Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by millions all over the world. Although the date of the festival normally falls in October, this year it will be held on the 7th November. It is India’s most important holiday and can last up to 5 days.
Before Diwali (also known as Deepavali) takes place, people clean their homes and places of work in preparation for the celebrations. Deepavali is a Sanskrit word which literally means “rows of lighted lamps”.
At the beginning of the festival, devotees light small clay oil lamps called diyas in their homes, shops and places of worship. The Hindu Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, is worshipped throughout the year but especially during Diwali. Lamps are left alight throughout the night to welcome Lakshmi into the family home.
Diwali celebrates new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil and the victory of light over darkness. It also marks the start of the Hindu New Year in certain parts of Western and Northern India.
What is the history and significance of Diwali?
The legendary stories which accompany Diwali vary depending on the region of India which they relate to.Some believe the festival to be the celebration of the marriage of Goddess Lakshmi to Lord Vishnu – one of the most important gods in the Hindu holy trinity. Others believe that Diwali is a celebration of the Goddess’ birthday, which is said to take place during this time.
In Northern India, people believe that the Festival of Lights honours the mythical Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom after 14 years’ exile by a demon. Lighting candles is thought to symbolically illuminate the path for his welcome return and celebrate his subsequent coronation as king.
How do people celebrate at this time?
In India, Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that the Goddess Lakshmi can enter. Beautiful patterns (rangoli) are drawn on the floors near the entrance of the house using materials such as coloured rice, sand or flower petals.
Diwali is typically a time for:
- Visiting a local temple and wishing “Happy Diwali” to everyone
- Decorating homes in bright reds, greens and yellows
- Lighting candles and oil lamps
- Saying small prayers (puja) in homes
- Wearing traditional dress like saris
- Saying prayers to the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi
- Exchanging gifts with family and friends
- Preparing festive meals
- Huge firework displays
The last day of the festival is a special day for siblings and is called Bhaiya-Dooj. On this day, brothers give presents to their sisters, who in turn cook for them and make them feel cared-for.
Suggestions to celebrate Diwali in your setting:
Make greetings cards
Wishing friends and loved ones a “Happy Diwali” with a card is traditional during this time, so why not have the children make or colour in special cards that they can send home to their families?
Buy plain terracotta tea-light holders and help the children decorate them with colourful clay paints and other accessories like glitter, stickers and bright rhinestones.
Make colourful rangoli
Help the children create their own rangoli patterns using pebbles, coloured sand, rice and paint. Draw some inspiration from Tops Day Nurseries and see how the children created a range of rangolis using different materials here: topsdaynurseries.co.uk/diwali
Let the children sample Indian food
Preparing feasts forms an important part of Diwali celebrations. In your setting, children could try vegetable daal, naan bread, onion bhajis and other traditional foods. You could also try making a simple, sweet Indian dessert such as Sooji Ka Halwi.
How do you celebrate Diwali in your setting? Share your stories and images with us by sending them to