Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating Diwali

I love holidays.  I celebrate National Days whenever I can.  I prolong birthday celebrations.  If it involves food, music, lights, and festive decorations, I love it.  So, we're getting into a really great time of year for me - where not only are there a lot of holidays that I grew up celebrating (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas), but there are so many others to learn about from friends and classmates who come from different countries, cultures, and religions.

One of the best holidays I've learned about in recent years is Diwali, the Festival of Lights.  Diwali is a five-day Hindu, Jain, and Sikh festival celebrated every autumn, with the main celebration on the third day.  This year, Diwali begins on October 23.  I am so grateful to my friend, Nisha, who introduced me to Diwali, which she celebrates as part of her Jain faith.  In the Jain tradition, Diwali marks the day Lord Mahariva attained Nirvana.

Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil.  One of the most popular stories of the history of Diwali is the Ramayana.  Anyone who has traveled in Southeast Asia is probably very familiar with the the Ramayana.  I have wonderful memories of traveling throughout Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos and seeing the story of Ramayana painted on temple walls.  

According to the Ramayana, Rama, the prince of Ayodhya was ordered by his father, King Dasharatha, to go away from his country and come back after living in the forest for fourteen years. So Rama went on exile with his devoted wife Sita and faithful brother, Lakshmana. When Ravana, the demon king of Lanka abducted Sita and took her away to his island kingdom of Lanka, Rama fought against and killed Ravana. He rescued Sita and returned to Ayodhya after fourteen years. The people of Ayodhya were very happy to hear of their beloved prince's homecoming. To celebrate Rama's return to Ayodhya, they lit up their houses with earthen lamps (diyas), burst crackers and decorated the entire city in the grandest manner.

This year, Ben's school is celebrating Diwali for the first time (early on October 7 - which is great because that means we can celebrate it again on the 23rd!), and I have signed up to help out in his class while we read books, do art projects, and cook food for the celebration.  In preparation, we borrowed a few books out from the library so I can start introducing my kids to the holiday.  I found a couple nice books for providing factual background about Diwali:
But what I really wanted was a fiction storybook depicting a family celebrating Diwali.  We came across a couple:
Another book I came across while searching for Diwali resources was one by Priddy Books (a publisher that our family really enjoys) called Bright Baby Touch and Feel Diwali.  I love the colors and images in the Priddy books and this one would be perfect for an infant. 

In closing, I'd like to leave everyone with this festive tribute to Diwali by Michael Scott from The Office.  However you choose to celebrate through the rest of the year, I hope everyone's days and nights are filled with great food, laughter, and light.


No comments: