The faces of idols in a temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi district have been covered with anti-pollution masks as pollution levels have fallen to dangerous levels in the past few days, IANS reported on Wednesday.

The masks were put on the idols in Shiv-Parvati temple in Varanasi’s Sigra area after PM 2.5 levels rose to 500 after Diwali celebrations last month.

Harish Mishra, a priest at the temple, pointed out that the idols get covered with blankets during winter. “Varanasi is a place of belief,” he told IANS. “We treat our idols as living deities and take pains to make them happy and comfortable.”

Mishra claimed that numerous devotees started wearing anti-pollution masks after visiting the temple.

“Bad air did not deter the people from bursting crackers on Diwali,” he added. “Now there is smog everywhere. But instead of doing something about it, municipal workers are only adding to the crisis by burning waste in the open. So despite the hue and cry, everyone is just contributing to the emergency. Until people come together to change their habits, the situation will never change.”

Varanasi is one of the cities part of the National Clean Air Campaign, which is an initiative by the Union Environment Ministry to improve air quality in 100 cities by 20% to 30% at least by 2024.

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