworks

In areas where there was no salt stored in the soil, wood-based products were used. Physicians used this substance to cure diseases.

Ingredients for making this powder were available almost all over the country. But if it is used for making firecrackers, it could not be confirmed.

There used to be various uses of light for joy and rejoicing. Lamps made of ghee are also mentioned in our literature.

This mixture, like the alcohol found in today’s firecrackers, used to explode and make a loud noise, but because of its low flammability, it could not be used against the enemy in a battle.

Video caption,

How did firecrackers come to India? (Animation – Nikita Deshpande, Puneet Barnala)

The first mention of such a destructive gunpowder was made in 1270 by the Syrian chemist Hassan al-Rammah in his book. He had also written about purifying this gunpowder with hot water and making it more explosive.

So did the Mughals bring it?

In 1526, Babur invaded the Raja of Delhi. Historians say that at that time, Indian soldiers were frightened when they heard the roar of Babar’s army.

If there was a tradition of firing firecrackers in temples and cities at that time, Indian soldiers would not have been disturbed by this loud noise.

But according to Najaf Haider, a professor of Mughal history, the firecrackers preceded the Mughals.

Fireworks and firecrackers were widely used during the Mughal period.

But it is not correct to say that firecrackers were brought to India by the Mughals. Because they had already arrived.

Photo source, Getty Images

Photo caption,

A scene from the battle of Mughals

There are such paintings. In Dara Shikoh’s wedding painting, people are seen exploding firecrackers. But this was even before the Mughals.

Even in the time of Feroze Shah, there used to be a lot of fireworks.

Gun powder later came to India. But before the Mughals, firecrackers must have come to India.

They were used extensively in elephant poaching or hunting. In fact, firecrackers were used in large quantities only to intimidate.

Fireworks were also used at weddings and festivals during the Mughal period.

Did you read that too?

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