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Diwali is coming soon- November 4. Diwali (or Deepavali as it’s sometimes called) means “row of lights” in Sanskrit. During this festival, people decorate their homes with lights and oil lamps, called diyas. The lights and lamps are said to help the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, find her way into peoples’ homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come. It is also a celebration of good triumphing evil.Diwali is a religious holiday and festival originating in India. People often think of Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. The celebration lasts for five days and marks the start of the Hindu New Year. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon but usually fall between October and November.
Check out the Nat Geo page for more interesting facts.
Last year was the first year I incorporated Diwali more fully. I began by talking with some of my families who are Indian. I had some wonderful moms come in and teach me some Dandiya (stick) dances and we created a very simple one for our young students. There is some footwork involved in Dandiya dances but we focus more on performing with the sticks. I also talked with a few of my students who are Indian privately, asking if they wanted to speak or tell us during class about how they celebrated, or if any of them were performing classical Indian dance or song (I have a first grader who takes classical Indian singing lessons!) and invited them to perform.
Book to Begin
Diwali, Diwali Song
Then we learned Manju Durairaj's Diwali, Diwali song and sang the chorus together.
Dandiya (Stick) Dance
We created a simple Dandiya dance on the chorus of the song. All movements are to the beat. Facing a partner tap right sticks together, tap left sticks together, tap own sticks to the right, tap own sticks to the left. Step back with one foot and tap sticks behind back, step same foot forward and both stick face right (like windshield wipers) and tap both partners sticks making a # hashtag, then trade places while turning around in a circle. Of course this can be modified but this is what the Moms at school and I came up with.
I would highly recommend wooden sticks - aluminum ones are available from Amazon but my experience is they break far too easily. Rhythm Sticks or dowels could also be used as long as they are the longer ones (12" or so).
Here is a video of Dandiya Dancing.
And an excellent teaching video to show you the footwork and sticking. The first one is just right for beginners and children.
Concert with Indian Instruments, Songs
This is an excellent 30 minute concert made for children from Lincoln Center featuring Grammy nominated artist Falu. I like beginning at 7:47 and end at 15:00 if I am pressed for time as they talk about traditional solfege, then Indian solfege, then sing a song incorporating the solfege.
Sitar and Tabla - played by KIDS!
A fun little video about sitar made for children:
My students love to see both the women and the men dancing here - and they love the music!
More Books Featuring India and Indian Characters
A Gift for Amma follows a girl as she goes through the vibrant rainbow colors of the market trying to find a gift for her mother.