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Teachers: Citizenship: Religious Diversity

Last Updated: Monday October 24 2005 16:27 GMT


Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Race and religion


Girl making Rangoli patterns
Celebrated on 1 November, Diwali is the most popular of all the festivals from South Asia.

Students devise an assembly about the the religious festival of lights,for the year group below them.

Learning aims

  • Diwali traditions
  • Their religious significance



    Read out this Press pack about celebrating Diwali

    Ask students:

  • Who celebrates Diwali? Jains and Sikhs as well as Hindus.
  • What does Diwali celebrate? The return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14 year exile, and also celebrates the day Mother Goddess destroyed a demon called Mahisha.
  • Are there any similarities between Diwali and other religious festivals e.g. Christmas?

    Main activity

    Students devise an assembly about Diwali for the year group below.

    The assembly should last about 15 minutes and should include:

  • An introduction. This should explain why Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate Diwali.
  • What happens on each of the days of Diwali.
  • The food eaten during Diwali.
  • A summary reminding people about the religious significance of Diwali.

    Students spend a few minutes jotting down ways of presenting information in an assembly e.g. reading, play, poem, mime, painting, photographs, video, music.

    They feed these back to the rest of the class and decide which activity would best suit the introduction, performance and summary sections of the assembly.

    Divide the class into eight groups. Each group is responsible for a two minute performance:

  • Introduction
  • Day one of Diwali
  • Day two
  • Day three
  • Day four
  • Day five
  • Food
  • Summary

    The day groups can refer to the Press Pack for inspiration.

    Additional information: Patterns, or rangoli, are drawn on the floors. They are designs of plants, flowers, leaves, animals (such as cows, elephants, and horses), birds (such as eagles and swans) and geometrical patterns. They are painted on courtyards and walls of Indian houses, places of worship and sometimes eating places.

    Neelu, 10, from India shares her experiences of Diwali

    The introduction and summary groups can refer to the Press Pack and also our guide to Diwali (see right hand box).

    The food group can refer to our selection of Diwali recipes (see right hand box).

    Students practise their presentations in their groups and then together. They make sure all the parts fit together and are no more than two minutes long.

    The class make suggestions for improvements and tweak the assembly. This may mean adding a line of explanation between groups' performances.

    Students present their assembly to the year group below.

    Extension activity

    Students take photographs of the assembly and combine them with left over props to make a classroom display.

    Students devise a questionnaire for the audience, to test how much they learnt about Diwali from the assembly.


    Each of the eight groups devise a mission statement for their performance which begins "We wanted the audience to..."
    E.g. "We wanted the audience to remember some of the food eaten during Diwali"
    or "We wanted the audience to be able to cook a pakora."

    If possible, the class watch a video of the assembly and the groups evaluate their statement, commenting on how well they achieved their aim.

    Teachers' background

    The following information comes from the BBC Religion and Ethics web pages at where there is a wealth of information about a variety of religions.

    Who celebrates Diwali

    Diwali or Deepvali, the Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular of all the festivals from South Asia.

    Diwali is also a Sikh festival. It particularly celebrates the the release from prison of the sixth guru, Hargobind Singh in 1619.

    However Sikhs had celebrated it before that, and the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the holiest place in the Sikh world, was laid on Diwali in 1577.

    Jains celebrate the attaining of Moksha (Nirvana, or eternal bliss) by the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavira.

    Diwali dates

    The date of Diwali is set by the Hindu calendar and so it varies in the Western calendar. It usually falls in October or November.

    Diwali is a celebration of the beginning of autumn and, in most regions, of the Indian New Year.

    In India, Diwali and the day following, New Year's Day are public holidays.

    Diwali is also used to celebrate a successful harvest.

    Festival of lights

    The name of the festival comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, meaning row of lights.

    Houses, shops, and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called Diyas.

    These lamps, which are traditionally fueled by mustard oil, are placed in rows in windows, doors and outside buildings to decorate them.

    The lamps are lit to help the goddess Lakshmi find her way into people's homes. They also celebrate the return of Rama and Sita to Rama's kingdom of Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile.

    In India, oil lamps are often floated across the river Ganges - it is regarded as a good omen if the lamp manages to get all the way across.

    Fireworks are also a big part of the Diwali celebrations.


    For many Indians, the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

    People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year.

    Some people build a small altar to the goddess and decorate it with money and with pictures of the rewards of wealth, such as cars and houses.

    Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in.

    The most popular subject of the floor patterns, or rangoli, is the lotus flower as images of Lakshmi traditionally show her either holding a lotus or sitting on one.

    There is much feasting and celebration, and the Diwali lamps are regarded as making it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to favoured houses.

    Some Indians see it as an occasion to gamble. This comes from a legend that the that goddess Parvati played dice with her husband on this day and she said that anyone who gambled on Diwali night would do well.

    The goddess Kali is celebrated at Diwali in the Bengali and Oriya areas of India.


    Like Christmas in the West, Diwali is very much a time for buying and exchanging gifts.

    Traditionally sweets and dried fruit were very common gifts to exchange.

    Diwali is also a traditional time to redecorate homes and buy new clothes.

    Diwali Legends

    Two of the legends of Diwali show the triumph of Good over Evil, and tell of the destruction of two monsters that preyed on humanity.

    The killing of the demon Narakaasura: The demon was the evil king. He ruled an area near Nepal with a reign of terror, abducted 16,000 daughters of the gods, and stole the earings of Aditi, mother of the gods.

    The gods asked Lord Krishna for help, and after a mighty battle he killed the demon, freed the girls, and recovered the earrings.

    The rescue of the 16,000 girls is said to be the origin of the story that Krishna had 16,000 wives.

    After his victory Krishna returned very early in the morning and was bathed and massaged with scented oils. Taking an early morning bath with oil is still a Diwali tradition.

    The killing of the demon Ravana: Ravana, who had ten arms and ten heads, was the wicked king of the island of Sri Lanka, who kidnapped the wife of Ram.

    Ram had been in exile for 14 years because of a disagreement as to whether he or his brother should be the next king in Ayodhya.

    After a great battle Ram killed the demon and recovered his wife.

    Ram's return with his wife Sita to Ayodhya and his subsequent coronation as king is celebrated at Diwali.

    When Ram and Sita first returned to Ayodhya it was a dark moonless night and they couldn't see where they were going. Their people put little lamps outside their houses so that the new king and queen could find their way, thus beginning the tradition of the festival of lights.

    Curriculum relevance

    Citizenship. Key Stage 3
    1b. Diversity of national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding. 2a. Think about topical, spiritual, social and cultural issues by analysing information and its sources.
    2b. Justify orally and in writing a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events.
    2c. Contribute to group and exploratory class discussions.
    3a. Use imagination to consider other people's experiences.
    3b. Negotiate, decide and take part responsibly in school activities.

    The numbers refer to the KS3 National Curriculum Programme of Study for Citizenship.

    For hundreds more news-based lesson plans, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

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