LUCKNOW, India (AP) – Millions of Indians celebrated Diwali on Sunday with a Guinness World Record number of glowing earthen oil lamps as concerns about air pollution rose in the South Asian nation.
Across the country, dazzling multi-colored lights adorn homes and streets as devotees celebrate the annual Hindu festival of light that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.
But the surprising and expected mass lighting of oil lamps took place – as usual – in the Saryu River, in Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of their most revered deity, the god Ram.
At dusk on Saturday, devotees lit more than 2.22 million lamps and kept them burning for 45 minutes as Hindu religious hymns filled the air on the banks of the river, setting a new World record. Last year, more than 1.5 million earth lamps were lit.
After counting the lamps, representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records presented a record certificate to the highest elected official of the state, Yogi Adityanath.
More than 24,000 volunteers, mostly college students, helped prepare for the new record, said Pratibha Goyal, vice-chancellor of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, in Ayodhya.
Diwali, a national holiday across India, is celebrated by socializing and exchanging gifts with family and friends. Many light oil lamps or candles, and firecrackers are lit as part of the celebrations. In the evening, a special prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.
Over the weekend, authorities ran extra trains to accommodate more people trying to reach their hometowns to join family celebrations.
The festival comes as concerns about India’s air quality rise. A “dangerous” 400-500 level was recorded in the air quality index last week, more than 10 times the global safety threshold, which can cause acute and chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks. But on Saturday, unexpected rain and strong winds pushed the level to 220, according to the government-run Central Pollution Control Board.
Air pollution levels are expected to rise again after Sunday night’s festivities due to fireworks.
Last week, officials in New Delhi closed primary schools and banned vehicular pollution and construction work in an attempt to reduce the worst. haze and smog at the timewhich has caused respiratory problems in people and has enveloped monuments and tall buildings in and around the Indian capital.
Authorities deployed water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to control the haze and many people used masks to escape. air pollution.
New Delhi tops the list almost every year among several Indian cities with poor air quality, especially in winter, when the burning of crop residues in neighboring states coincides with colder temperature that traps deadly smoke.
Some Indian states have banned the sale of fireworks and imposed other restrictions to curb pollution. The authorities also encouraged residents to light “green crackers” that emit less pollutants than normal firecrackers. But similar restrictions have often been ignored in the past.
This year’s Diwali celebrations are marked as authorities prepare to inaugurate in January an under-construction and long-awaited temple to the Hindu god Ram at the site of a ruined 16th-century which is Babri mosque in Ayodhya city in Uttar Pradesh state.
The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob with pickaxes and crowbars in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left around 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims. The Supreme Court The 2019 ruling allowed a temple to be built in place of the destroyed mosque.