Friday March 22, 2019

Diwali: Festival of lights, not crackers


By Nithin Sridhar

Deepavali or Diwali is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals across the world. The festival is associated with family, merriment, lamps and lastly, crackers.

Every Diwali (as well as during almost every other Hindu festivals), liberals and activists raise alarm towards the environmental pollution that is caused as part of the celebration. And almost always, such an alarm is accompanied by a negative portrayal of Hindu religion that equates Hindu festivals with environmental pollution.

Before examining the negative propaganda run by the liberal brigade, let us briefly analyze the symbolism and meaning behind the celebration of Deepavali.

From Darkness to Light

Deepavali’ is a Sanskrit term, which literally means ‘a row of lamps’. It is a festival of lights through and through. The Puranas associate the day with Lord Vamana sending Bali– the king of Asuras along with his followers to Patala (lower realms); with the return and coronation of Lord Rama; and with the killing another demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna.

In each context, it can be seen that, Deepavali, similar to Vijayadashami, is a celebration of the destruction of unrighteousness (adharma vinasha) and the establishment of righteousness (dharma pratishtapana). The coronation of Rama that indicates the beginning of an era of Dharma rajya (the rule of Dharma/righteousness) specifically indicates the aspect of ‘dharma pratishtapana’ that is central to the celebration of Deepavali.

The lamp or ‘Deepa’ is very intimately connected to all that is good, righteous, and beneficial. It further denotes knowledge, beauty and bliss. The famous Sanskrit mantra says: “Lead one from Untruth to Truth, from the Darkness of Ignorance to Light of Knowledge, and from mortality to immortality.”

Therefore, ‘Deepavali’-a celebration that involves lighting a row of lamps denotes striving hard and finally getting established in the inner Light of truth, knowledge, and righteousness. The festival is a reminder to everyone that, just as they decorate every corner of the house with lighted lamps, they should light every aspect of their lives -physical, mental, and spiritual with lamps of knowledge and vivekam (discrimination between right and wrong, real and unreal).

Genuine environmental concerns and liberal propaganda

Irrespective of the motive behind those who raise the alarm regarding environmental pollution during Diwali, let us accept the fact that Deepavali is indeed accompanied by increased levels of air and noise pollution.

Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, and particulate matter, among others witness a sudden increase during Diwali. Similarly, noise levels also go beyond the tolerable limits.

Having said this, it is important to call a spade as a spade. Much of the liberal propaganda is rooted not in genuine environmental concerns, but in anti-Hindu bias. The hypocrisy of their outrage whether it is against pollution, animal torture, or superstition is clearly established by the fact that all such outrage happens only with respect to celebration of Hindu festivals and almost never in case of other festivals or celebrations.

Consider New Year celebrations, how many liberals write and speak about pollution caused by bursting crackers during that time? How many people raise their voice against crackers burst after Indians win cricket matches?

These very people who suddenly woke up to the needs of their surrounding environment during Deepavali, spend the rest of the year sitting in AC rooms, driving AC cars, and doing every other activity that contributes towards pollution.

Returning to the basics is the way out

The point that is being made is, one must learn to separate wheat from the chaff. The environmental concerns are real, but they are equally real whether there is Deepavali or not. There is no basis for the insinuations that try to portray Hindu practices as being intrinsically polluting in nature.

Therefore, the solution to environmental concerns regarding Deepavali is not in running a negative discourse about Hinduism. Instead, the solution can be found by urging people to return to the core tenets of Deepavali by making them understand that crackers are not essential to the festival. Deepavali is a festival of lights, not crackers.

Next Story

Indian Diaspora in Malaysia

Malaysian Indians account 7.3% of the total population of Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Temple Malaysia , Wikimedia Commons

By Akanksha Sharma

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, cleaved into two lands by the South China Sea. One part is located on a peninsula of Asian mainland which flaunts bustling cities, colonial architecture, tea- plantations and islands. Another part is located on the northern third island of Borneo which comprises of wild jungles orangutans, granite peaks and remote tribes.

India Malaysia locator. Wikimedia Commons
India Malaysia locator. Wikimedia Commons

Indian migration towards Malaysia

  • First Wave: Indians firstly arrived at Malaysia during the pre-colonial period, when Rajaraja Chola launched an attack via naval expedition conquering several Malay kingdoms.
  • Second Wave: In the second half 19th century, mainly Tamil and Telugu Indians were brought to Malaysia to work as laborers on plantation, ports, railway lines and ports.
  • Third Wave: After the 1990s, many Indians migrated to work as professionals mainly in IT sector and unskilled labor. There are also foreign spouses from the Indian subcontinent who married local Indians.

Today, Indian community consists of mostly Tamils (80%), followed by Keralites, Andhrites, Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis and Gujaratis. Malaysian Indians account 7.3% of the total population of Malaysia. A major portion of Indian community is engaged in rubber and palm plantation and a smaller section works in services like railways, police and food business.

Malaysian India Congress is the largest and oldest Indian political party in Malaysia. According to, at present, it has got 14 seats in Malaysian parliament which include one Cabinet Post, two Deputy Minister’s post and two Parliamentary secretary’s post.

Related Article: Ramli Ibrahim: A Malaysian steeped in Indian classical dances

Indian community has contributed enormously towards Malaysian cuisine

  • Indian Muslim restaurants and stalls are referred to as ‘Mamak’. The word ‘Mamak’ is a Tamil term for maternal uncle or ‘Maa-ma’. These restaurants are popular for dishes like Roti Canai (flattened bread) , Nasi kendar (steamed rice) and Posembur (Malaysian Salad).

    Roti Canai , Wikimedia Commons
  • Indian cuisine in Malaysia is mostly based on South Indian cuisine. Dishes like Idli, Vada and Dosa are very common for breakfast.
  • Snacks like Murrukku and Banana chips are made to mark on Deepavali.
  • Sweets like pasayum, halva and ghee balls are also very popular.

 Indian Malaysian Festivals

  • Thaipusam– the biggest Hindu festival is celebrated every year. It falls in the Tamil month of Thai ( January-February). It is devoted to Lord ‘Murugan’ and ‘Kartikeya’, the son of Shiva and Paravati. The celebration takes place on a huge scale at the Batu Caves. Devotees carry Kavadi , a wooden arc , as an act of atonement on this festival.
Devotes celebrating Thaipusam at Batu Caves, Malaysia. Wikimedia Commons
  • The popular Hindu festival ‘Festival of Lights’ – Deepavali is also celebrated by Hindu communities.
  • Pongal the Harvest festival is celebrated among Tamils and Onam is most popular among  the Malayalee community.
  • Other festivals like Makar Sankranti and Lohri are also celebrated.
  • Indian Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

Akanksha is a student of journalism in New Delhi. Twitter @Akanksha4117