Nfld. & Labrador

Shining a light on diversity with hand-painted diyas during Diwali

A St. John's woman is selling the clay lamps used to celebrate Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated in India and around the world.

Nearly $1,900 raised so far to buy culturally diverse books for N.L. public libraries

Prajwala Dixit paints and sells diyas to raise money for Newfoundland and Labrador public libraries. (CBC)

A St. John's woman is selling hand-painted clay lamps called diyas, used in Diwali celebrations, to stock Newfoundland and Labrador libraries with culturally diverse books.

"The impetus for this fundraiser was my daughter. We love visiting the libraries, and there were only a handful of Diwali books that they had on hand," Prajwala Dixit told CBC News.

Clay diyas are filled with canola oil and lit in celebration of Diwali, the world's biggest celebration. (CBC)

Noticing that Diwali — a Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival of light — wasn't the only cultural tradition underrepresented on the province's library shelves, Dixit began Diyas for Diversity.

The fundraising campaign raises money to add diverse children's books from around the world to the province's public libraries. 

Nearly $1,900 has been collected so far through sales of the diyas, which are used in Diwali celebrations.

"We light them because it signifies the victory of knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, of light over darkness," Dixit said.

"I think that any positive thing that brings people together for a good cause, be it Diwali, be it Christmas, be it Rosh Hashanah, be it Hanukkah, be it any celebration. I think it's very important because it puts the soul back in humankind."

The celebration of Diwali

Diwali is celebrated across India and around the world the same way Christmas is celebrated across world, Dixit said. Traditions vary throughout the country but the message remains the same.

"India is so diverse that every state, every province in India has its own way of celebrating Diwali, but the universal theme is that light wins over darkness," she said.

Dixit wants to add diversity into the province's public libraries to benefit young readers. (CBC)

The diyas are filled with regular canola oil and a hand-rolled cotton wick and then lit, two at a time. 

Dixit said there's always a lot of food, cheer and family associated with Diwali celebrations.

"Lots of warmth, lots of getting together, very, very similar to what people do during Christmas."

This year, Diwali begins Nov. 7.

With files from Carolyn Stokes

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador