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Make a diya lamp to celebrate Diwali

Make a diya, and learn about the festival of light. Can you separate Diwali fact from fiction?

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You’ll need

  • Air-drying clay
  • Tea lights
  • Paint brushes
  • Paint suitable for clay
  • Clay tools (or alternatives like glue spreaders)

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Making a Diya

  1. Gather everyone in a circle and show everyone how to complete each step of the instructions to make their Diya. You could write out the instructions for everyone to follow, too.
  2. Everyone should get a piece of clay and roll it into a ball, so it's about five centimetres wide.
  3. Make a hole in the top of the ball using your thumb. Using your thumb, gradually make the hole bigger, until the clay starts to look like a small bowl. It needs to be just big enough to fit a small tealight inside, but it shouldn't be too deep. The wick of the candle should stick still be visible out of the top of the bowl.
  4. Shape the bowl by pinching the clay on one side. This should create a point at the front, a bit like a boat.
  5. Make sure the bottom of the clay is flat, so it sits nicely on the table. 
  6. Use tools (or just your fingers) to decorate the outside of the Diya with patterns. 
  7. Leave the finished lamps to dry. If your clay isn’t air-drying, everyone should ask an adult to help bake them in an oven to harden the clay. 
  8. Once the lamps are dry, you can paint and decorate them, before leaving them to dry. 
  9. When the paint is dry, you can add a tealight to your diya. Did you know diyas traditionally use cotton wicks dipped in oil?

Learn about Diwali 

  1. Everyone should come up with an action to represent ‘true’ and an action to represent ‘false’. 

You could do thumbs up and thumbs down, try to make a T or an F with your arms, or move to different sides of the meeting place. 

  1. The person leading the game should say something about Diwali. It might be true or it might be false.  We've included some ‘true or false statements’ below to help you get started.
  2. If players think the statement is true, they should do the action for true. If they think it's false, they should do the action for false. 
  3. The person leading the game will tell everyone whether it's true or false and explain why. 
  4. Everyone should return to a neutral position and get ready to play again using another statement.
  • Diwali is also known as Deepavali. The customary greeting associated with Diwali is ‘Shubh Deepavali’, which means ‘Happy Diwali’.
  • Diwali marks the Hindu New Year. It's the largest and most celebrated festival in India, and is widely celebrated across the world, including in the UK.
  • Diwali is around October or November and lasts around 5 days  The exact date varies each year as the Hindu calendar's based on the Moon.
  • The word Diwali means 'rows of lighted lamps'. Diwali's known as the 'festival of lights' because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called 'diyas'. It signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. 

Originally a Hindu festival, Diwali's also celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Each religion marks different historical events and stories.

  • Hindus celebrate the deities Rama and Sita returning to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha.
  • Sikhs particularly celebrate the release from prison of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh in 1619. But, Sikhs celebrated the festival before this date. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the most holy place in the Sikh world, was laid on Diwali in 1577!
  • The founder of Jainism's Lord Mahavira. During Diwali, Jains celebrate the moment he reached a state called Moksha or Nirvana, which both mean eternal bliss.
  • For many people, Diwali honours Lakshmi, who's the goddess of wealth. Lamps are lit and windows and doors are left open to help Lakshmi find her way into people's homes.
  • During Diwali, people make patterns, called rangoli, from colourful materials like powders and pastes.
  • Other ways that people celebrate the festival include spring-cleaning their home. People believe that if their house is clean and there're diya lamps to light the way, Lakshmi will visit their home and bring them good fortune for the coming year.
  • Diwali brings communities together, to celebrate light overcoming darkness and good defeating evil.
  • Many people celebrate by exchanging gifts (often sweets and dried fruits), decorating buildings with lights, sharing festive meals, wearing new clothes, singing, dancing and going to firework displays.
  • It's also a time to thank Lakshmi for everything they have. Many people do this by giving money and food to those in need. This is called dana.
  • During Diwali, places of worship are also decorated with lights. Murtis (images or statues of the Hindu gods or goddesses) are dressed in new clothes and offered food. People believe Lakshmi will bless the food (prasad), which will be shared out amongst the community.

Rama and Sita's one of the main stories from Hinduism. This story's connected with Diwali.

  • A long time ago, Rama, a great warrior prince, was married to a beautiful princess called Sita.
  • Rama and Sita lived near an evil king, who was called Ravana. He had ten heads and twenty arms.
  • Ravana wanted to marry Sita, so he kidnapped her and flew off with her in his chariot.
  • Rama realised that Sita had been kidnapped. He went looking for her, and he met the monkey god Hanuman in the forest.
  • Hanuman agreed to look for Sita, and he eventually found her on the island of Lanka. She was imprisoned in a beautiful garden.
  • Hanuman gathered his monkey army and they prepared to battle Ravana.
  • Rama and Hanuman began to battle Ravana. However, it was a massive battle and it seemed like Ravana would win.
  • However, Rama produced a magical golden arrow and fired it at Ravana. It hit him in the chest.
  • With Ravana defeated, Rama and Sita were reunited.
  • Rama and Sita returned home. They found that everyone had lit lamps to guide them home. This's why people light lamps on Diwali!
  1. Diwali always happens in August in the UK: False. The exact date changes every year depending on the moon, but Diwali's in October or November.
  2. The goddess of wealth is called Sita: False. The goddess of wealth is called Lakshmi. Sita is the princess who was kidnapped by Hanuman. She was rescued by Hanuman and returned home with Rama.
  3. The word Diwali means 'rows of lighted lamps': True.
  4. Only Hindus celebrate Diwali: False. As well as Hindus, some Sikhs, Jains and a smaller number of Buddhists celebrate Diwali. For each faith, it marks different historical events and stories.
  5. At Diwali, some Hindus celebrate Rama and Sita returning to the city of Ayodhya. Rama defeated the evil king Ravana and rescued Sita: True.
  6. At Diwali, some Sikhs celebrate the birth of Guru Hargobind: False. Some Sikhs celebrate Guru Hargobind being released from prison, along with 52 other princes.
  7. Many people believe that lights and lamps help the Hindu goddess Lakshmi into people’s homes: True. She's the goddess of wealth. People hope she will bring them wealth, comfort or peace.
  8. To celebrate Diwali, people set off fireworks and wear new clothes: True.
  9. A special type of curry is eaten as the main Diwali food: False. There're lots of special Diwali foods, but one of the main ones is sweets. They can be made from ingredients including flour, beans, milk or yoghurt, nuts and spices. 
  10. Colourful patterns created using coloured rice, colourful powders and flower petals are called rangoli: True.
  11. Dana is giving money and food to those in need: True
  12. Mandir is the name of the images or statues of the Hindu gods or goddesses, which are dressed in new clothes and offered food: False - Murtis is the name of images or statues of the Hindu gods or goddesses. Mandir is the name of Hindu places of worship.

Reflection

This activity reminded everyone that they’re a local, national, and international citizen. Are there any similarities between Diwali and any festivals or celebrations people take part in? Are there any other festivals or celebrations that people would like to find out more about? Diwali is a time to think about others and people in need – is that a responsibility everyone shares, no matter their background?

This activity also encouraged everyone to respect and trust people from different backgrounds. How could everyone respect people who’re celebrating Diwali? Why is it important that people learn about festivals and celebrations that they don’t celebrate? Did anyone learn anything surprising about Diwali? How would people feel if they were invited to a Diwali celebration?

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Food

Remember to check for allergies, eating problems, fasting or dietary requirements and adjust the recipe as needed. Make sure you’ve suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods. Take a look at our guidance on food safety and hygiene.

Make sure the actions are accessible for everyone – you may need to keep it simple, choose something everyone can do sitting down, or avoid using left and right. 

It's up to you how you help everyone to learn about the festival and how much information you share. 

You could suggest that people wear plastic gloves if they don’t like the feeling of clay on their hands.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

People often enjoy eating sweets at Diwali. You could make these Diwali sweets or visit an Indian sweet shop if you have one nearby.