Millions of Indians set a world record celebrating Diwali despite air quality worries

Millions of Indians celebrated Diwali, setting a new Guinness World Record for lighting oil lamps, despite serious concerns about air pollution in the country.

The event: The annual Hindu festival of Diwali, symbolizing the victory of light over darkness, took place on Sunday across India, with the massive lighting of over 2.22 million lamps at Saryu River, in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
* This set a new Guinness World Record, surpassing last year’s lighting of over 1.5 million lamps.
* Diwali is celebrated through socializing and exchanging gifts, lighting lamps or candles, setting off fireworks, and dedicating a prayer to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

Air pollution concerns: Despite the celebrations, there are growing concerns about air pollution levels in India which recently hit a “hazardous” 400-500 level on the air quality index.
* This level is more than 10 times the global safety threshold and can trigger acute and chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.
* Last week, New Delhi officials closed primary schools and prohibited polluting vehicles and construction work to reduce the season’s worst haze and smog.

Upcoming temple inauguration: The celebrations take place as preparations continue for the inauguration of a temple for the Hindu god Ram at the site of a demolished 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in January.
* The Babri Masjid mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992, leading to intense Hindu-Muslim violence.

Mitigation measures: Some Indian states have banned fireworks sales and imposed other restrictions to control pollution, including urging residents to light “green crackers” that produce fewer pollutants.
* Despite these bans, they have often been ignored in the past.
View original article on NPR
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