India celebrates Diwali amid restrictions on crackers

Diwali celebrated across India amid Covid curbs, restrictions on firecrackers

People watch as firecrackers burn during Diwali. Credit: Reuters Photo

Buildings were decorated with earthen lamps and colourful lights while people, dressed in their finest, exchanged gifts on Diwali which was celebrated across India amid Covid curbs and restrictions on firecrackers in some states.

People visiting temples maintained social distancing while many took the virtual route to convey their greetings although active Covid cases in India declined to the lowest number in 253 days.

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.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted people on the occasion of Diwali and hoped for their happiness and prosperity. Senior leaders across political parties took to social media to extend their best wishes.

On the occasion, Modi met soldiers at Nowshera sector in the border district of Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir and lauded the role played by the brigade there in surgical strikes. India had conducted surgical strikes on September 29, 2016, across the Line of Control as a response to a terrorist attack on an Army base in the Uri sector.

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on lit a lamp on Diwali in honour of Indian soldiers.

BSF personnel and Pakistan Rangers exchanged sweets and Diwali wishes on the international border in Gujarat and Rajasthan's Barmer.

In the national capital, skies hung heavy with smoke and its air quality inched towards the 'severe' category on Diwali night as people burst firecrackers in a blatant disregard to the government's ban against it. Experts predicted that Delhi's air quality may plunge to the 'severe' category by midnight.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal along with his wife and cabinet ministers performed Diwali Puja at Thyagaraj stadium from a stage modelled on the upcoming Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Across Punjab and Haryana, devotees queued up at temples and gurdwaras to pay their obeisance amid tight security.

Bandi Chhor Divas, which coincides with Diwali, was also celebrated in Punjab. It marks the release of the sixth Sikh guru, Guru Hargobind, along with 52 kings, from Mughal prison in 1620.

After his release, Guru Hargobind had reached the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the city was illuminated as people had lit 'diyas' to celebrate the occasion. The Golden Temple witnessed a huge rush of devotees since early morning who took a dip in its holy pond and offered prayers.

Detailed instructions have been issued to authorities in Punjab about maintaining strict vigil on Diwali night so that the government's directive about bursting only green crackers for two hours -- 8 pm to 10 pm -- are not violated. Chandigarh has imposed a complete ban on the sale or use of any type of firecrackers.

Several incidents of high-intensity cracker bursting were reported from Gurgaon and Faridabad despite the Haryana government banning the sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers in 14 of its districts in the National Capital Region, while curbs were put in other parts.

Amid the restrictions put in place by courts on the bursting of firecrackers, 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.

A trustee of the much-revered Dakshineswar temple said the management has made sure that all Covid-19 protocols were being followed on the premises. Visitors will have to undergo temperature checks at the entry point, he said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar extended their wishes to people on the occasion.

A huge rush was also witnessed at the city's Kalighat temple, close to the CM's residence, with the management trying its best to stop people from huddling together on the premises.

The chief minister performs Kali puja at her residence every year, with several politicians and dignitaries attending the occasion.

In neighbouring Odisha, the Puri district administration clamped prohibitory orders around the Jagannath Temple to avoid crowding and prevent people from observing 'Paya Shraddha', paying obeisance to their forefathers in the 12th-century shrine which remained closed.

Burning of 'Kaunriya Kathis' (jute sticks) in front of Lion's Gate of the temple, a part of the ritual, was also not allowed.

Similar restrictions have been imposed at the Dhabaleswar temple in Cuttack district. In Bhubaneswar people have been prohibited from offering 'Paya Shraddha' at Bindusagar tank and the Lion's Gate of the Lingaraj Temple.

Goa ushered in the Diwali festivities with the burning of giant effigies of mythological demon king Narakasur. Youths dressed as Lord Krishna burnt the effigies of Narakasura at several places.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant conveyed his greetings to citizens, wishing happiness and prosperity to everyone.

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan chose to celebrate Diwali with children who have lost one or both parents to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He had lunch with 66 children from Bhopal, Sehore, Raisen, Vidisha, Rajgarh and Hoshangabad districts at his official residence, said an official.

Uttarakhand Governor Lt Gen (retd) Gurmit Singh and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami celebrated Diwali with soldiers in the border village of Mana. After that, they left for Badrinath where they prayed for prosperity and well-being of the state and the country.