Diwali Celebrations and Traditions

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 lights, celebration, and family. The third day, Lakshmi Puja ⎯ which falls on November 14th this year ⎯ is the most celebrated.

Learn more about Diwali with this video from PBS LearningMedia and keep scrolling for Diwali-themed children’s books, educational resources, and Indian inspired recipes.

Things to Know About Diwali

• The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

• It’s observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.

• Diwali is also a new year’s celebration, marking the start of the Hindu New Year.

• One of the most popular interpretations of the holiday is that it commemorates the return of Lord Rama, who left his home and battled a ten-headed dragon. When he returned home after 14 years, villagers laid out lanterns to line the route.

• To wish a friend a happy holiday, you can say “Happy Diwali” in English or “Deepavali ki Shubhkamnayein” in Hindi.

Learn More

Celebrate Diwali With Books!

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.

A Prayer on the Doorstep

Grades 4-12
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.

The Story of India | Festivals

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. To explore more topics from the landmark, six-part series from PBS and the BBC, visit the program’s website.

Diwali | Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

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.

Recipes To Try at Home

A great way to spark children’s interest in and appreciation of diverse traditions and cultures is through food. Try out some of these tasty recipes at home for a hands-on, cross-cultural experience!

Saffron Honey Lassi

A lassi is a popular, traditional Indian drink made with a blend of yogurt, water, and sugar. This saffron honey lassi is tart and sweet.  

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup

Try this lentil soup with curry powder, tumeric, ginger, jalapenos, and crushed tomatoes for a vegan soup recipe. Food blogger Sarah Spigelman of Fritos and Foie Gras shares this soup recipe from a collection of carnivore tested, vegan approved recipes.

North Indian (Punjabi) Saag Paneer

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.