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Picture Book Sheds Light On India's Diwali Holiday


Today, more than a billion people around the world are celebrating Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. It marks the beginning of a new year and symbolizes the victory of good over evil. Homes are decorated with clay lamps. Colorful patterns are drawn to welcome the gods. There are fireworks, and families come together for a ritual of blessing called puja, which brings prosperity to the home.

SHWETA CHOPRA: We all gathered on Diwali night to do a little puja, where the older ones bless the younger ones, and then we have a big nice feast, and usually, we have a party that we end up dancing and singing and having a merry good time.

MONTAGNE: That's Shweta Chopra. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area. And to help children in America better understand the holiday, Chopra teamed up with Shuchi Mehta to write a book about this special day. It's called "The Diwali Gift." It's the story of three young monkeys.

SHUCHI MEHTA: They're called Suno, Dekho and Jaano.

MONTAGNE: Shuchi Mehta reads an excerpt.

MEHTA: (Reading) The three curious monkeys ran to open the door. Outside, they found a mysterious box with a note on it. The note read, happy Diwali, Suno. I am sending you, Jaano and Dekho a sparkly present for Diwali.

MONTAGNE: A family friend has sent each little monkey a magic silver coin with images of two Hindu gods.

MEHTA: Alakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and actually, Diwali is supposed to be her birthday. And Ganesh is the elephant god of auspicious beginnings and remover of obstacles. So those two are worshiped on the day of Diwali.

MONTAGNE: The authors hope their book can help teach children about South Asia much as Dora the Explorer does for the Latino community. And it's a way for children to explore a holiday that's special to so many people around the world. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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