Diwali Facts for Children and Teachers
What is Diwali?
Diwali is an important religious festival for Hindus. ‘Diwali’ means ‘row of lights’ in Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hinduism. It marks the start of the Hindu New Year. It is also known as Deepawali, or the Festival of Lights.
When is Diwali celebrated?
The exact dates for Diwali change every year, depending on the cycle of the moon, but it almost always falls in either October or November. The festival is actually five days long, but the main celebrations take place on the third day. This year, Diwali is on Saturday 14th November 2020.
What is Diwali a celebration of?
Diwali is a celebration of good triumphing over evil; of light over darkness. Hindus remember and retell the story of Rama and Sita, which is found in the holy book, the Ramayana.
Here is a summary of the story of Rama and Sita:
Prince Rama and his wife, Sita, were banished from their kingdom to the forest by their stepmother, as she wanted her own son, and not Rama, to become king. Unfortunately, within the forest lived the evil Demon King, Ravana. He saw the beautiful Sita and wanted her for himself, and so he kidnapped her. Rama called upon his friend, Hanuman, the King of the Monkeys, to help him find Sita. After searching all over the world, they found her on an island in the sea. Rama battled with Ravana, and eventually killed the Demon King with an arrow to his heart. Rama and Sita returned to their kingdom to find that everyone had placed lights to guide their way home, and to symbolise that the light of goodness had defeated the darkness of evil.
How is Diwali celebrated?
Hindus prepare for Diwali by cleaning their houses and then decorating them with lights and oil lamps called diyas.
As well as a reminder that light triumphs over darkness, Hindus place lamps at their windows to help the goddess, Lakshmi, find her way to their homes. Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, and Hindus hope that she will bless them with prosperity in the year to come. It is said that Lakshmi likes cleanliness, so the cleanest homes are visited first!
Rangoli is the Sanskrit word for ‘row of colours’. Rangoli patterns are created using rice, flour and other coloured powders. Flowers, grains and pulses can also be used.
These beautiful patterns are often drawn at the entrance to homes to welcome the gods and to ward off evil.
During Diwali, feasts are prepared and eaten, and firework displays are enjoyed. Gifts, cards and sweets are exchanged with friends and family.
Fascinating facts about Diwali
- Diwali is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Hindu month of Kartika.
- The celebrations take place over five days, which are: Dhanteras (Day of fortune), Naraka Chaturdashi (Day of knowledge), Diwali (Day of light), Annakut (New Year) and Bhai Duj (Day of love between siblings).
- More than 800 million people celebrate the festival in various ways.
- Traditionally, people go out and buy new clothes specifically for Diwali.
- Other religions such as Jainism and Sikhism also celebrate Diwali.
- In the United Kingdom, the city of Leicester holds the largest Diwali celebration outside of India.
- ‘Shubh Deepavali’ is a greeting associated with Diwali - it means ‘Have an auspicious Diwali’.
- There are some similarities between Christmas traditions and Diwali traditions. In India, many people go shopping for gifts for themselves, family and friends during Diwali – a bit like Christmas shopping in the UK. Just as many Christian families do on Christmas day, Hindu families may put on their best clothes.