Celebrate Diwali with Lights
Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is often celebrated with lamps, fireworks, sweets, gifts and cards. Interestingly, this association of light with festive celebrations is not unique to Indian culture.
People decorate their homes with lights for Christmas; in Thailand Loi Krathong is celebrated with lit candles; brightly coloured lanterns are an important part of the Chinese New Year; and during Hanukkah, nine candles are lit in the menorah. One can see that light is an important part of festive celebrations all over the world.
The Word That Means Light
The word Diwali is from the Sanskrit word Dipavali, which is literally translated as ‘Row of Lights’. Therefore, the festival is also called the ‘Festival of Lights’. And for the festival of Diwali, light takes on an interesting significance because it represents the triumph of good over evil.
Good Vs. Evil
India boasts of a few great epics: The Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Added to this body of literature are the myriad stories of the gods and goddesses that dominate the Hindu religion, most especially the stories of Krishna. It is therefore very interesting that Diwali marks the triumph of good over evil across the epics as well as the Krishna literature. Here is how:
- Vishnu Rescues Lakshmi: Vishnu, the god who later incarnates as Krishna, rescues his consort Lakshmi from the prison of King Bali on this day.
- Krishna Kills Narakaasur: On the day before Diwali, Krishna kills the demon king Narakaasur. In doing so, he rescues 16,000 women from captivity. The celebration of this victory is for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.
- The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic ‘Mahabharata’, the Pandavas come back to their kingdom on this day after suffering 12 years of banishment. The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting earthen lamps.
- The Victory of Rama: According to the epic ‘Ramayana’, the god-king Ram, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman return to Ram’s kingdom of Ayodhya on this day after vanquishing the demon-king Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with earthen lamps.
- Coronation of Vikramaditya: King Vikramaditya, considered one of the greatest king’s in India history was crowned four days after Diwali.
Diwali in the Classroom
Diwali is a great multicultural tool for the multicultural classroom. It combines celebration, stories and cultural beliefs all in one. Here are some tips on celebrating Diwali in your classroom:
- Make Diwali decorations: The earthen lamps that are lit in many Indian households during Diwali are easy to come by in most Indian stores. Alternately, light candles (under adult supervision) and explain to the students the importance of the festival to Indians.
- Make a festival of lights chart: This easy activity lets students explore all the various cultures that use light in their celebrations. Simply cut and paste as many pictures of the festivals as possible. Consider using this book Worldwide - A Calendar of Festivals - Celebrations Around the World to liven things up.
- Read the stories behind the festival: Do a storytelling session in the classroom and read out from the Krishna stories, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
- Make Diwali cards: Get your students to make Diwali cards in the classroom that they can give to each other or take home to give to their parents.
This festival is a great way to introduce a new culture to your students. It’s fun, interesting and yields a myriad things to do in the classroom. So, from all of us at Global Kids Oz, Happy Diwali.