New Delhi: Millions of Indians across the country switched off lights at their homes and lit candles and diyas or turned on mobile phone torches on Sunday night, responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to show the nation's "collective resolve and solidarity" in its fight against coronavirus with this symbolic gesture.
Much before the designated time of 9pm, people turned off lights at their homes while lamps and candles lit up the streets as people stood in their balconies and at entrance doors in unison. Fireworks, sounds from beating of thalis, conches, whistles and police sirens were heard.
At many places the air resonated with the sounds of devotional songs, mantras and national anthem, in scenes similar to the ones seen across the country on March 22 when Modi had sought to rally Indians by asking them to come out briefly at 5pm to show gratitude to health and other essential service providers.
President Ram Nath Kovind along with wife Savita, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu And his wife Ushamma, several Union ministers including Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh, BJP patriarch L K Advani and prominent personalities from various fields including Bollywood too lighted diyas and candles.
Modi, who had had on Friday urged people to turn off lights at their homes for nine minutes at 9pm to display the country's collective resolve and solidarity to defeat the virus, posted on Twitter his own pictures of lighting lamp.
People continued to stay outside while maintaining social distancing much beyond the nine minutes. In some pockets, Diwali seemed to have arrived months earlier.
Union Health minister Harsh Vardhan lit a diya along with AIIMS doctors and staff, whom he calls "Corona warriors", at the Delhi campus.
"Let the brightness of the lights ignite our energies and ensure the victory of good over evil. My prayers go out for all those million homes across the planet who are suffering because of coronavirus. I call upon them all to be a part of this symbolic war over evil forces," he said.
The Prime Minister had asked people to clap or beat thalis on March 22 for five minutes at 5pm while observing 'janta curfew' from 7am to 9pm to thank those working in essentials services, and had received an unprecedented and overwhelming response.
The nine-minute lights-out event on Sunday evening went off well without any disruption in the electricity grid after the government and utilities put in place elaborate plans to deal with the sudden drop and then a quick spurt in demand.
Several opposition leaders had expressed concern that the event could result in grid collapse.
Jaikishan, 42, a rickshaw puller in Jangpura in Delhi, said he made diyas of wheat flour and lit them hoping the situation will normalise soon and crores of others like him will be able to sail through the crisis.
Aparna Goel, a chartered accountant, said besides lighting diyas and candles, people in her locality played songs like "Ae Malik Tere Bande Hum" and "Humko Mann ki Shakti Dena".
"Crores of people are doing it at the same time. It has connected all of us in one thread. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in these times of crisis. we are one. India is one," she said.
In Tamil Nadu, people lit up the traditional 'Kamakshi lamps' and 'Kuthuvilakku', besides the earthen lamps.
The terraces of several buildings were lined up with endless rows of earthen lamps which was nothing short of a visual treat
Governor Banwarilal Purohit lit a candle after switching off lights of the Raj Bhavan here for nine minutes. Chief Minister K Palaniswami, while maintaining distance , lit an earthen lamp at his residence.
Also, Deputy Chief Minister K Pannerselvam, Tamil Nadu Ministers including S P Velumani and K Pandiarajan lit lamps in their respective residences here.
Superstar Rajinikanth was among the celebrities who joined the symbolic event against the contagion and he held a candle in his Poes Garden residence.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan lighted lamps in Bhopal. At some places, people also raised slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath lit lamps at arranged in the shape of 'Om'.
The overall death toll in the country due to the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 83 and the cases climbed to 3,577 on Sunday after 505 new infections were reported in the past 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry.
India has been on a 21-day lockdown from March 25 to check the spread of coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 65,000 lives globally and inflicted over 12 lakh people since the pandemic first emerged in China in December.