Indians celebrate Diwali with lamps

Indians have celebrated Diwali as earthen oil lamps and dazzling lights lit up homes and streets across the country to mark the Hindu festival that symbolises the victory of light over darkness. Diwali, which is a national holiday across India, 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. In the evening, a special prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.

Ahead of the celebrations, cities and towns across the country were decked with colourful lights.

People light lamps on the banks of the river Saryu in Ayodhya, India, to celebrate Diwali. (AP PHOTO)

Millions of Indians thronged crowded bazaars for shopping, bringing back the Diwali cheer that was 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, over 1.5 million earthen lamps were lit and kept burning for 45 minutes at Ram ki Paidi, on the banks of the 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 that more than 22,000 volunteers, the majority of them college students, ensured that lamps burned for the prescribed time to break last year’s record of 900,000 oil lamps.

Hindus believe that the deity Lord Ram 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 river banks. Thousands of residents also lit lamps at their houses and temples across the city.

The stunning spectacle along the shores of the Saryu River was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Amid chants of Hindu religious hymns, Modi lit an earthen lamp and performed “aarti” – a customary Hindu ritual that involves waving lighted lamps in front of an idol.

Earlier, he offered prayers at a long-awaited temple of the Hindu god Ram at the site of a demolished 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob with pickaxes and crowbars in December 1992, sparking massive Hindu-Muslim violence that left some 2000 people dead, most of them Muslims.

The Supreme Court’s verdict in 2019 allowed a temple to be built in place of the demolished mosque.

It was Modi’s second visit to the temple since he laid the foundation in 2020 for the construction of the temple. Modi and his party had long pledged to build a temple to Ram where the Mughal-era mosque once stood, in a long-running controversy.

Over the past few years, Diwali celebrations are tinged with worries over air pollution, which typically shroud northern India under a toxic grey smog as temperatures dip and winter settles in.

Some Indian states, including the capital New Delhi, have banned sales of fireworks and imposed other restrictions to stem the pollution.

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