India celebrates Diwali with prayers, lights, crackers

New Delhi : Millions of Indians celebrated Diwali, the colourful festival of lights, with joy all over the country despite rising prices of sweets, dry fruits and firecrackers.

Major cities saw traffic jams as shoppers thronged markets and called on friends and relatives to exchange greetings on Diwali, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said was a harbinger of happiness and prosperity.

As the sun went down, almost every home lit up with candles, the more traditional earthen lamps as well as flashing colourful electric lights.

Despite environmental concerns, hundreds of thousands burst firecrackers of all sizes and shapes.

Summarizing the nation’s mood, Delhi Mayor Rajni Abbi said: “This is a festival that brings people of all faiths together and unites them. It’s relished by people of all ages.”

Bollywood agreed.

Actor Bipasha Basu tweeted: “Today, it’s family and friends time for all! (This is the) time to eat, dance and be merry, and thank god for the lives we live!”

Added lyricist Javed Akhtar: “May the lights of Diwali lead us to the path of prosperity and progress, peace and love.”

The day began with homes and shops getting decked up and people offering prayers — in their residences and in temples. Keeping alive a tradition, many wore new clothes.

Major temples drew large crowds, with special prayers offered to Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha.

Colourful rangolis and marigold flowers embellished homes. Friends and neighbours exchanged sweets. There was plenty of last minute shopping, and that led to traffic jams everywhere, from Bangalore to Mumbai to Delhi.

In Tamil Nadu, lamps were lit and crackers burst early in the morning.

Markets in all major towns were abuzz with activity as shops sold sweets, dry fruits, packaged fruits, chocolates, cookies and gifts to suit various pockets.

“The business has been good this year. I opened at 8 in the morning and cleared my stock within hours,” said Vijay Yadav, selling marigold flowers in south Delhi’s Green Park crowded market.

Some residents in Mumbai complained of exorbitant prices of fire crackers.
But still the streets were crowded, and sweet shops saw long queues.

Others headed to Mumbai’s beaches or opted to see the much talked about Shah Rukh Khan starrer “Ra.One”.

In Amritsar, lakhs thronged the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine.
Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Chandigarh cities bustled with activity, and the inevitable traffic jams.

In Kolkata, thousands thronged the Dakshineswar Temple in North 24 Parganas district and Kalighat in south Kolkata to pray to Goddess Kali.

Diwali, celebrated on Amavasya, is believed to mark the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana.

In his message, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said of Diwali: “It celebrates the victory of good over evil and the spreading of the light of learning.

“It is a national festival in which all communities rejoice in amity and friendship and celebrate the solidarity of the nation.”


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