India breaks record with Diwali lamps – despite air pollution fears

World

Millions of people in India have celebrated Diwali, with residents in Uttar Pradesh setting a Guinness World Record for the mass lighting of oil lamps – despite concerns over air pollution.

In honour of the Hindu festival, homes and streets across the country were covered in dazzling multi-coloured lights.

At the Saryu river in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh – a state in northern India which borders Nepal – the spectacular lighting of more than 2.22 million oil lamps took place.

The location has a special significance for Hindus as it is the birthplace of their most revered deity, the god Ram.

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The Diwali celebrations in Ayodhya broke a Guinness World Record. Pic: AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh

The lamps were lit at dusk on Saturday and kept burning for 45 minutes as attendees lining the riverbanks sang Hindu hymns.

After the lamps were counted, the state’s top elected official, Yogi Adityanath, was presented with a certificate commemorating the record.

Diwali, the festival of light, is a national holiday in India and is celebrated with socialising and the exchanging of gifts.

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Many people light earthen oil lamps, candles and fireworks. In the evening, a special prayer is said in honour of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.

The festival came amid worries over air pollution in India as a “hazardous” 400-500 level was recorded on the air quality index – more than 10 times the global safety threshold.

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Lamps on the river Saryu on the eve of the Hindu festival. Pic: AP/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Earlier this week, Kolkata and New Delhi were named the two cities in the world with the worst air quality.

On Saturday, unexpected rain and strong winds lowered the level to 220, India’s government-run Central Pollution Control Board said.

India’s capital is bringing in vehicle restrictions in a bid to curb air pollution, meaning private vehicles with odd number plates will be allowed on roads on odd dates, while those with even number plates will be allowed on roads on alternate days.

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People and vehicles are seen amidst the morning smog in New Delhi on 8 November

The air pollution level is expected to soar again by the end of Diwali as more fireworks are used.

Some Indian states have banned the sale of fireworks and urged residents to instead light “green crackers”, which emit less pollutants, but similar bans and recommendations have often been disregarded in the past.

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