On October 26, P4 parents Shalika Bansal and Vidya Sundaram visited the classroom to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

The word Diwali is short for Deepavali, which means "rows of lamps."  It marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness and is symbolic of a profound concept in the Vedic chants: "Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya."  From ignorance, lead me to truth; from darkness, lead me to light.

Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India, and farmers give thanks for the bounty of the year gone by and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Historically, it marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent upon the agrarian cycle, and is typically the last major celebration before winter. People offer prayers to Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and they celebrate by cleaning and decorating their homes, bursting firecrackers, and sharing sweets and snacks with family and friends.

In the classroom, Shalika and Vidya celebrated with the children by reading a book about Diwali, sharing a sweet, and Vidya’s daughter Nidhi demonstrated a traditional Sanskrit prayer (said for all new beginnings) before eating.

One of the highlights of the morning was when the children were shown how to create a rangoli, a colorful pattern drawn on the floor of houses during Hindu festivals meant as sacred welcome for the Hindu deities. A rangoli is a traditional decorative folk art of India, and the ancient symbols have been passed on through the ages, thus keeping both the art form and the tradition alive.  The children used colorful sand to fill in the shapes on the floor, and in addition to enjoying the historical, artistic and celebratory aspects of the morning, they also strengthened their fine motor skills while attempting to grasp and sprinkle little bits of sand into small areas!

Many thanks to Shalika and Vidya for taking the time to enrich our communities’ understanding of Diwali; a great time was had by all.

Parents, ask your child how to say hello in Hindi or to tell you about a rangoli or a saree.

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