Millions of Indians are celebrating Diwali with a new Guinness World Record number of bright earthen oil lamps, as concerns about air pollution soared.
Across the country, dazzling multi-coloured lights decked homes and streets as devotees celebrated the annual Hindu festival of light, symbolising the victory of light over darkness.
The spectacular and much-awaited massive lighting of the oil lamps took place at the Saryu river in Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of their most revered deity, the god Ram.
At dusk on Saturday, devotees lit more than 2.22 million lamps and kept them burning for 45 minutes as Hindu religious hymns filled the air along the banks of the river, setting a new world record.
Last year, more than 1.5 million earthen lamps were lit.
After counting the lamps, Guinness World Records representatives presented a certificate to the state's top elected official, Yogi Adityanath.
More than 24,000 volunteers, mostly students, helped prepare for the new record, said Pratibha Goyal, vice-chancellor of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University in Ayodhya.
Diwali, a national holiday across India, is celebrated by socialising and exchanging gifts with family and friends.
Many light earthen oil lamps or candles, and fireworks are set off as part of the celebrations.
In the evening, a special prayer is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, who is believed to bring luck and prosperity.
The festival came as worries about air quality in India rose. A "hazardous" 400-500 level was recorded on the air quality index last week, more than 10 times the global safety threshold, which can cause acute and chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.
The air pollution level is expected to soar again after the celebrations end because of the fireworks used.
Australian Associated Press