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History Of Fireworks In Hindu Religion

The science and art of making fireworks in its present form was adopted by Hindu religion from the Chinese probably in the 11th or the 10th century CE using the basic ingredients of fireworks, namely sulphur, charcoal and saltpeter. By 17th century CE, attractive displays of fireworks became common in several parts of India, including Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The literary sources dealing with fireworks are in Sanskrit, Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam. Of the Sanskrit works, special mention needs to be made of Kautukacintamani by the Odisha Gajapati Prataparudra Deva (1497 – 1539 CE) and Akasabhairavakalpa (15th century CE) of an unknown author

Sukraniti (16th century CE) by Ekanatha and writings of Ramadasa (17th century CE) are the noted Marathi works which contain some information on pyrotechnics.

Vettikampavidhi is a cryptic manual of fireworks in Malayalam.

But the most important text which has specific details of as many as ninety-eight formulae for the manufacture of twenty types of fireworks is Banasattiram in Tamil attributed to Bogar who was one of the eighteen Siddhas and who was a Chinese according to Tamilian tradition. The word Bana in the sense of a rocket which goes up with a flash like an arrow into the air when ignited, is found in Kaatukacinatamani.

The Tamil Banasattiram or Banasattra (Banashastra) describes three main types of fireworks: those which pierce through air, i.e. rockets, those which produce colored sparks of fire, and those which blaze with spectacular colors and end with an explosion. Sulphur, saltpeter, charcoal, iron powder, mercury, cinnabar, copper salts, arsenic substances, pulp of castor seeds and wicks, rice-paste and bamboo tubes are among the essential materials for the manufacture of fireworks as described in Banasattiram. What is noteworthy is that metallic dusts of copper, iron, steel, lead, brass and zinc ingeniously used for the production of dazzling sparks of various colors. The display of fireworks is both an art and science with a symbolism of its own.

In the 15th and 16th centuries CE, the Vijayanagar empire was famous for the ceremonial display of attractive fireworks and illumination during Dasara.

The French traveler Bernier (1620 – 1688) has described the practice of fireworks and the use of bannes (bana in the sense of a rocket) in warfare by throwing rockets with pyrotechnic compositions against an enemy as a sort of grenade attached to a long bamboo stick, as well as what were called cerkhy – thrown to explode for separating fighting elephants.

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