(NEW DELHI) — Indians across the country began celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on Thursday amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and rising air pollution.
Diwali is a celebration that involves exchanging gifts and socializing with friends and family. As part of Diwali celebrations, many light oil lamps are used or candles lit.
Celebrations in India last year were disrupted by an increase in COVID-19 infection. But festivities seem to be back this year. Despite being asked by the government to refrain from large crowds, there have been bustling markets ahead of Diwali with people eagerly buying lanterns, flowers and candles.
On Wednesday evening, more than 900,000.00 earthen lamps were light in Ayodhya (Northern Uttar Pradesh State), and they burned for over 45 minutes. They also retained the Guinness World Record set last year. The city lit 606,569 oils lamps last year as part of Diwali celebrations.
Learn moreDiwali, The Festival of Lights
Ram ki Pauri was the location where the lamps were lit. This spectacular spectacle attracted thousands of people who ignored coronavirus social ditancing rules and thronged its beaches. A laser and fireworks show followed, illuminating the city’s lanes and river banks. Numerous city residents lit lamps in their temples and houses.
The festival is being celebrated at a time when India’s pandemic crisis has largely subsided.
Thursday’s numbers were over 12,000 and there was a total of 461 deaths. That is far from India earlier in the year which saw a mere hundred thousand new cases per day. According to the Health Ministry, there have been more than 35,000,000 infections and 459,000 deaths. As with other statistics, these numbers are probably undercounted.
Even those states that were prone to infection a few weeks back, like Kerala on the Malabar Coast in Kerala, are now experiencing a steady decline. India celebrated the administration of its billionth COVID-19 vaccination dose, which further increased confidence in life returning to normal.
Still, experts have warned that the festival season could bring a renewed spike in infections if COVID-19 health measures aren’t enforced.
Also, there are concerns about air pollution. This is a phenomenon that typically blankets northern India with a grey fog at the time when winter arrives.
On Diwali night, people also lit up the sky with firecrackers — their smoke causing pollution that takes days to clear.
Although there’s no national ban on the bursting of firecrackers nationwide, many states have placed restrictions in order to reduce pollution. Some allow residents to use green crackers for limited hours. The emissions from green crackers are lower than those of regular firecrackers. Similar bans in the past were frequently ignored.
Biswajeet Bangerjee (Associated Press) contributed to this article.