Diwali in India's Cracker City

Annkatrin Kaiser and Jeryn Warren talk to a few Sivakasians about what Diwali means to Sivakasi, the world's cracker capital.

Diwali celebration

Diwali celebration has great significance throughout India (and indeed, throughout the world). It has special cultural and religious meaning to an array of diverse people groups, yet it is always a time when people, regardless of their age, background, or beliefs, are brought together to enjoy feasting and firecrackers.

For businessmen and women, it's a heyday. An annual stimulus for the Indian economy overall, Diwali provides some businesses with the bulk of their yearly profit. During the festival time, many Indians purchase gold, gifts, decorations, crackers (fireworks) and household appliances. And of let's not forget about the many Indian films (Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood, etc.) that are released during this time. Companies offer huge discounts during the Diwali season to attract customers, and customers are buying, whether it's for celebrating for a new Diwali to wear while celebrating!

But this festival of lights really puts this "Little Japan" on the map, as Sivakasi, the fireworks capital of the world is buzzing with excitement, and with big business, as the sales rates explode right along with the crackers, and the profits go through the roof.

Mr. Sundar for example, the owner of V Two Fireworks Company, produces the whole year for selling nearly all his crackers at Diwali. Although he also exports, his main market is in Tamil Nadu. But as he does not sell his products directly to consumers but to shops who resell it then, his main Diwali business is almost over some weeks before the real festival. Still it is the most stressful and busy time of the year. This year his company invented 149 new cracker items, and Mr. Sundar knows exactly what his clients like most. While people in the north of India prefer the big and colourful shots, the locals buy the small sparklers more often. "Millions of rupees go up in smoke; that's Diwali" says Mr. Sundar. For him, Diwali is more important than Christmas because it is celebrated by nearly everyone and of course it is a big deal for his business. But, in his opinion you can not really compare these two big festivals because they are celebrated so differently. While Christmas is a family meeting and is celebrated at home, Diwali is a big party on the streets with friends and neighbours. To afford a good Diwali for the workers and to indemnify the stressful time beforehand, Mr. Sundar gives his workers a three months extra salary and a one week holiday. He himself will celebrate Diwali this year with his just married wife and his parents-in-law.

Mr. Sivarajan, the owner of the Kaleeshwari Fireworks Company, prepares differently for the big festival of Diwali. He tries to avoid the stressful time before the festival and his factory produces on the same level the whole year. Of course, local people buy more crackers before Diwali than to any other time of the year. But as his company exports to many other countries like America or Canada, there are many other festivals people around the word buy crackers for. Previously Kaleeshwari Fireworks made 90 percent of its profit from the Diwali sales, like Mr. Sundar's company, too. But today the profit from Diwali and other sales during the year have come to the same percentage. This is why Mr. Sivarajan can hold the production continuously now.

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Summary
November 2007 Issue