Chris King

Lights in a row

Diwali is India and Nepal's Festival of Lights. Even though it is held at a different time of year - in October or November - it is a little bit like the Chinese Lunar New Year. People eat together. They wear new clothes. Families often redecorate their homes.

'Diwali' was originally a Sanskrit word. It means 'row of lights'. The five-day festival is a celebration of important events that happened in Hindu legend. It celebrates the killing of two evil demons at different times by two gods. Their names are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. It is also held in honour of Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity.

Guiding a king home

Diwali celebrates a great love affair, among other important events. When Prince Rama is banished from the city of Ayodhya, he goes to live in the jungle. He tells his wife, Sita, not to follow him. But she insists on going with him.

After many years together, Sita is kidnapped by the evil 10-headed demon, Ravana. He takes her to his island of Lanka. Rama has no idea where she is or who has taken her. In the end, it is the Monkey King, Hanuman, who helps Rama find her. Rama defeats the demon in battle and the people of Ayodhya light lamps to guide him and Sita home to Ayodhya so he can be king.

A new beginning

Diwali is celebrated with small clay lamps full of oil. The faithful believe the light helps to drive away evil. Like all big annual festivals in all cultures, Diwali is about starting the year new. It's about hope and friends and family.

A visit from the Queen of Wealth

Today, people in India and Nepal - and Hindu communities all over the world - still light lamps to remember Rama and Sita's journey home. They place the lamps everywhere - around their homes, on rooftops and in the garden. The more lights there are, the more likely Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, will visit the home.

On the morning after the lighting of the lamps, people put on new clothes and hold a prayer in their home. It is called a puja. Often they will offer their prayers to Ganesh, the God of Knowledge and Good Luck, as well as Lakshmi. Ganesh is the elephant god.

now do this

1 Hanuman is ...

a. the Goddess of Wealth

b. the Monkey King

c. an exiled prince

2 Ganesh is the...

a. elephant God of Knowledge and Good Luck

b. Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity

c. Monkey King

3 One of the legends of Diwali is that people of Oyadhya light lamps to guide ... home

a. Rama

b. Ravana

c. Hanuman