FESTIVAL OF DIVALI
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar
for Whole School
Light; hope; new
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
- 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
- For many Hindus
it's the beginning of a new business year and prayers are said for a prosperous
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.
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
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)