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A five-day festival of light which is perhaps Hinduism's spiritual equivalent of Western Christianity, Deepavali (or Diwali as it is known in north India) symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. The established practice was to use oil lamps in profusion during the holiday period to convey light holding darkness at bay. In modern times, however, holiday-goers supplanted lamps with rockets, cherry bombs, chain bombs and sparklers, turning a festival of light into a cacophony of noise.

The effect on the environment has been steep. The deterioration of air quality and added noise pollution has prompted the Indian government to curtail the sale of firecrackers to the public. This has made little difference in several cities, especially in New Delhi, where the citizenry defied court orders restricting the use of fireworks between 8 am to 10 pm. The result was an Air Quality Index PM2.5 reading of 805 in New Delhi on Thursday, November 8 (levels of 0-50 are considered good; over 500 is considered “severe-plus emergency”). In part to obviate such a crisis in the future, civic authorities in the southern Indian city of Bangalore are considering a wholesale ban of fireworks from the following year.

Holiday Spirit

These images were taken in the old market area of Bangalore, where the bulk of cheap fireworks are sold to the public without restrictions, but where also well-heeled citizenry mingle with the poor and the rising middle class, to haunt jewelry, silk and appliance stores in the hope of hunting down bargains.

Sheer Pyrotechnics
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