Diwali connects followers of multiple religions in celebrations of the victory of good over evil through the lighting of deeps or diyas (lamps) and each religion adds their own color to the Festival of Lights.
Diwali is perhaps the most well-known of the Hindu festivals. The word Diwali means 'rows of lighted lamps'. Diwali is known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. For many Indians this five day festival honors Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year. Lamps are lit to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into people's homes. In India Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in. Rangoli are drawn on the floors - rangoli are patterns and the most popular subject is the lotus flower.
Diwali commemorates the anniversary of Lord Mahavir's attainment ofmoksha, or freedom from the cycle of reincarnation, in 527 B.C.E. Lord Mahavir was the 24th and last Thirtankar of Jainism and revitalized the religion as it is today. First referred to in Jain scriptures as dipalikaya, or light leaving the body, it is said that the earth and the heavens were illuminated with lamps to mark the occasion of Lord Mahavir's enlightenment. The day after Diwali marks the Jain New Year.
For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, and 52 other princes with him, in 1619. The Sikh tradition holds that the Emperor Jahangir had imprisoned Guru Hargobind and 52 princes. The Emperor was asked to release Guru Hargobind which he agreed to do. However, Guru Hargobind asked that the princes be released also. The Emperor agreed, but said only those who could hold onto his cloak tail would be allowed to leave the prison. This was in order to limit the number of prisoners who could leave. However, Guru Hargobind had a cloak made with 52 pieces of string and so each prince was able to hold onto one string and leave prison. Sikhs celebrated the return of Guru Hargobind by lighting the Golden Temple and this tradition continues today. The lesson for humanity from Guru Sahib is that one should contemplate the suffering of others before one's own and that the freedom and rights of others is more important than one's own.
For our craft the boys and I checked out some Rangoli designs through a google search. A more obvious choice would have been to make a diya but we opted for a quick and easy craft that all three boys could enjoy. One page with pretty designs and information on Rangoli can be found here. We went to work on creating our own. I let the kids use the crayola markers and make the Rangoli on the kitchen floor. They had a blast coloring on the floor. And I had a pretty floor for the day and very colorful sock bottoms.
For our food we made a coconut Burfi recipe. All of my kids go crazy for coconut, but I hadn't made them a coconut dessert before. We've had it in chicken fingers and of course smoothies and even made our own cocnut whipped cream- but this was my first real coconut bar so I was curious what the kids would think. This recipe was incredibly fast and easy. And the end result was very tasty. I think drizzling a little chocolate over the top would have made these even better. But as is they were pretty darn tasty.
1 Cup coconut flakes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of green cardamon
Heat coconut oil in pan and toast the cashews.
Once toasted, remove cashews
Add coconut flakes, sugar, and water (if you have fresh coconut you may not need as much or any water)
After heated and mixed add cardamon if desired
Remove from heat and put mixture onto a parchment or foil lined pan.
Pat down to shape the dessert
Add cashews to the top and cut into 8 pieces while warm.