India lights up in celebration of Diwali

Festivities back to full throttle after being dampened by the pandemic for the last two years

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Hundreds of millions of Indians are celebrating Diwali on Monday with earthen oil lamps, colourful floor decorations and bright lights.

The Hindu festival symbolises the victory of light over darkness and the return home of Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Laxman after 14 years in exile, after killing the 10-headed demon king Ravana who had abducted Sita.

The festival is celebrated across regions and religions in India with much pomp and fervour. Houses, shops, and marketplaces were decked with dazzling lights and people wore new, vibrant clothes.

In the evening, they worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and Ganesha, the elephant god of wisdom.

The celebrations were dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic for the last two years but have returned now that cases are ebbing.

Markets were abuzz with eager customers buying lanterns, flowers, lights, candles and decorative items. Huge crowds also gathered at electronic and sweet shops.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the festival with soldiers in Kargil in the Himalayan Ladakh region.

Over 1.5 million earthen lamps were lit and kept burning for 45 minutes at Ram Ki Paidi in Ayodhya — the birthplace of Lord Ram in northern Uttar Pradesh state — on Sunday, setting a Guinness World Record.

The celebrations are also sparking concerns about air pollution in parts of the country, including in the capital Delhi where authorities have banned fireworks.

In previous years, major firework displays have been blamed for worsening the air quality as low wind speeds mean the pollutants are trapped in the lower atmosphere.

Hindus have been celebrating Diwali by lighting earthen lamps and candles for centuries.

But the use of firecrackers on Diwali was introduced in the 18th century when Maratha Empire rulers organised displays — 400 years after they were first brought to the country from China.

Several state governments have banned firecrackers and warned residents that flouting the ban will attract jail terms of six months.

Updated: October 24, 2022, 9:58 AM