Indians celebrated Diwali on Monday as bright earthen oil lamps and colourful lights lit up homes and streets across the country to mark the Hindu festival that symbolises the victory of light over darkness.
Diwali, which is a national holiday across India, is typically celebrated by socialising and exchanging gifts with family and friends.
Many people light earthen oil lamps or candles, and fireworks are set off as part of the celebrations.
In the evening, a prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.
Millions of Indians thronged crowded bazaars for shopping, bringing back the Diwali cheer that was dampened during the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The markets buzzed with shoppers buying flowers, lanterns and candles to decorate houses and offices.
Over the past few years, Diwali celebrations have been tinged with worries over air pollution, which typically shrouds northern India under a toxic grey smog as temperatures dip and winter settles in.
Northern India’s pollution woes during the onset of winter mainly stem from vehicular emissions and the burning of crop stubble to clear fields.
But on the night of Diwali, people also light up the sky with firecrackers, and the smoke causes smog that sometimes takes days to clear.
Some Indian states, including the capital New Delhi, have banned sales of fireworks and imposed other restrictions to stem the pollution.
Authorities have also urged residents to light “green crackers”, which emit less pollutants than normal firecrackers. But similar bans have often been flouted in the past.