Diyas, rangolis and paper lanterns look to replace noisy, toxic fireworks this Diwali, to prove that the festival of lights even without crackers can be just as enlightening.
Celebrations have begun for the most-awaited festival in India, Diwali. This year, a special emphasis is being placed on keeping the festival as eco-friendly and pollution-free as possible. The Supreme Court of India has issued guidelines to authorise the sale of only ‘green and eco-friendly’ crackers and a time frame within which they can be burnt.
Not just the authorities, even at an individual level one can do a lot to make a difference and celebrate an eco-conscious Diwali. The speed at which we are polluting the environment is alarming and also hazardous for humans as well as animals. Nitin Malik, the lead vocalist of rock band Parikrama, strongly feels that there should be a blanket ban on crackers that give out toxic emissions and make noise.
He says, “Every year my dog shivers and refuses to come out during Diwali because of the loud crackers. I feel no one should be allowed to burst crackers with loud decibel levels because it can lead to anxiety and cause heart problems in not just humans but also animals. A lot of animals and birds have very sensitive hearing, so imagine if we get scared by the noise how bad it must be for them. I stopped bursting crackers since 2001, when I learned that it causes so much pollution. Diwali is a festival of lights and even from a mythological point of view, it was celebrated by lighting lamps and diyas to welcome Lord Rama. The commercial aspect of crackers and fireworks came in much later and has no mention in the holy texts.”
Mumbai-based socialite and entrepreneur, Dimple Nahar plans to organise a programme and invite a guru and motivational speaker to share the message of positivity. She says, “We will use earthen diyas and handmade paper torans to decorate. Instead of oil, we will use ghee lamps made of clay and distribute healthy prasad. One can use coconut shells as diyas, use cinnamon sticks to decorate candles; it will not only give a rustic look but will also leave a delightful smell in the vicinity. Avoid using chemical rangoli colours, and opt for colourful painted rice or leaves, or spice powders that are easily available at home. We can also avoid bursting crackers and urge everyone to spend the evening with live bands or listen to kirtans and create spiritual awareness.”
Stop giving gifts
In cities like Delhi, where gifting is an integral part of festivals, Mandeep Nagi, designer and founder of of a gifting brand, wants to completely ditch gifts this year as she finds it a nuisance due to the traffic and air pollution. She says, “This Diwali, I have decided to not go anywhere to distribute gifts. I feel Indians waste a lot of fuel by visiting friends and family, and I will not do that this year as part of my eco-friendly contribution. Even the sweet boxes, no one likes to keep them!”
People needlessly spend money on sweets and dry fruits to distribute as Diwali gifts. Instead, why not gift books to spread the light of knowledge.
Delhi-based publisher, Ajay Mago of Om Books International, says that Indians should surely opt for eco-friendly ways to celebrate the occasion. He asks, “Do we really need a Supreme Court ruling to understand how celebrating Diwali as an irresponsible citizen could impact people across age groups in cities that enjoy the dubious distinction of being amongst the most polluted in the world? Diwali is essentially a festival of lights, so my personal favourites are the traditional clay diyas with wicks dipped in ghee/oil, candles of various sizes and shapes neatly lined up on boundary walls, railings, just about everywhere, making the entire city, country sparkle like a jewel. One can add to that strings of fresh marigolds and other flowers. And gifts only for my friends and family.”
Fun without crackers
There is a lot of talk about the bursting of crackers and the pollution that people contribute to in the name of celebration. If you are planning on throwing an eco-friendly party, Prem Dewan, head of a luxury brand, shares some ideas. He says, “I just attended a Diwali party which was eco-friendly with no compromise on having fun. The host organised a diya painting contest for the little ones. These diyas were further used to decorate the home with few flowers around it instead of electric lights. The food was served on banana leaves instead of thermocol plates and in earthen mugs instead of plastic cups. Instead of bursting crackers that add harmful toxic elements to the air, we launched paper lanterns in the sky and the effect was surreal.”