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Himachal people celebrate Diwali in unusual way

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Dhami: This Himachal Pradesh town, once a hunter’s paradise of British India, is known for a unique cultural life – a virtual shower of stones to appease Hindu goddess, Kali.

A day after Diwali, the festival of lights, male adults of the town in their colourful best gather in the former princely state of Dhami, some 25 km from state capital Shimla, and pelt one another with small stones.

At least, six people were injured on Thursday and the pelting lasted for more than 15 minutes. It was subsequently stopped as one of the participants started bleeding profusely, a government official told IANS.

In local parlance, the ritual is known as ‘pattharon ka mela’ (fair of stones).

The pelting of stones is between two groups – one representing the royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Dhami and the others comprising the commoners – over a circular structure, where a rani or queen had committed ‘sati’ or the former practice of a widow throwing herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre.

Old-timers say it was a bloody affair in the past.

“The practice was introduced centuries ago to shun the tradition of ‘narbali’ (human sacrifice) that was prevalent here also like other parts in the state,” octogenarian Dhyan Chand told IANS.

Earlier, there used to be a bloody affair at the stone pelting ritual, he said. “Nowadays with the intervention of human rights groups and the deployment of adequate police, it has become more a ritual exercise and the participation is getting lesser each year.”

A local committee, mainly comprising descendants of the erstwhile royal family, is the ritual organiser.

To avoid a bloody clash, the government deployed adequate police and medical teams.

The ‘battle’ of stones commences after the deity of the Narsingh temple in over 250-year old Halog, the crumbling palace, arrives at the Kali temple also located in the town.

The stone pelting exercise takes place between the residents of Halog, the erstwhile capital of Dhami estate, and neighbouring village Jamog.

As per the belief, a devotee who gets injuries in stone-pelting is considered a devout of goddess Kali. The oozing blood is applied as a ’tilak’ to the goddess.

The one-day fair was attended by locals and tourists in good strength.

On this day, the locals buy farm implements to ensure prosperity and protection from natural calamities.

“We normally buy implements on this auspicious occasion,” farmer Bhim Sen said.

Goddess Kali personifies ‘shakti’ or divine energy and considered the goddess of time and change and is widely worshipped in Hinduism.

(IANS)

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Delhi’s Air Quality Leads To Ban On Trucks And Construction

The measures include a ban on industries using coal and biomass, brick kilns, construction activities and entry of trucks into Delhi.

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India, air pollution, WHO, diwali, Pollution, Delhi, egypt, air quality
A man walks in front of the India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India. VOA

With no improvement in the air quality of Delhi-NCR even three days after Diwali, the environment authority on Saturday extended the ban on the entry of trucks, construction and polluting industries.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Saturday ordered the Delhi government to extend the ban which was imposed on November 2.

Pollution, Delhi, egypt, air quality
As pollution levels spike, Delhi and its satellite towns are enveloped in a haze of smog. VOA

The restrictions imposed till November 10 were extended to November 12, by when there will be an improvement in the air quality of Delhi-NCR, as forecast by pollution monitoring agencies.

The restrictions were imposed by the EPCA under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

Delhi’s air quality started deteriorating a day after Diwali to “severe-plus” or “emergency” due to fireworks and weather conditions like wind speed and dipping mercury, leading to lower dispersion rate of pollutants. The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Saturday was 401 or “severe”.

India, air pollution, WHO, diwali, Pollution, Delhi, egypt, air quality
A bird flies past the Humayun’s Tomb shrouded in smog in New Delhi, India. VOA

“The CPCB-headed task force has informed EPCA that given the prevailing adverse conditions, the following measures will remain until November 12, when it will further review the situation and inform us,” said EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal, in a letter to Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, the Delhi Environment Secretary and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Also Read: Delhi’s Pollution Brings Down The Diwali High

The measures include a ban on industries using coal and biomass, brick kilns, construction activities and entry of trucks into Delhi. The restrictions exclude power plants and waste to energy plants. (IANS)