The Northern Indian city of Ayodhya lit up with an incredible lantern display early this month for Diwali, breaking a Guinness World Record in the process. Diwali is an important festival in Indian culture, known as the Festival of Lights. Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all celebrate Diwali, which takes place around October/November - each year the exact date can shift depending on the Hindu calendar.
The festival has many different connections to these faiths, however all celebrate Diwali as a time for good to triumph over evil, and coincides with the Hindu New Year. One of the most important aspects of the celebration is light itself, with celebrants using strings of lights, lanterns, and fireworks as part of the celebration - and this year, so many lanterns were lit in Ayodhya that it set a new world record.
The city lit 300,150 earthen lamps (diyas) along the river Saryu, keeping them burning for at least 45 minutes to scoop the record for the number of lamps displayed at one time. (The previous record was 150,009.) The record attempt was made with the help of 5,000 volunteers to light the lamps and pour oil to keep them lit, and officials kept an eye on the massive spectacle using drones. The record was confirmed with a plaque presented to Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh.
This is not the first time that the city attempted to break this particular record. Last year Ayodhya made an attempt to break the record, but their efforts were stymied by strong winds which blew the lamps over. However, the city learned from this failed attempt and this year set up sheets to protect the lamps in very windy areas.
While Diwali is an important festival, and the spectacle of the lights all over India is a stunning one, there are increasing concerns about the environmental impact of displays like this one. India's big cities are known for having issues with air pollution, and the smoke from hundreds of thousands of lanterns (and plenty of fireworks) can seriously exacerbate this issue at this time of year. While these celebratory lights are certainly not the cause of the pollution problem, they aren't helping, either. However, this is still a moving celebration - and one that was incredible to watch as the lanterns reflected in the river, flickering in the night.