By Chandrakanth Viswanath

KOCHI: A study conducted over a period of eight years, starting 2000, shows that a whopping Rs 2,000 crore is spent annually on fireworks by temple authorities in the State, of which Rs 820 crore is used for firework displays associated with festivals.
“Fireworks are part of the rituals of around 34,000 of the 36,400-odd temples in the State (big and small). The amount would be much bigger now as the average cost of firework displays, which was in the Rs 50,000-Rs 5 lakh range when we conducted the study, has surged to Rs 1 lakh-Rs 60 lakh,” said M Jayasurya of Winworld Foundation, who has toured more than 2,000 temples as part of the survey, before publishing the results in 2009.

“There is no connection with pyrotechnics and temple rituals. Some argue that it is done  with the purpose of cleansing the temple premises after festival. That might have been the case long ago when ingredients of fireworks were natural products, and the process worked like a sort of fogging. But, nowadays, chemicals are extensively used in fireworks. So, there is no logic in the argument now,” said Jayasurya, who is a religious scholar and state committee member of the BJP.

The study conducted by him revealed that temple festivities in the State underwent a drastic change in the last 15-20 years, with the advent of the Bhakti Movement when a large number of temples were renovated.

“Nearly 80 per cent of the temples were renovated, and money started to flow to the temple authorities. The wealth was not spent for education, treatment or housing of the believers. Moreover, the festivals turned into occasions for display of wealth by individuals, families and institutions,” he said.   His views were echoed by a large section of Hindu youths who want temples to be made centres of socio-spiritual activities.

“It won’t be practically possible to change the current procedures at one go. However, change can be brought in gradually. The majority of the festive activities should be converted into charity, and celebrations and the charity should be balanced.

Suppose Rs 10 lakh is spent for fireworks at a particular festival, the cost could be reduced to Rs 5 lakh and the remaining money could be spent on healthcare, education, food, housing, dress and care for elderly citizens,” said activist Rahul Easwer.