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Millions of Indians set a world record celebrating Diwali despite air quality worries

As fears over air pollution surged in the South Asian nation, millions of Indians celebrated Diwali on Sunday with a Guinness World Record number of dazzling earthen oil lights.

Devotees celebrated the annual Hindu festival of light, which symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, by decking homes and streets with dazzling multicoloured lights across the nation.


However, as is customary, the magnificent and much expected mass lighting of the oil lamps occurred along the Saryu River in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in Ayodhya, the birthplace of their most venerated deity, the god Ram.


On Saturday evening, some 2.22 million lamps were lighted by devotees, who then held them lit for 45 minutes while Hindu devotional hymns filled the air at the river’s edge, creating a new world record. More than 1.5 million earthen lanterns were lit the previous year.

Yogi Adityanath, the highest ranking elected official in the state, received a record certificate from Guinness Book of World Records representatives after the lamps were counted.


The new record was made possible by more than 24,000 volunteers, the majority of them were college students, according to Pratibha Goyal, vice-chancellor of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University in Ayodhya.

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India observes Diwali as a national festival, which is marked by gift-giving and socialising with loved ones. As part of the festivities, a lot of candles and earthen oil lamps are lit, along with fireworks. A special prayer is offered in the evening to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is associated with good fortune and wealth.


To handle the massive influx of people attempting to travel to their hometowns for family gatherings over the weekend, authorities operated additional trains.


The celebration coincided with growing concerns over India’s air quality. Last week, the air quality index showed a “hazardous” 400–500 level, which is more than ten times the worldwide safety threshold and can result in asthma episodes and both acute and chronic bronchitis. However, on Saturday, the Central Pollution Control Board, which is operated by the government, said that the levels had improved to 220 due to unexpected rain and a strong breeze.

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Due to the pyrotechnics utilised, it is anticipated that air pollution levels would rise once further on Sunday night when the celebrations conclude.


In an effort to lessen the worst haze and smog of the season, which has covered monuments and tall buildings in and around India’s capital, authorities in New Delhi closed elementary schools last week and prohibited construction sites and polluting car operations.


In order to reduce the haze, authorities utilised water sprinklers and anti-smog guns, while many people covered their faces with masks to avoid the air pollution.


Among the many Indian cities with bad air quality, New Delhi leads the list nearly every year. This is especially true in the winter, when burning crop leftovers in nearby states combines with colder temperatures that trap lethal smoke.


In an effort to reduce pollution, several Indian governments have outlawed the selling of pyrotechnics and placed other limitations. Additionally, the authorities have asked locals to ignite “green crackers,” which release fewer pollutants than traditional firecrackers. But in the past, similar prohibitions have frequently been ignored.

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This year’s Diwali celebrations coincided with preparations by the government to open in January a long-awaited temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram, which is currently under building at the location of the destroyed Babri mosque from the 16th century in the state of Uttar Pradesh.


After a Hindu mob using pickaxes and crowbars damaged the Babri Masjid mosque in December 1992, there was widespread Hindu-Muslim violence that resulted in the deaths of almost 2,000 people, the majority of whom were Muslims. The 2019 Supreme Court decision permitted the construction of a temple in lieu of the destroyed mosque.


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