Archive for October, 2011


The beauty of Diwali lies perhaps in its inner meaning – a recognition of the goodness that flickers within all of us.  We give sweets and cheer to friends and neighbors as a gesture of kindness – without expecting anything in return.  The focus of this holiday is not so much on shopping and gifts, but rather on preparing our homes with diyas,  flowers and abundant food to welcome the divine

Music and prayer are a must during Diwali – as are sacred mantras and songs – reflecting the importance we give to these divine words.  A good way to stress the importance of these words is to decorate and display them.  If it’s in sight, it’ll be in the mind.

Here, we decorated the Lakshmi Aarti – sung at the end of the Diwali Lakshmi Puja.  Using pretty cardstock, stamps and jewel stickers, this art is worthy of display in your living room or prayer area.  It’s also a good way to encourage members of your family to learn the words.

You can use any song or mantra that is special to your family, but if you decide to use the Lakshmi Aarti, the text can be found here.  Also, Isha Music has produced a beautiful rendition of the Aarti – so play this in the background to create a festive mood this Diwali (click here).

Also, don’t forget to involve your kids in your puja – you can use our immensly popular Diwali Puja Tutorial for Kids that we circulated last year, which will explain and guide them step-by-step through the puja process.

A Diwali Tree?
Author: Aruna


I saw this last year on Modernica‘s website:  the Superstar Holiday Tree.  It’s been called a “Christmukkah Tree” – supposedly suitable for families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah (note the Star of David shapes).

Would you use this as a Diwali Tree?  A place to hang ornaments – and a place to gather Diwali gifts?  Would we be copycats or just assimilating a new tradition?

Made of natural baltic birch wood, the tree is designed to be reused year after year.  It comes in 2 sizes – large ($240) and small ($125).  But hold your horses – the tree is not available for another few weeks (yes, after Diwali).

Too bad Modernica didn’t think to market it as a Diwali Tree too.



Is this your Baby’s First Diwali?  Make it extra special and memorable with our Diwali Organic Bibs PLUS Flashcards Sets – featuring gorgeous embroidered designs and colors.

And being that we are Gnaana, we want your baby to engage in Diwali-speak and recognize common Diwali words and images – so our package comes with a Set of 8 Flashcards – printed in the language of your choice.  These colorful and cheery images are sure to add to a festive atmosphere in your home.  Here are a few ideas on how to use your Diwali flashcards:

*  Display them: Fasten them to a wall in a frequently visited location – preferably at baby’s eye level.  OR display them on easels near your prayer area.
*  Make a book:  Purchase a small photo album and slide in the flashcards – now your baby can flip through his or her very own Diwali “board-book.”
*   Say it: Encourage your baby to say each of the words and enunciate when you pronounce them.  Your baby is watching your lip and mouth movements and is processing the information in his or her little brain!
Play a matching game: Gather objects or images that correspond to each of the flashcard images, such as idols of the deities you have in your puja area or by cutting out images of fireworks or rangoli patterns from magazines or print-outs from the web, and have your baby match them to the flashcards.

It’s all about repetition!  Use the flashcards as much as possible.  The possibilites are limited only by your imagination?

If you would like to purchase a set of the flashcards ONLY (no bibs) for use at home or in classrooms, please email us at orders{at}gnaana{dot}com with your name, shipping address and phone number.  Price is $7.50 per set, which includes the shipping charge.


Have you spoken with your child’s teacher yet about doing something for Diwali in the classroom?  If not, you really should.  Trust me, it’s a lot of fun – and your kids will feel special, empowered and also appreciate that their culture can be made relevant in their school world.

Diwali this year falls on Wednesday, October 26th (Main Day) – just 3 weeks away  – so now is the time to schedule the date for your presentation.  If you plan on taking a vacation day and keeping the kids home from school on the 26th to celebrate, then you’ll want to schedule for earlier in the week.

How do you begin?  What will kids enjoy?  The Hindu American Foundation has put together a terrific Diwali Toolkit – specifically for the purpose of teaching Diwali in Schools.  It comes complete with an itinerary, colouring pages, a powerpoint presentation, explanations and craft ideas – so this is a great place to start.

In my experience, I have found that most of my kids’ non-Indian classmates are unfamiliar with even the basic concepts of Indian culture.  So presenting a huge concept such as Diwali – in a brief period of time – is a daunting task.  One year, all the Indian parents in my son’s class got together around Diwali (his class was 20% Indian) and we spent a full morning taking turns and speaking to the children about India in general and we played music, told stories, did a dandiya dance and had a full-on feast for the kids.

Not everyone has resources (or time) for such an extravagant presentation, so here are my tips for presenting Diwali in school:

1.  Dress in traditional clothes and start by telling the children that you’ll be learning a little about India and one of the biggest holidays celebrated there.  Ask the kids if they know where India is on the map – and then have a volunteer point to it on a classroom map.
2.  Teach the kids how many people in India say “hello” (Namaskaar, Namaste, etc.) and talk a little about what you’re wearing (salwar, bindi, bangles, etc.).
3.  Launch into the subject of Diwali.  I find it effective to keep the presentation organized by using the acronym in the above picture: 
      “D” is for “Diya” (how Diwali/Deepavali means “row of lights” and how people place rows of diyas in their homes and courtyards to dispell darkness;
      “I” is for “Inner Light” (how Diwali is in essence a celebration of the inner light – the goodness – in all of us;
      “W” is for “Worship” (how Hindus worship Ganesha and Lakshmi for good fortune and prosperity, and also how different groups in India observe the holiday – Sikhs (Bandhi Chorh Diwas), Jains and Bengalis);
      “A” is for “Art” (how rangoli, paper lanterns and children’s crafts are popular activities);
      “L” is for “Legends” (how there are different legends associated with Diwali – Rama’s homecoming, Krishna/Narakasura, etc.); and
      “I” is for “International” (how Diwali is actually celebrated all over the world – the UK, Australia, Thailand, Malayasia, Africa, etc. – which helps kids understand the true globalism of this holiday).
4.  A simple thing to do is to read a book.  My favourite is Rama and the Demon King – it’s just the right length.
5.  If you have the time, do a craft.  I may do paper lanterns (kandil) this year (see here and here) because they are easy to string and hang up in the classroom during the week and quickly add to a festive atmosphere.  Kids can then take them home at the end of the week.  Another idea is to pre-make large rangoli patterns and have kids decorate in groups (about 6 to a pattern).
6.  In lieu of a craft, you can also demonstrate an Indian food recipe (our Chota Chef Recipe Cards are perfect for this!).
7.  At the end, have your child walk around to each of his/her classmates. exchange “Happy Diwali” and hand-out a little sweet (see my fun cone-shaped boxes we handed out last year).

If you’re unable to fit anything in this month, you can do a cultural presentation anytime during the school year.  Here are some (not-necessarily-Diwali-related) activities I’ve done in the past (and any of these can be incorporated into a Diwali presentation):

The Surya Namaskar (do this outside if you can)
*  Veena recital (with an oral story woven in to demonstrate the sounds of the veena)
Spice Smelling Game (blindfold kids and have them identify spices via smells – divided into teams)
*  Teach simple steps of garba and dandiya dances (this was a big hit!)
*  Cooking presentation (we did Jungle Chutney from The Chota Chef)
*  Read What Should I Make? and made different objects with chapati dough (great for 2-4 year olds) – I made veg-stuffed parathas as a snack so kids could taste cooked chapatis (these are softer than plain chapatis).

UPDATE:  The Hindu American Foundation has declared Monday, October 24, 2011 as National Teach Diwali in School Day.  For further information, click here.


I try to watch Gandhi at least once a year.  This year, I thought the kids should join me.  We have a framed picture of him amongst our bookshelves, and we talk about him now and then – e.g. how Gandhi stopped the British from taking the Indian people’s thingsSo this year, in addition to our annual Gandhi Birthday Party (now a tradition in our home), it was something extra special to have Gandhi come to life.  And really, the kids couldn’t tell the difference between Gandhi-ji in our living room and Sir Ben.

We’re watching in parts – my 5-year-old is quite interested (though my younger one not as much) and I use the “slow parts” (namely old white guys talking in a room) to do a lot of explaining.  We haven’t gotten to the part about the Salt Satyagraha, but I thought it would be fun weekend activity to bring back a few gallons of salt water from our local California beaches and make our own salt.

This will have to wait until after the Diwali holidays, but if you are so inclined, I found this great step-by-step How To Make Salt Tutorial by Sunset Magazine.  If you don’t live near an ocean, I suppose you can mix powdered sea salt from the grocery store into water.

We will probably look like a family of bandits while filling empty milk jugs with ocean water (I’m thinking 10 gallons should do it) and we probably won’t eat the salt, but I’m excited about this experiment.

 Images:  Mahatma Gandhi Doll by deridolls (sold); SALT image via Google Images

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