Agra: It is not always about the bright flames that diyas appear to offer out of cupped palms of baked clay. Sometimes, especially these days here, the diyas themselves attract instant attention.

Designer diyas - beautifully crafted by skilled artisans with special clay in pastel shades - have become quite an attraction this Diwali and retain their decorative value well after the flames have flickered down to wisps of smoke.

Rakhi, a young home-maker, who took to designing special diyas a year-and-a-half ago, is excited by the response. "Most of my Diwali diyas are being sold through a retail outlet in Greater Kailash in New Delhi."

The traditional diyas are used once and thrown away-not these. The multi-coloured lamps are not only costly, but at two to four feet in height, cannot be disposed of so easily and end up as showpieces.

The rate is the same as last year, according to Padmini, a home-maker who bought 500 of them from the Belanganj market Sunday evening. They are usually on sale at various handicraft fairs, exhibitions or galleries.

"The candles had virtually ousted the diya from the market, but this year we find people going back to the mitti ka diyas, lit with mustard oil," Mumbai girl Rakhi now married and settled in Agra told the media person.

"Perhaps they are becoming eco-conscious."

Ram Lal, a potter of Nunihai, says "This year the demand for his diyas seems to have picked up."

Regrettably, his children are no longer interested in the diya making profession.

"Raw materials have gone scarce and working costs up, amid constrution all around, but we are still selling at last year's rate:

Rs 25 for 100. People are also using plastic diyas. Chinese stuff is also giving us some competition."

Home-maker Lalita says: "Diyas are too much of a hassle; it is messy and with oil becoming costlier, candles are good enough for our family. The Chinese rice lamps, ladi, is cheaper and looks attractive."

Shruti Mittal, another home-maker turned entrepreneur, has through her online outlet popularised sale of Sky Lanterns.

"These sky lanterns, more popular in China but now finding market in India, are graceful, safer, attractive and affordable," Shruti told the media person. "It is believed as the sky lantern floats, it takes with it all your blues and worries."

She wants people to have fun and enjoy but in a manner that keeps the environment remains safe and there is "grace, dignity and colour to great occasion".

"On a visit to China recently, I saw how sky lanterns were used to lighten up the dark skies. Every one enjoyed the spectacle and made a wish. The Chinese believe that the sky lanterns will take away all their worries," she says.

"When I returned I began working on this project and here I am with my own patterns and designs, all affordable and compatible with our conditions," Shruti adds.

(Agencies)