Festival of sound and light is here

As far as possible avoid lighting firecrackers. If it is unavoidable, as children cannot be disappointed, ensure that they are handled safely, warns T R Sathish Kumar.

D eepavali is the festival of lights. Deepavali means ‘a continuous line of lamps’ (‘deep’ in Sanskrit means ‘light’ and ‘avali’ means ‘a continuous line’). Now, it is celebrated as a national festival rather than a religious ceremony — cutting across faiths — for its secular way of celebration and vibrancy.

Deepavali, the biggest Indian festival is also a major occasion in Nepal. The festival has great religious significance for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Nepalese. It is commonly celebrated by decorating homes with lamps and candles, bursting of firecrackers and sparklers, eating sweets and other special dishes, praying to Gods and Goddesses, observing religious rituals, wearing new dresses and sending wishes and gifts to one another.

Firecrackers have become an integral part of the festivities and all — children to senior citizens — love to play with them. Even those who abstain from lighting them love to watch the rockets enliven the sky.

Sadly, the recent mishap in a fireworks factory in Sivakasi that claimed the lives of over 50 persons is still fresh in the minds of the people. Fortunately, almost all firecracker factories have declared their premises child labour free. Earlier, children were exploited, by forcing them to do harmful work like handling of dangerous chemicals for meagre salaries.

Whatever the effects of firecrackers on the environment, animals, birds, the aged, the ill, etc, people cannot resist the urge to light crackers. Even if one is aware of the ill-effects of crackers, they are forced to compromise for the sake of the happiness of children. Fireworks can be dangerous. A little carelessness can result in serious damage to property and life. Reports of eye and burn injuries are common during Deepavali.

Ophthalmologists often appeal to the public, especially children, to exercise caution while bursting firecrackers during Deepavali and avoid injuries. Eye specialists express concern over the ever increasing number of eye injuries during Deepavali every year.

Physicians recommend purchase of firecrackers only from authorised manufacturers and dry them in the sun for two days before Deepavali night. Firecrackers should be stored in cardboard boxes and kept out of reach from children. They should be kept away from inflammable substances like gas cylinders.

Only one person should light a firecracker at a time while others should watch from a safe distance. An open area, instead of places like a terrace, should be selected to light crackers. While lighting crackers on the road, vehicles should be parked at a safe distance. Children should never be left alone with crackers and all should use a long candle or agarbathi to light crackers. Two buckets of water should be kept handy and in case of burns, pour lots of water on the affected area.

In case of major burns, victim should be first wrapped in a clean bed sheet before rushing to hospital. If eye is affected, the victim's eyes should be washed under tap water for 10 minutes before going to hospital.

Never relight fireworks that appear to have gone out. Wait for 15 minutes, soak them in a bucket of water before disposing. Never lean over top of fireworks to light them. Tie hair back, wear caps, safety goggles.

Wear cotton clothes, and cover your body as much as possible. Shoes are a must. Sparklers should be immersed in sand or water bucket as soon as they appear out - they are still very hot and are known to cause the maximum number of accidental burns to children. Make arrangement to clear up all the mess the next morning. Wash your hands and feet, as firework materials are toxic and are bad for health.

Fireworks are explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic, entertainment and religious purposes. Fireworks take many forms to produce four primary effects: noise, light, smoke and floating materials (confetti for example). The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China, where they were invented.

Fireworks were part of many festivities. It is a part of the culture in China, which eventually spread to other cultures and societies. China is still the largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.

According to legends, the history of fireworks actually dates back thousands of years in China during the Han dynasty (200 BC), long before gunpowder was invented. It is believed that the first ‘firecrackers’ were chunks of green bamboo, which someone may have thrown onto a fire when dry fuel ran short.

The rods sizzled and blackened, and after a while, unexpectedly exploded. Bamboo grows so fast that pockets of air and sap get trapped inside of the plant’s segments. When heated, the air inside of the hollow reeds expands, and eventually bursts through the side with a long bam.

The strange sound frightened people and animals. The Chinese figured that if it scared living creatures, it would probably scare away spirits - particularly an evil spirit called Nian, who they believed to eat crops and people.

After that, it became customary for them to throw green bamboo onto a fire during the Lunar New Year in order to scare Nian and other spirits far way, thus ensuring happiness and prosperity to their people for the remainder of the year. Soon, the Chinese were using bursting bamboo for other special occasions, such as weddings, coronations, and births.

Firecrackers have only been adopted into Indian culture and was actually never a part of Deepavali even in the 19th century.

If one is talking about tradition, light up earthen lamps, pray for the welfare of the society, distribute sweets and love, spend some time with near and dear ones. As far as possible avoid firecrackers, or at least spend as less as possible on them or donate the same money to some charity.

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