Millions of Indians set a new world record celebrating Diwali as worries about air pollution rise

by Sophia Chen
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Diwali Celebrations India

Millions of Indians ushered in Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of light, with an impressive display of bright earthen oil lamps, setting a new Guinness World Record. As concerns about air pollution loomed large in the South Asian country, this celebration took on added significance.

Throughout the nation, homes and streets were adorned with dazzling multi-colored lights, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness in this cherished festival. However, the grand lighting of oil lamps, a much-anticipated event, unfolded in its traditional location at the Saryu River in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of the revered deity Lord Ram.

At dusk on the previous Saturday, devoted individuals illuminated over 2.22 million lamps, keeping them aglow for 45 minutes while Hindu religious hymns resonated along the riverbanks. This extraordinary feat marked a new world record, surpassing the previous year’s tally of 1.5 million earthen lamps.

Guinness Book of World Records representatives were on hand to certify the achievement, presenting a record certificate to Yogi Adityanath, the state’s top elected official. The endeavor involved over 24,000 volunteers, primarily college students, who played a crucial role in its successful execution, according to Pratibha Goyal, Vice-Chancellor of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University in Ayodhya.

Diwali, observed as a national holiday across India, is a time for socializing and exchanging gifts with loved ones. Many people illuminate earthen oil lamps or candles and set off fireworks as part of the festivities. An evening prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, believed to bring luck and prosperity.

Over the weekend, authorities arranged additional train services to accommodate the influx of individuals traveling to their hometowns to partake in family celebrations.

The backdrop of these festivities was the mounting concern over air quality in India. Just last week, the air quality index recorded a “hazardous” range of 400-500, more than ten times the global safety threshold, with the potential to trigger bronchitis, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues. However, a sudden bout of rain and strong winds on Saturday improved the air quality to 220, as reported by the government-run Central Pollution Control Board.

Unfortunately, it is expected that air pollution levels will surge once again after the Diwali celebrations conclude, primarily due to the use of fireworks.

In an effort to combat the hazardous air quality, officials in New Delhi had taken steps such as closing primary schools, banning polluting vehicles, and halting construction work. These measures were implemented in response to the seasonal haze and smog that have plagued the region, causing respiratory problems and shrouding landmarks and high-rise buildings.

Water sprinklers and anti-smog devices were deployed to mitigate the haze, and many residents resorted to wearing masks to protect themselves from the harmful effects of air pollution.

New Delhi consistently ranks among the Indian cities with the poorest air quality, especially during the winter when the burning of crop residues in neighboring states coincides with cooler temperatures, trapping deadly smoke in the region.

Some Indian states have taken measures like banning the sale of fireworks and imposing restrictions to curb pollution. Additionally, authorities have encouraged the use of “green crackers” that emit fewer pollutants than traditional firecrackers, although compliance with such bans has historically been challenging.

This year’s Diwali festivities held special significance as they preceded the January inauguration of a long-awaited temple dedicated to Lord Ram in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The temple’s construction has been a highly anticipated event, and it is situated on the site of a 16th-century Babri mosque that was demolished in 1992, leading to widespread Hindu-Muslim violence and a Supreme Court verdict in 2019 that allowed the construction of the temple.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Diwali Celebrations

What is Diwali?

Diwali is an annual Hindu festival of lights celebrated in India and other parts of the world. It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.

What was the Guinness World Record set during Diwali celebrations?

During Diwali, a new Guinness World Record was set with over 2.22 million oil lamps being lit at the Saryu River in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. This event marked a significant achievement in the festival’s celebrations.

Why is air pollution a concern during Diwali in India?

Air pollution becomes a major concern during Diwali in India due to the widespread use of fireworks during the festivities. This can lead to a significant deterioration in air quality, posing health risks to the population.

How did authorities in India attempt to mitigate air pollution during Diwali?

To combat air pollution during Diwali, authorities in some regions of India took measures such as closing primary schools, banning polluting vehicles, halting construction work, and encouraging the use of “green crackers” with lower pollutant emissions.

What is the significance of the temple construction in Ayodhya mentioned in the text?

The temple construction in Ayodhya is highly significant as it commemorates the long-awaited construction of a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram at the site where a 16th-century Babri mosque was demolished in 1992. This event holds historical and religious importance in India.

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