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under5s - diwali
The information, activities, recipes and stories on this page have been reproduced from the OpenSezMe book Autumn by Shirley West. This book is full of excellent resources for pre-school and is one of a set of four covering each of the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. These books are available from Open-Sez-Me Books.  We were so impressed we bought a complete set !
What is Diwali ? 

Twenty days after Dusshera comes Diwali, the Festival of Lights. It is celebrated by both Hindus and Sikhs during the month of October or November at the end of the rainy season, and around harvest time. 

Sikhs associate this festival with the laying of the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar by their fourth Guru, Ram Das. They also associate it with the release of Guru Hargobind from prison by the Mogul Emperor Jahangir Jains, and celebrate Diwali as the day when Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana.

Diwali [also spelt and pronounced Divali] comes from the word 'Deepavali' meaning "cluster of lights". Small earthenware lamps called 'diwas' are lit in every home. 

A number of legends are associated with this festival. The lighting of lamps is said to invoke Lakshmi Pooja, the Goddess of fortune and wealth. People believe that Lakshmi brings prosperity which is denied to those who leave their home unlit on the day. The goddess Lakshmi is worshipped at this time and her image and coins of are washed with yoghurt.

Many people settle their debts, and businesses close their yearly accounts and open new account books in order to begin afresh on Diwali. Business people bring their books to the temple and prayers are said for a prosperous New Year. 

Diwali Candles
Students worship Saraswati the goddess of Knowledge, Music and Beauty, and ask for her blessing. The main religious significance of Diwali is to forgive and forget, to clear the mind of evil and reflect over the past year's events. 
In preparation for Diwali, house and shops are scrubbed clean and doorsteps are decorated with multi-coloured designs called 'Rangoli'. Houses are painted inside and outside. New pots and pans are bought. Even the animals are washed, groomed and decorated.

People wear their best clothes or buy new ones. Very often gifts are exchanged between families and friends.

Elaborate foods are prepared, and the food most typical of Diwali is a variety of sweetmeats beautifully decorated with nuts, spices and silver paper. The silver paper used
is edible. The lighting of fireworks is another essential feature of the Diwali festivities. 


In Bengal, the people hold a festival in honour of Kali, the goddess of strength, desease and death.

During the festival of Kali, homes are strung with lights, and the streets are lined with shrines. The shrine is decorated with flowers and incence burners. In the centre is an image of Kali. She is shown with a fierce expression, wearing a necklace made of skulls, and with her arms uplifted. As evening falls, each shrine is lit and there is a colourful fireworks display. Finally a procession takes the images of Kali down to a river. The crowds sing, chant and ring bells as each of the images of Kali is set afloat on the water.




card, silver paper.


Often these cards are made from Banyan leaves that have pictures painted on them. Decorate the outside of your card with silver paper. Write 'Sal Mubarak' in the card - this means 'Happy New Year'. 


Diwas are small lights that are lit especially at Diwali. They are usually made of clay. Ghee (which is clarified butter or oil) is used as fuel, and cotton wool as the wick.


Clay or playdough, night candles 


Mould the clay or playdough into a diwas shape as shown, big enough to hold a night candle. 


Small thin candles, egg box, silver paper


Cut one section from the egg box and cover with the silver paper. Secure the thin candle with some hot wax to the centre. This must be done by an adult.


Rangoli designs are traditionally made out of coloured sand or rice powder. They are placed outside the door of the house and are meant as a welcome sign to visitors. 

A frequent design, the lotus flower, can be found drawn in many forms and usually signifies one of two things. First is can designate the human need to come to a richer understanding of mind and spirit. Just as the lotus blossom opens its petals, revealing its full beauty, so do people have this same capacity to open themselves to newer and broader levels of consciousness. Secondly, the lotus flower also appears in floor designs dedicated to Lakshmi who is known as the goddess of prosperity. The floor design is usually drawn on a pathway leading to the home and is an invitation to the goddess to enter, bringing good fortune with her. 


Sand or rice flour, card, PVA glue, food colouring.


1. Mix 4 tablespoons of sand/rice flour with 4 tablespoons of water coloured with food colouring. Pour off any excess liquid, then spread it out on a tray and leave to dry in a warm place. Make up several different colours. 

2. Spread the glue onto the rangoli pattern. Then sprinkle sand/rice flour onto the glue. 



Dancing plays a very important part in many festivals and celebrations. Indian dancers regard dancing as the most beautiful of the arts. Every movement of the body, head, neck, stomach, and so on, has a particular meaning, so that whole stories can be told in mime.

This is a form of dance drama that has been used for centuries to tell the stories and legends of the Hindu gods and so help people to understand their religion. Such dancing is popular at the festival of Diwali.



A large piece of material.


1. Wrap the material around the waist to form a skirt. Then fold the loose material seven times like a fan. Make each fold about as wide as a hand.

2. Tuck the tops of the folds tucked into the waistband checking that the hem at the bottom is even. 

3. Wrap the leftover material around the body and bring up around the left shoulder. Let the long end of the sari drape down over the back. Sometimes women pull these ends over their heads to form a hood.

Suggested songs: Diwali, Hari Krishna, from Someone's Singing Lord, published by A.C. Black. The story of Diwali in Song, Rama the King of Kings, from Festivals (all the year), by Jean Gilbert, published by Oxford University Press



1 large and 1 small tin of condensed milk
2 packets of desiccated coconut
200 g (7 oz) ground almonds
1 kg (3 lb) icing sugar
110 g (4 oz) chopped nuts
a little ground cardamon
a little grated nutmeg
a few strands of saffron 


Mix all the ingredients together. Either spread the mixture in trays and cut into pieces, or roll into small balls. Place in paper cases and sprinkle with icing sugar and nutmeg.



110 g (4 oz) wholewheat flour
4 tablespoons of water
pinch of salt


1. Put the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well. Gradually mix in the water until a soft dough is formed.

2. Knead for 10 minutes and leave to rest for 1 hour. Divide the mixture into 6 balls. Roll into very thin rounds with a little flour. 

3. Heat a tawa or heavy frying pan. Shake the flour off the chapatis and place in the pan. When bubbles appear, turn and cook the other side. Place under the grill until golden and puffy.

All Text and Illustrations copyright Shirley West & Open Sez Me Publications
under5s - diwali
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