Diwali, the Indian festival of lights explained to children

Diwali is an important festival in India (Credit: Asif A. Ali / CC0 / Flickr)

Few Indian festivals are as anticipated, or as widely celebrated as Diwali. Also called Deepavali, or Festival of Lights, the five-day event, which begins on November 2, 2021, is observed by over a billion people around the world. The old the tradition dates back over 2,500 years and is one of the main festivals celebrated by hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists.

The celebration begins with Dhanteras. Dedicated to Lakshmi and Kubera – both deities of wealth – it is marked by prayers for the well-being of the family and prosperity. Other customs include decorating home and business entryways with colorful patterns, or rangolis, made from dyed rice, lentils, and flowers. Since a purchase is considered auspicious, many people treat themselves to beautiful jewelry, clothing or household items on this day.

Homes and businesses are adorned with temporary designs known as rangolis during Diwali (Credit: Subharnab Majumdar / CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons)

On the second day, known as Kali Chaudas or Narak Chaturdashi, some people use rituals to rid homes and businesses of evil spirits. Others consider it “Choti (small) Diwali”, and use it as an excuse to start the festivities early. Whatever beliefs, everyone is looking forward to the climax of the five-day holiday – Diwali.

Diwali celebrations begin early with a visit to a place of worship, such as a temple. After that, families and friends get together to to exchange gifts and sweets. Those not content with their purchases on Dhanteras spend the afternoon shopping. As the sun sets, festival watchers around the world light up their homes with sparkling diyas (small oil lamps) and share a traditional feast with family and friends.

For Indian residents, the real excitation starts late at night when everything neighborhoods take to the streets to light up the sky with colorful fireworks. while the youngest party people look for sparklers, teens and adults prefer to light bigger illuminations. The spectacular the show continues until every last firecracker has exploded.

Colorful Indian sweets are a staple of the celebration of Diwali (Credit: Amila Tennakoon / CC-BY-SA-2.0 / Wikimedia Commons)

Since Diwali is celebrated by such diverse group of people, many folklore are associate with the old Festival. Some believe that Diwali was the first observed by the people of Ayodhya – the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala – to mark the return of King Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, after a 14-year exile imposed by the king’s mother. Others credit the celebration of the victory of the god Krishna over King Narakasura, of which association with a Devil made him mean. Although the tales vary, they all celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

In the western state of Gujarat, Diwali marks the end of the calendar year. Since the Hindu calendar is based on shorter lunar cycles, on November 5, 2021, Gujaratis around the world will usher in the year 2078. The fifth and final day of the festival honors love between siblings and is marked more delicious food and prayers.

For children in India, Diwali is similar to Christmas. In addition to a week of school leave, they are also entitled to gifts, new clothes, fantastic meals and fireworks. It’s no wonder the festival ranks among the country’s favorite celebrations.

Resources: Natgeo.com, CNN.com, MSN.com, Bhg.com

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