Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights that takes place over five magical days and is celebrated by millions of people around the world. Held in October/November, it marks new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness.
At sKids we love celebrating this special time of year with our children by exploring its colourful traditions, learning new skills and having the opportunity to engage with our local communities.
In this blog, we speak to sKids franchisee Purity Misquitta. Originally from India, Purity runs five sKids centres with her husband Ferdilin, is a mother of two and an avid observer of Diwali. She explains why the Festival of Lights is so meaningful to her and why it’s something when we can all celebrate.
What is the story behind Diwali?
The name Diwali is from the Sanskrit term ‘dipavali’, meaning ‘row of lights’ and the celebration has a rich history attached to it. The festival is particularly associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. As told in the Diwali story, it marks the day Hindu God Lord Rama and his wife Sita triumphantly return to their kingdom in northern India after being exiled, following the defeat of demon king, Ravanna. Villagers welcome their return with thousands of oil lamps on a moonless night, which is why lamps and other lights are used during the festival. This story is depicted in the Ramayana — one of the two great Sanskrit epics of ancient India, written in poem form.
When is Diwali held?
The five-day festival takes place between mid october and mid November, depending on the cycle of the moon, and marks the beginning of the financial year in India. Diwali is observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month of the Hindu lunar calendar so the date changes each year. This year, Diwali is on November 14.
How is it celebrated?
In preparation for Diwali, the house is cleaned and the entrance is decorated with colourful rangoli — decorations made from rice, sand or flowers. Indian families dress in traditional outfits and women decorate their hands or feet in henna. Spending time with loved ones is an essential part of the celebration. Families cook and eat together, exchange special sweets or gifts with friends and relatives, and enjoy song and dance. Some families start the day with prayer. During Diwali it is customary to make offerings to the gods. At night, homes are decorated with lamps and candles, and fireworks are set off.
How does sKids celebrate?
Around New Zealand communities celebrate traditional and contemporary Indian culture as part of the festival, for example with bright lights, energetic dance performances, Indian delicacies and spectacular fireworks. It’s the same at selected sKids centres, where we include some exciting Diwali celebrations as part of our daily programmes. This year for Diwali our centres will celebrate during the last week of October, when we will have colouring competitions, chalk art, teachers will wear sari and henna, crafts and children will learn to make some special Indian snacks.
Why is Diwali so meaningful to you?
I love the feeling of it and the fireworks during that time, and the joy it brings. Diwali is a time when the whole family gets together to celebrate; it’s really a family event — like Christmas or Thanksgiving.
There’s something for everyone!