Saturday, October 17, 2009
a chinese deepavali
the title is an oxymoron.how can there be a chinese deepavali one would ask. after all,isn't deepavali a hindu festival? but then can you imagine a deepavali without chinese firecrackers. you cannot. 90% of the world's firecrackers are made in china. in liuyang city. and 80% of fircrackers made in india are manufactured in a small,dirty town south of temple town madurai called sivakasi,and some biggies have chinese consultants to help them improve their product profile and productivity. sivakasi entrepreneurs are a smart lot. they are now tieing up with chinese firms like jin yi fireworks,hangzhou international and zhezhang fireworks to obtain technology transfer and make firecrackers at low cost,higher volumes and of good quality.
the chinese have a long history of crackermaking.some sivakasi manufacturers have setup shop in china and from there they export the world over. exports from india are banned. like during ganesha or durga puja many of the idols are chinese made,crackers made for deepavali have a chinese stamp on them.
the birthplace of fireworks is generally recognized as china. the first explosive mixture- black powder was found when the sungs ruled china ( 960-1279 ). the story goes that a cook in ancient china found that a mixture of sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal was very flammable and would explode if enclosed in a small space. the first application of this formula was for entertainment. as they say there was no looking back after this invention for the chinese.the chinese are the undisputed leaders in the production of fireworks. once the recipe for black powder was perfected, they found that it was easily used as rocket fuel, and they made hand carved wooden rockets in the shape of a dragon. these rockets shot rocket powered arrows from their mouth, and were used against the Mongol invaders of 1279. the principle behind these rockets is still used in rocket powered fireworks today.until the 19th century, fireworks lacked a major aesthetically essential characteristic: color. pyrotechnicians began to use a combination of potassium chlorate and various metallic salts to make brilliant colors. the salts of these metals produce the different colors: strontium burns red; copper makes blue; barium glows green; and sodium, yellow. magnesium, aluminum, and titanium were found to give off white sparkles or a flash.the science of pyrotechnics has now advanced greatly in germany and italy.
besides causing us sleepless nights by their claims in arunachal pradesh,buiding a dam across brahmaputra and intrusions along our borders,the chinese have also seeped into our religious and social events by providing modern and cheap idols and crackers for our religious festivals.new delhi has many feng shui stores scattered over the city selling idols of goddess lakshmi and ganesha.feng shui which symbolises channelising positive energy has another popular item-the shri yantra which is supposed to bring prosperity to the family. and the chinese have also adopted some of our food habits.consultants(there are about 50 of them in sivakasi) like wong chong liu love their idlis,vadas and dosas.
we better beware of the chinese dragon or sumo wrestler.it is an untrustworthy cracker.we might end up burning our fingers.