If you live where there is a large Indian population, or you have Indian friends, you might have heard of the largest of all Indian celebrations called “Diwali” (pronounced di-VAL-ee). Diwali is a 5 day fall festival beginning on the 15th day of the Hindu calendar month of Kartika (Ashwin). By the Gregorian calendar, Diwali falls in October or November. In 2011 Diwali begins on Wednesday, October 26th and in 2012 it will be November 13th.
Let’s learn about the Hindu celebration of Diwali!
India has a very distinctive shape, and was one of the first countries my children were able to point out on a world map. Notice how it points downward toward the Indian Ocean, but doesn’t quite reach the equator- my daughter calls this the ice cream cone:). Once you have located India, talk about a common trait among humans around the world: enjoying parties! Celebrations can give us a glimpse into a new culture as we see people dressed in their best clothes (many times traditional clothing), try national food typical to the occasion, listen to music, and learn about the traditions associated with the holiday. Remember that you are opening your kids’ eyes to celebrations outside their small circle- or perhaps instilling pride in them for customs in their heritage.
Why do people celebrate Diwali? In Northern India, Diwali is celebrated as the return of virtuous King Rama’s after 14 years of exile (around 5000 BCE) after he triumphed over Ravana in a classic good over evil story. In Western and Southern India, some celebrate Diwali as a tribute to Lord Krishna, who defeated the maleficent Narkasura. Many Indians believe the lights used in the festival will invite Lakshmi Pooja (goddess of fortune and wealth) to bring them prosperity, especially farmers at the end of their harvest season.
What do people do to celebrate Diwali? Besides decorating their home in lights, some people open new account books and settle their debts on Diwali to start the new year fresh. Not only do people want a clean slate with their money, but also people forgive others past harms and clear their mind of evil doings, scrub their homes inside and out, buy new clothes, and new pots and pans.
Doorsteps are sometimes decorated with multi-colored designs called rangoli. (Learn how to make your own rangoli here). Regardless of the specific legend associated with a family’s Diwali celebration, the universal theme is happiness and hope, celebrated for 5 days with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, flowers, sharing of beautiful sweets, and worship. The name Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps,” because during the festivities people light up their homes with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas or diwas. Read how to make your own diyas with clay and some decorations. or make Thali plates.
Here is another Diwali video to share with your kids- a photographic slideshow of creative illuminations, food and diyas. Happy Diwali 2010!