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Fireworks, The (Hindu) religion and government

The unfortunate event in Kollam has resulted in many calling for complete ban on fireworks in the state. Right from where the Manufacture of Fireworks, to their rather unregulated storage and use, fireworks has resulted in the death and injury to many. I remember an incident in Kannur a few weeks ago, when a 12 year child was severely injured and a whole house collapsed due to a stash of fireworks.[1] One can stretch his memory to such incidents to as far back as to the incident in Sabrimala in 1952. An incident of this magnitude, of course, has not happened.

Kerala has been prone to such disasters, with some 40-  odd incidents happening in the last 50 years.


Credits: AFP

Shashi Tharoor listed out his three concerns after this incident-Firstly, regarding “religion as a public spectacle”, secondly, “laxity of procedure and respect for law” and lastly, “politicization of the tragedy”.  I agree with him on the second point- the utter disregard for the law has been shocking. I do not want to comment more without the full details.[2]

Mr.Tharoor wrote about Hindiuism was about one’s personal relationship with God. I agree with Mr. Tharoor- I believe my religion to be my personal relationship with God. But I do not seek to enforce this view on others. Mr. Tharoor goes onto talk about how if “It is really necessary” for us to celebrate festivals with dazzling displays. He moves onto remark that Hinduism is a “sorry pass” if “If temples feel they have to dazzle the faithful by fireworks to retain their belief in God”.  I believe that Temple festivals are not only festivals to celebrate God’s power and Victory, or whatever reason there is, in name, to celebrate a Festival, but these are also events where the community gets together, and celebrates. A temple festival is not purely one intended for religious purposes. He does not stop there. He states: “Sati, after all, was also sanctified by tradition once: would our democratic politics have allowed for its abolition?” I do not know if it would have been, but surely, Fireworks in temples are not a social ill and disgrace like sati.[3]

Thirdly, about politicization:  I believe the tragedy went rather un-politicized, at least in a national scale. The effect of disaster tourism is rather undocumented, and you could rely ion anecdotal evidence to how a visiting politician diverted attention away from the injured, but is it wrong of the Prime Minister to visit the site? I do not believe so. The relations between the Union Government and State Government have been remarkably cordial. Those adopting an adversarial stance tot this can argue this was a PR stunt. Anyway, not much politics have figured in this issue. Mr. Tharoor also states that RSS workers have blamed the Congress Government for the disasters. A Google search yielded nothing but a blog post on how the RSS & Congress have been complicit in this issue.[4] I am making no mention of the attempt to politicise the issue by the CPI(M), but only from the viewpoint of national politics.

Fireworks have been part and parcel of temple festivals. I believe with proper regulation and supervision, Fireworks in temple festivals are acceptable.

Vishu has always been celebrated with crackers and beautiful displays. This is one thing as a child you look forward to. (Of Course, money is the coolest thing.) This is has been tradition for decades, if not centuries. The Thrissur Pooram, which was devised by the legendary Shakthan Thampuran, has been celebrated since 1790 with a wondrous display of fireworks.


The Government’s commitment to its people is according to me, to protect the society at large-  is banning fireworks the  most effective way to ensure the protection of society? I am in no ways denying that fireworks are dangerous. But was it not the executive’s failure to regulate fireworks at blame here?

[3] C’mon man, really? Sati?

First posted at

Further reading

Some further comments: looking through the statics of disasters caused by explosives,  one  could feel that there is a “Fireworks”  culture in Kerala.  Much like the “Gun culture” in America,  it has a huge fan following,  apparently.  But  unlike America,  the fireworks culture results in deaths by accident only,  and they too are limited.


On Sri.Tharoor’s question on whether fireworks are necessary: If we think about it,  is it necessary to follow any tradition? Is it necessary to follow any tradition?


The last article referenced is regarding how local authorities have been helpless to enforce laws.  My sincere hope is that the Government takes cognizance of this broken system.


On the environmental impact of fireworks: I did not include this originally because none of the mainstream media coverage talked about it. Air pollution by fireworks are generally a non-issue and a temporary pollutant. the issue is so under the bar that there is no single reference to pollution caused by it on Wikipedia, the Internets source of all information. (funnily enough, the page has a link to ‘Tire Fire’) But here are two article’s advocating it’s ban, but that will be stupid.(; We have more reasonable actions to take; for example, why not raise Motor vehicle emission standards right now?

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