For several decades now, students of the oldest Indian Institute of Technology — IIT-Kharagpur — have refrained from bursting any crackers and have been celebrating Deepavali by organising an eco-friendly competition.

On the eve of the festival of lights this year, Akshat Jain, a student of the Agricultural and Food Engineering department, was busy giving final touches to five light installations which his hall of residence is entering in Sunday’s contest. These light installations are huge: 15 feet to 20 feet high and almost 100 feet long. At least 50 installations called “illus” by the IIT-KGP students are being prepared by the members of the 23 halls of residence here.

Each hall of residence will set up the installations near their respective buildings. The themes range from Ramayana or Mahabharata stories to social issues. Large wooden or metallic structures are used as a frame to display earthen diyas.

On Deepavali evening, a team of judges comprising faculty members, artists from outside the campus and alumni visit each of these halls. The faculty members and boarders at IIT- KGP said that the illumination competition started in the 1980s and has gained popularity.

“The designing and execution of these installations is something which has been passed on from seniors to juniors and the tradition has continued at IIT- KGP for decades,” Ninaad Lohakare, a fourth year mechanical engineering student said. Mr. Lohakare, who is from the Patel Hall of residence, said, “We have a design team and the execution is left to first year and second year students.”

Officiating Director of IIT-KGP Sriman Kumar Bhattacharya said, “Illumination is done with grandeur but without causing any harm to the environment. It is a green process because the students do not burn any material which could be considered as highly polluting.” He added that studies would be taken up to highlight the impact of this effort.

On Deepavali, the gates of the 250-acre campus, 120 km from Kolkata, are open and hundreds of people from the adjoining Kharagpur town come to see the illumination festival.

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