09 November 2007

Diwali - and some new patterns

This year, November 9th, is the festival of Diwali. It is the most widely celebrated festival in India. Not only Hindus observe Diwali but also Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.

To help us learn more about this special occasion, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Tanmay's mother. She first told us the story of how Prince Rama and his wife Sita were sent away from their home and how they had to go and live in the forest, along with Rama's brother Lakshmana. After 14 happy years there, Sita was kidnapped by the ten-headed demon Ravana, but she was eventually rescued by Rama, with the help of Hanuman, the monkey warrior. 'Divas' (oil lamps) helped guide Rama and Sita back from the forest to their home in Ayodhya. When they arrived, Rama was crowned as king.

Diwali symbolises the victory of good over evil; it means 'festival of lights'. On this day people light tiny candles or divas to fill their homes with bright light as a sign of celebration.

They also create lovely designs all around their home with colorful 'rangoli' art. Rangloi are traditional Indian geometrical patterns used to ward off evil spirits. They are usually painted on walls or the ground outside the house. Hindus hope that Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune, will see the beautiful patterns and come into their homes.

After the story, we had a go at making our own Rangoli patterns. We used coloured rice to make symmetrical geometric patterns.

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