Indians have celebrated Diwali as bright earthen oil lamps and dazzling, colourful lights lit up homes and streets across the country to mark the Hindu festival.
Diwali — a national holiday across India — symbolises the victory of light over darkness. Festivities include a Guinness World Record lighting of 1.5 million oil lamps on the banks of Saryu River
The festival is typically celebrated by socialising and exchanging gifts with family and friends. Many light earthen oil lamps or candles, and fireworks are set off as part of the celebrations.
Ahead of the celebrations, cities and towns across the country were decked with colourful lights.
Millions of Indians thronged crowded bazaars for shopping, bringing back the Diwali cheer dampened during the last two years due to coronavirus restrictions.
The markets buzzed with eager shoppers buying flowers, lanterns and candles meant to decorate houses and offices.
As dusk fell on Sunday, more than 1.5 million earthen lamps were lit and kept burning for 45 minutes at Ram ki Paidi, on the banks of Saryu River in the northern city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state, retaining the Guinness World Record it set last year.
Senior government official Nitish Kumar said over 22,000 volunteers, the majority of them college students, had ensured the lamps burned for the prescribed time to break last year’s record of 900,000 oil lamps.
Hindus believe that the deity Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya, where he returned after 14 years in exile. To celebrate his return, people light earthen lamps. The holy city was decked with fairy lights ahead of the event and a laser and fireworks show illuminated its lanes and riverbanks. Thousands of residents also lit lamps at their houses and temples across the city.
The stunning spectacle along the shores of Saryu River was also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Amid chants of Hindu religious hymns, Mr Modi lit an earthen lamp and performed “aarti” — a customary Hindu ritual that involves waving lighted lamps in front of an idol.
Over the past few years, Diwali celebrations have been tinged with worries over air pollution, which typically shrouds northern India under a toxic grey smog as temperatures dip and winter settles in.
Northern India’s pollution woes during the onset of winter mainly stem from vehicular emissions and the burning of crop stubble to clear fields. But on Diwali night people also lit up the sky with firecrackers and its smoke causes smog that sometimes takes days to clear.
Some Indian states, including the capital New Delhi, have banned sales of fireworks and imposed other restrictions to stem the pollution.
Authorities have also urged residents to light “green crackers” that emit less pollutants than normal firecrackers. But similar bans have often been flouted in the past.