The Hindu Festival of Divali
Light; hope; new beginnings
by Caroline Donne
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar .
Light; hope; new beginnings.
Preparation and materials
- Background: Divali (or Deepavali) means a row or string of lights. It lasts from one to five days and for many Hindus it is the new year festival. Rituals and celebrations vary from region to region but the lighting of Diva lamps (traditionally earthenware bowls filled with oil or butter, called ghee, with cotton wicks) is universal. The lamps symbolize the triumph of good over bad, light over darkness.
- The festival is celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs at a time of the darkest night of the lunar month.
- Two stories are often told: the return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after the defeat of the demon Ravana; and the story of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity), who traditionally blesses homes in which lamps have been lit to greet her.
- For many Hindus it's the beginning of a new business year and prayers are said for a prosperous new year.
- Materials: a Diva lamp or lamps. These could be made in advance as a classroom activity. Take a lump of plasticine, salt dough or clay. Roll it into a ball and pull it into an oval shape. Use the thumb to make an indentation big enough to hold a night-light. Pinch out one end of the lump to make a lip. Flatten the base so that it will stand alone. Leave the lamp to harden and then decorate it. Place a night-light in each lamp.
- Or use a number of candles on stands which can be clearly seen.
- You could make a pathway of Diva lamps or candles at the front of the classroom/school hall, or down the centre of the school hall.
- You could use children's versions of the Rama and Sita story or the story of Lakshmi.
- Think about the word 'darkness' and places that are dark. Ask for volunteers to list some dark places, e.g. bedrooms at night; under the bed; the streets in the evenings at this time of year; caves; a cinema before the film starts. Think about how you feel in dark places, e.g. scared, alone, excited, sad. Explain that places can be dark but our lives can feel dark too when sad, or frightening, or bad things happen. In the same way, people feel that when good things happen their lives feel brighter, like a light coming on.
Think about what happens when you turn on a light in a dark place. Think about the words that describe that feeling, e.g. safe, hopeful, cheerful.
- Explain that at this time of year Hindus all over the world meet together for a special festival that celebrates the belief that good is stronger than bad, and they use light to celebrate this belief. The festival is called Divali, which means a row of lights. In the evenings they light small lamps (called Diva lamps) inside and outside their homes to show that light is stronger than darkness, good is stronger than bad. They send cards and they give presents and sweets to one another. They meet together in the temple to pray and give thanks.
Explain that for many Hindus it is also the beginning of a new year, so it's a time to think about plans for the months ahead, to make a new start and to be hopeful.
- Tell one of the Divali stories suggested above. If you tell the story of Rama and Sita, emphasize the point that this is a story of good being stronger than bad because Rama and Sita defeat the wicked demon Ravana.
Time for reflection
If you have lit Diva lamps or candles, dim the electric lights and pull the curtains if you can, to create the effect of the light shining in the darkness.
Suggest to the children that they focus on the Diva lights or candles and use the following words to help them to think or to pray about what they have heard.
Light shining in the darkness.
Light takes away the darkness.
Light brings hope.
God of light,
when things seem difficult or when we're frightened or sad,
help us to remember that light is stronger than darkness,
good is stronger than bad.
'Flickering candles in the night' (Come and Praise, 114)