Millions of Indians celebrated Diwali across the nation on Sunday as multi-colored lights adorned streets and homes. It is the Hindu annual festival of lights symbolizing victory over darkness.
The northern Indian city of Ayodhya set a new Guinness World Record with the lighting of over 2.22 million diyas, or clay oil lamps at dusk on the banks of the river Saryu. At dusk, devotees across the holy city, birthplace of Lord Rama, lit the diyas even as religious chants filled the air. Last year it was 1.5 million lamps. A certificate was presented to the chief minister of the Northern Indian State of Uttar Pradesh by representatives of Guinness World Records to commemorate the record. The event was executed with the help of 24,000 students and volunteers.
Diwali is the biggest pan-Indian festival and is celebrated in various forms across all 28 Indian states and 8 union territories. It is a festival of socializing and swapping gifts between family members and friends. Fireworks are another big part of the Festival of Lights. A prayer is dedicated at dusk to the Hindu deity Goddess Lakshmi, the harbinger of prosperity and luck. In the eastern states, Diwali is marked as Kali Puja, the worship of Goddess Kali, the symbol of Shakti, the embodiment of female power.
Air Quality Deteriorates During Diwali
As with all large-scale celebrations, Diwali also comes with a deterioration of air quality, especially in the winter months. The Air Quality Index touches the upper limit of between 300 and 500. But unseasonal rain and strong winds in the northern and western parts of India helped improve air quality levels.
Some Indian states have cut down on the manufacture of some forms of firecrackers, especially the ones that cause sound pollution or emit excessive smoke. But such directives are often flouted. New Delhi, the capital city, tops the list with poor air quality, especially in winter as the festival of Diwali coincides with the burning of crop stubs in the neighboring states of Punjab.