Seeds for eco-friendly Deepavali celebrations

Gramart Project from Madhya Pradesh offers sparklers and barfi lookalikes embedded with seeds, and the promise of flowers, vegetables and fruits

In the tiny village of Paradsinga, tucked away in Sausar tehsil of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh, a collective of farmers, artists, craftspeople and their families are busy making basketfuls of firecrackers and sweets.

But, these are firecrackers and sweets with a difference. The crackers do not emit smoke, light or sound. The sweets will add no calories. Instead, they hold the promise of flowers, vegetables and fruits in them. Plant a firecracker or one of the shiny pedas and barfis and watch them come alive.

“Deepavali somehow seems incomplete without sweets, firecrackers and sparklers,” explains Swetha Bhataad, a volunteer with the Gramart Project, an NGO that explores eco-friendly ways to celebrate festivals. She adds, “We felt this was the best time to talk about the environment, food security, health, farmers and so on.”

Made to resemble familiar firecrackers and sparklers such as rockets, ground spinners, bombs, flower pots and and roll caps, these bright and shiny fire cracker lookalikes have seeds in them. “The idea is to encourage people to go in for pollution-free celebrations and also foster the habit of growing our food and greening the environment,” says Swetha.

So, in the place of the traditional ‘anar’ or flowerpot, the anar made in Paradsinga will give rise to a ‘golden shower,’ brightening surroundings with golden-yellow flowers of Cassia fistula, which blooms in summer. The popular garlands of red ladis are embedded with seven kinds of seeds including red amaranthus, fenugreek, mustard and spinach and microgreens.

Beej Paatra is the commercial wing of the NGO that seeks to empower the women and help them earn a living through sustainable methods, she adds. Beej Parva, a division of the collective, conceptualises products and methods to have eco-friendly ways to celebrate festivals instead of exploiting Nature or people and reduce consumerism. This year, prior to the festival season, the artisans in the collective trained the women to make these seed crackers and sweets.

The women were given the raw materials and asked to make the products in their homes. Paper for the products came from waste collected at paper mills and printing presses. About 50 families are involved in this project.

“Before we began training them, we bought the firecrackers and sweets from the market to study them and get the designing and packaging right and make ours resemble the real thing. Then, we organised a small workshop to teach the women to manufacture the seed firecrackers and seed sweets,” explains Swetha.

“It is to bring home the message of pollution-free celebrations, organic farming and exploitation-free food.”

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