Diwali, also known as Divali and Deepavali among other names, is celebrated by millions of people in India and around the world, marking a special time of year.
Rooted in Hinduism, this “festival of lights” is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains over the course of five days and is filled with diverse cultural traditions and family gatherings. Diwali is observed during Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. The third day of the holiday, Lakshmi Puja, is the most celebrated and falls on November 12th this year. Diwali is also a new year’s celebration, marking the start of the Hindu New Year.
Diwali commemorates the triumph of good over evil, evoked by homes and public spaces lit up with lanterns, candles, and diyas – oil lamps used for spiritual and religious ceremonies. One of the most popular interpretations of the holiday is the epic tale Ramayana. This tells the story of Lord Rama who is unjustly exiled from his home of Ayodhya. During this time, his wife Sita is kidnapped by the evil demon Ravana. Rama, along with his brother Lakshman, go to free Sita and defeat Ravana. After a victorious battle, and 14 long years away from home, Rama and Sita begin their return journey to Ayodhya. To help guide them on their way, villagers light up their homes with lanterns to illuminate the path.
Learn more about the origins and worldwide traditions of Diwali, discover great children’s books, and try out some delicious Indian inspired recipes with the resources below.
Learn About Diwali
A Prayer on the Doorstep
Grades 3-12 Rangoli is a decorative pattern traditionally displayed on the doorstep to welcome visitors into Indian homes. Its use also enhances places of worship, defines and beautifies place settings for meals, and is often created during times of celebration like Diwali. Creating the rangoli is a time for meditation and harmony. In India, rangoli is made with a finely ground sandstone. In this segment Nirmala Sathaye and Suhasini V. Bapkar, who live in Kentucky, show how they use a mixture of rice flour and sand or salt to continue an honored custom from their homeland.
Grades 6-12 Learn about Diwali and other religious festivals in India with this interactive photo gallery from The Story of India which weaves together a series of interrelated themes, events, and individuals that helped shape India’s history.
Grades 9-12 This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly shows a reenactment of the event that most Hindus observe as the inspiration for Diwali: Lord Rama’s return from exile. Learn about the “Grand Puja,” or ritual prayer, towards the end of the Diwali celebration using the elements of both fire and water to communicate with God.
Grades PreK-5 Learn about the diverse traditions and foods that are part of the “festival of lights” across India, as well as the many well-known Diwali legends that highlight the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil with this great book list.
All Ages This recipe comes from Rakesh Anand, a retired physician in Cary, N.C. He and his wife, Archna, showed Vivian Howard how they make saag paneer on the “It’s a Greens Thing” episode of Somewhere South.
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