Diwali's Underbelly as the Needy Gather Lamp Oil in Ayodhya

Even the light of lakhs of lamps lit in Ayodhya, UP, which secured a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, faded into insignificance when pictures and videos of women filling the oil left in the earthen lamps went viral on social media. Someone said that the oil would come in handy for cooking, while someone else mentioned that it would be used for massaging the child.
Diwali's Underbelly as the Needy Gather Lamp Oil in Ayodhya

Lucknow: A grand festival of lights was organized in Ayodhya district of UP. The government had set a target of lighting 25 lakh lamps on Saturday, the eve of Diwali, to commemorate the Hindu festival, but only 22 lakh 20 thousand lamps were lit. Diplomats from more than 50 countries were also present at this grand festival.

There is no public data available on how much the government budget was spent on the Deepotsav program. However, the team of The Mooknayak, present during the Deepotsav event, investigated the darker side obscured by the refulgent flames of lakhs of earthen lamps, revealing indicators of spiralling inflation and abject poverty persisting in the country.

The Guinness Book of World Records team captured 22 lakh 20 thousand lit lamps on camera through a drone, setting a new world record. In 2022, the government had created a world record by lighting about 18 lakh lamps, surpassing last year's record. However, what took the wind out of the sails of the much-touted Guinness world record were the images and videos of people filling their containers with the oil from the lamps. These images were captured by The Mooknayak with the help of fellow journalist Ahad Azmi. Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and several social media users used these images to take potshots at the government

Poor laborers and their families were seen filling oil from the lamps

The team of The Mooknayak was present to cover the Deepotsava. While on one hand, over 50 diplomats were present to witness the grandiose event, on the other side, poor people were seen pouring oil from the earthen lamps. The oil is used in the lamps to sustain the flame in the wick. The Mooknayak spoke to the laborers; they said that they would take the oil from the lamps to use it for cooking as well as smearing on the body.

When the laborers were pouring oil from the lamps, the policemen and the volunteers deputed there were preventing them from doing so and asking them to go away. The sight of a woman pleading with a policeman to let her collect the oil for her household was heart-wrenching. Speaking to The Mooknayak, the woman said she came from a nearby district and was seven months pregnant, and her husband had left her few weeks ago; the collected oil would help her mitigate her expenses. The woman said that she comes to the banks of the river Saryu to collect oil along with hundreds of others.

Another woman who came to the Saryu banks to collect oil told The Mooknayak, "I will use this oil to massage my child during the winters."

Asha Devi, a lady collecting oil, told The Mooknayak, "We belong to the labor family, this oil would be used both for cooking and applying on the body. The income from labor is dependent upon the work. Sometimes we eat, and sometimes we have to sleep on an empty stomach. The oil we have collected would help us save for 6-8 months. We won't have to buy oil, and the money we save could be used in the treatment of children. Many times we are not allowed to fill the oil; the police hit us with lathis. This oil would be poured into the river; it is better that we utilize it for cooking.

22 lakh 20 thousand diyas lit out of 25 lakh diyas

Ayodhya is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama. Due to this age-old belief, there is a grand celebration in Ayodhya. The city is decorated for the occasion. A grand festival of lights is organized on the banks of the Saryu every year. The state government creates a world record by lighting lakhs of lamps on the banks of the Saryu. According to an estimate, more than 25 lakh lamps were arranged to be lit this time. At the same time, about 25 thousand liters of branded oil were also procured for lighting these lamps. Approximately 10 ml of oil is required for one lamp. During the event, lamps were placed on the banks of the Saryu River. Diplomats from more than 50 countries, including state CM Yogi Adityanath, were also present during the program. Boys and girls from schools of different districts were present as volunteers to light the lamps. Besides, the team of Guinness Book of World Records was also present to count the lamps.

More than 25 lakh diyas were arranged for the occasion. The Guinness world record team counted the lit diyas and found that out of the 25 lakh diyas, only 22 lakh 20 thousand diyas had flames on their wicks.

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