Diwali: Indians celebrate the sparkling festival of lights

TOPSHOT - A woman lights earthen lamps on the occasion of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, at her house in Guwahati on October 24, 2022. (Photo by Biju BORO / AFP) (Photo by BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images)
The Hindu festival of lights is one of the most important festivals in the country

Millions of Indians are celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which is one of the most important festivals in the country.

People pray, enjoy festive meals and light fireworks; sweets are distributed among neighbours and friends and a feeling of joy permeates the air.

However, the celebrations also spark concerns about air pollution, including in the national capital Delhi, as many people burst firecrackers despite state governments imposing curbs or banning the practice.

Delhi has seen an alarming rise in air pollution levels for the past week, and on most mornings and evenings the city has been enveloped by a thick layer of smog.

MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA - 2023/11/08: A shopkeeper arranges lanterns kept for sale ahead of the Diwali festival, the Hindu festival of lights in Mumbai. Diwali festival is celebrated by Hindus where they shop for lanterns ahead of the festival, clean their home, prepare sweets and snacks, make rangoli (a traditional Indian art form where various designs are made on the floor), and light their homes with earthen lamps marking the victory of light over darkness. (Photo by Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
People hang lanterns outside their homes...
Women light earthen lamps on the occasion of Diwali festival in Nagaon District of Assam ,India on Oct 24,2022. (Photo by Anuwar Hazarika/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
...and draw rangolis of different designs

Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil. People light up their homes with small oil lamps called diyas and paper lanterns to signal the victory of light over darkness and joy over sadness.

People also decorate outdoor spaces with vibrant rangolis - designs made with colourful powders - to welcome guests and to bring good luck and prosperity into their homes.

Devotees light earthen lamps on the banks of river Sarayu on the eve of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in Ayodhya on October 23, 2022. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP) (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)
Devotees light earthen lamps on the banks of a river in the holy city of Ayodhya
Devotees light candles while paying respect at the illuminated Golden Temple on the occasion of the Bandi Chhor Divas, a Sikh festival coinciding with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in Amritsar on October 24, 2022. (Photo by Narinder NANU / AFP) (Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)
The Golden Temple in Punjab state is lit up during Diwali

The exact dates of the festival change each year and are determined by the position of the Moon, but it typically falls between October and November. This year, Diwali is being celebrated on Sunday.

In the days leading up to the festival people throng shops to buy festive garments, devotional items and gifts for family and friends. People also visit relatives and often take a box of mithai - the Hindi word for sweets - with them.

Many people also light firecrackers over several days and this affects the quality of the air. In Delhi - one of the most polluted cities in the world - the air gets particularly bad during the winter months because farmers burn stubble in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states.

The state government has banned the sale and use of firecrackers this year, but many people flout this rule.

This photo taken on November 7, 2018 shows Indian children watching firecrackers during the Diwali Festival celebrations in Ajmer, in western Rajasthan state. - Diwali, the Festival of Lights, marks victory over evil and commemorates the time when Hindu god Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana and returned to his kingdom Ayodhya. (Photo by Shaukat Ahmed / AFP) (Photo credit should read SHAUKAT AHMED/AFP via Getty Images)
People light firecrackers, spiking up pollution levels
PATNA, INDIA - OCTOBER 23: People shop for essentials at Bailey road on the eve of Diwali, on October 23, 2022 in Patna, India. (Photo by Santosh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
People shop for holy paraphernalia for prayer ceremonies

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