Boycott Crackers – Chinese or Desi

This year there has been a call to boycott Chinese fire crackers in Diwali, particularly in social media. One wonder why there was not a call to boycott fire crackers altogether. It is now believed by many that fire crackers are an integral part of Diwali celebration. However, in reality, use of fire crackers during Diwali, particularly at the household level is hardly 60-70 years old. The history of fire crackers in Diwali is also the history of fire cracker industry in India based in Sivakasi. During the British rule the stringent Explosives Act 1884 ensured that the fire cracker industry could not grow. However, the Act was amended in 1940 which made production, storage and sale of crackers and their raw materials easier. Ironically, the use of fire crackers originated in China where people used crackers to scare off evil spirits. And the fire crackers industry that developed in Sivakasi also started with imported technology and raw materials from China.

Diwali is the day when Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya after completing his exile of fourteen years and the killing of Ravana in the meanwhile. People lighted up the city to welcome him also because this was a dark night. Obviously one would not like to scare off Lord Rama on such an occasion. However, the marketing efforts of Sivakasi entrepreneurs particularly that of the Nadar brothers who were the pioneers in this regard ensured that within a short period of time bursting of crackers became an integral part of Diwali celebration.

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