The symbol of light is revered and celebrated in many cultural traditions and religions around the world. On October 23, our LEA and Primary C classes had very special visitors share their knowledge and experience with the Hindu celebration of Diwali, referred to by most as “The Festival of Lights.” The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.
Students in LE A began learning about the festival by first reading a book with Whitby parents Sonal Seth and her husband Nitya called “Lighting a Lamp.”
Sonal Seth spoke about using the book as an entry point to the discussion.
“It allowed me to introduce the background story behind Diwali, which marks the day when a noble King called Ram returns with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after a perilous 14 year exile back to his kingdom of Ayodhya. The celebration is in honor of his return and also to celebrate his victory over the evil King Ravan. As with all major festivals, it captures the victory of light over darkness (visually expressed through lamps called Diyas and fireworks) and good over evil.”
Sonal continued with the rest of LE A’s activities that brought out a deeper learning experience.
“The children proceeded to color earthen lamps with glitter stickers and markers. It was wonderful to see their artistic endeavors. Also they had many follow-up questions, including "How is the clay baked into diyas?"
“The last part was working on coloring Rangoli sheets. Rangolis are designs that people color outside their homes to welcome Goddess Lakshmi as she signifies wealth and success, entering into the New Hindu calendar Year which begins right after Diwali. I had 7 different designs in coloring sheets and the children took their time in choosing the one that appealed to them.”
In Primary C, Whitby parents: Mrs. Javeri, Mrs. Bahrgava, Mrs. Bharti, Mrs Kamath, and teachers; Mrs. Sinha, Mrs. Rawal, and Mrs. Beninati brought this celebration to the children.
“In Primary C,” says teacher Nandita Sinha, “we talked about how Diwali is similar to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa as in each holiday we celebrate it with family, prepare festive meals, give our thanks, light candles, exchange gifts and hope that goddess Lakshmi will visit us just like Santa Claus. On the day of Diwali, Primary C teachers, parents and children dressed up in Indian clothes, participated in Rangoli artwork, decorated diya (candles), read a Diwali story and ate festive food prepared by parents.”
The idea of “light casting out the darkness” is shared by many cultures, but at Whitby, the testament to the culture of the “Whitby Way” is the manner in which the light of knowledge lifts the veil from the unknown and unfamiliar from class to class and lesson to lesson. These experiences are vital to our children as much as they are enriching, educational and in the spirit of Diwali, enlightening.
Thank you teachers and parents for seizing moments that can be shared and shone brightly.