People across India revel in Diwali; Delhi sees best air quality in 8 years
In Tamil Nadu, seven villages in Erode district marked the festival with just lights, and no sound, in a gesture considerate of the winged inhabitants of the bird sanctuary nearby
Buildings were decorated with earthen lamps and colourful lights as people across the country celebrated Diwali with pomp on Sunday and a relatively better air quality than in previous years brought much relief to revellers in Delhi.
Despite the national capital recording its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years, pollution levels may rise due to low night temperatures and sporadic burning of firecrackers though there is a ban on their manufacture, storage, sale and use within the city.
One of the most popular Hindu festivals, Diwali is associated with the day Lord Ram is believed to have returned to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after defeating Ravana during his 14 years in exile and is seen as a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
People, dressed in their finest, exchanged sweets and gifts, visited temples and greeted each other, and celebrations across the country were largely incident free.
In Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district, the Indian Army exchanged sweets with its Pakistani counterpart on the occasion of Diwali along the Line of Control (LoC), officials said.
However, there was no traditional exchange of sweets and pleasantries between the two sides along the International Border (IB), they said, attributing it to the tense situation following the recent ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Rangers that left a Border Security Force jawan dead.
On Diwali, 80 fishermen released from a jail in Karachi in Pakistan reached Vadodara in Gujarat by train, from where they were taken to Veraval in the state's Gir Somnath district by bus to be reunited with their families.
Delhiites experienced clear skies and abundant sunshine and the city's 24-hour average air quality index stood at 218 at 4 pm, the best in at least three weeks and also in the last eight years on Diwali day.
The city recorded an index of 312 on Diwali last year, 382 in 2021, 414 in 2020, 337 in 2019, 281 in 2018, 319 in 2017 and 431 in 2016, according to Central Pollution Control Board data.
Saturday's 24-hour average AQI stood at 220, the lowest for the day before Diwali in eight years. The improvement can be attributed to intermittent rainfall on Friday and wind speeds favourable for the dispersion of pollutants. To put this into perspective, Thursday's 24-hour average air quality index was 437.
In accordance with the practice of the past three years, Delhi has announced the comprehensive ban of firecrackers till January 1. Sporadic incidents of firecracker burning were reported on Saturday night and Sunday evening in several parts of the city.
Low temperatures and firecracker burning may lead to a rise in pollution levels in Delhi late on Sunday.
In Goa, people burnt giant effigies of demon 'Narakasura' in the early hours to begin Diwali celebrations, while Chief Minister Pramod Sawant extended greetings to the people and urged them to buy local products to celebrate the festival.
Goa has a long held tradition of making the effigies of Narakasura and burning them on Diwali, marking the victory of good over evil. The 'Narakasur Vadh' (killing of the demon) competitions were held across the coastal state to celebrate the festival.
"It symbolises the victory of good over evil. An artiste dressed as Lord Krishna performs Narakasura Vadh in the early morning hours. This is how we celebrate Diwali," said Panaji-based historian Sanjeev Sardesai.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, who returned from AIIMS Delhi after 15 days of treatment, celebrated the festival with children at the Balika Ashram Tutikandi in Shimla and distributed sweets and fruits among them.
Bursting of firecrackers was restricted to just two hours in the state to prevent noise and air pollution in the hills and only "green crackers" were permitted.
In Jharkhand, too, revellers got a two-hour window from 8 pm to 10 pm to burst firecrackers. Similar windows will be allowed on Gurupurab, Chhat, Christmas and New Year but the timings will vary, according to officials.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah greeted people of the state on Diwali and also appealed to them to use only green crackers to avoid fire accidents, and check pollution that can complicate the health of patients with respiratory and cardio-related ailments.
"The state government has given permission to use green crackers to check air and sound pollution, and fire accidents. Various chemicals used in the crackers lead to many health complications," Siddaramaiah said in a video message.
"The air and sound pollution cause severe health hazard to those suffering from asthma, lung and heart diseases. Birds and animals undergo silent pain. Hence, I appeal to the citizens that they must use only green crackers," he added.
Kali Puja celebrations in West Bengal began early in the day with many people thronging temples with the queues getting longer as the day progressed.
In Rajasthan, Diwali was celebrated with fervour and gaiety, with prominent markets in the Walled City of Jaipur, landmarks and prominent buildings beautifully decorated.
In Tamil Nadu, seven villages in Erode district marked the festival with just lights, and no sound, in a gesture considerate of the winged inhabitants of the bird sanctuary nearby. The villages are located around Vadamugam Vellode, 10 kilometres from Erode where the bird sanctuary is situated.
Thousands of local bird species and migratory birds from other regions visit the sanctuary between October and January to lay eggs and hatch them.
In Uttar Pradesh, nine people were injured in a fire that gutted seven shops at a temporary firecracker market on the outskirts of Mathura.
President Droupadi Murmu, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people of the country and hoped the festival will bring happiness and wellbeing. Modi celebrated Diwali with soldiers in Lepcha in Himachal Pradesh.
(With PTI inputs)