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Divali: Festival of lights

To reflect upon the significance of the Hindu festival of Divali.

by Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To reflect upon the significance of the Hindu festival of Divali.

Preparation and materials

  • A small torch or key fob light.

  • 8 tea lights in suitable and safe holders.
  • Images of Divali celebrations can be found on the Internet (subject to copyright).
  • The story of Rama and Sita might be enacted by a group of children, told with a PowerPoint presentation or (in a fuller form) from The Divali Story by Anita Ganeri.


  1. Introduce the theme of light by commenting that we are approaching the darkest time of the year. Evenings are growing darker and in unlit areas a small torch or key light is helpful to find your way home.

  2. Reflect that light is the theme of a religious festival called Divali (also spelt Diwali), which is often known as ‘the festival of lights’.

    It’s celebrated by those of Hindu faith in the month of Kartika (our October/November). It is held on the darkest night of the month, the night of the new moon, when the moon can’t be seen in the sky. (The date changes each year. It’s often around our half term but is later this year.)

  3. Explain that Divali is a joyful occasion. Invite pupils of Hindu faith to describe the celebrations.

    Families clean and decorate their homes in preparation.
    Streets and buildings are decorated with lights.
    Cards are sent and gifts exchanged.
    Special food and sweets are enjoyed.
    Fireworks are often part of the celebrations.  
    Everyone prays for prosperity and good fortune in the days that lie ahead.
    Most especially, small clay lamps (called divas) are lit.

  4. The origins of the festival are unclear. There are a number of stories to explain how the festival started. One of the most common is the story of Rama and Sita, which is retold each year during Divali.

    Lord Rama was a prince who married a beautiful princess, Sita. His father wanted Rama to become king, but his mother didn’t agree. She wanted Rama’s brother, Bharat, to have that honour. 

    Rama and Sita were told that they must leave the kingdom for 14 years. Another brother, Lakshman, went with them.

    Eventually, the old king died. Knowing and honouring his father’s wishes, Bharat went to a far-off forest where he found Rama and Lakshman and invited them to return as king and queen. But they had promised to stay away for 14 years and Rama insisted they must be true to their word.

    So they stayed in the forest where, one day, an evil demon named Ravana captured Sita and carried her off to an island. Here he imprisoned her in his palace.

    Rama and Lakshman searched for her. A bird told them where she was being held. With the help of Hanuman, the monkey general, Rama went to the castle where there was a huge battle. Eventually, Rama killed the demon king with a golden arrow and rescued Sita.

    After 14 years, it was time for Rama to return home. Towards the end of their journey, the night was very dark, with no moon to light the path ahead. So to help King Rama and Queen Sita find their way, all their people placed small lamps outside their houses.

    This is one of the reasons why small clay lamps are lit every year at Divali. 

Time for reflection

Conclude by dimming the lights and slowly light the tea lights. 

Invite everyone to reflect upon the story of Rama and Sita.

The story tells how good can triumph over evil. It speaks of the importance of friendship and loyalty, giving and sharing, goodness and happiness, hope and new beginnings.

It shows how friendship can provide support during dark and difficult times and can help us to find our true destiny.

Who proved to be good friends in the story of Rama and Sita? Who may prove to be a good friend in school today?

Wish everyone a happy Divali.


‘Flickering candles in the night’ (Come and Praise, 114)

Publication date: November 2012   (Vol.14 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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