Poetry Friday: About Diwali and its Poetic Origins in the Ramayana

This year the Hindu festival of Diwali is from Nov. 5-9.   Today marks its beginning.  I first heard about the festival from watching a National Film Board film called Lights for Gita in their Talespinners Collection (a series of short films for 5-9 year olds.)  In this story, eight year old Gita, who lives in Montreal is excited about celebrating Diwali in her new country, but something unexpected happens — an ice storm knocks out power in the city.  What will Gita do?  Will this holiday celebrated with lights now be ruined for  her?  Check out the DVD by ordering it, or finding it at your local library!  You can also check out the book on which the film is based written by Rachna Gilmore.  Rachna wrote three Gita titles and you can read an interview with her here.

PaperTigers with its focus on India this issue has a number of book suggestions about Diwali in a revisited Personal Views article by Chad Stephenson.  Pooja Makhijani also refers to Diwali in her Personal Views article entitled “A String of Bright Lights.”  She mentions her Diwali book picks in a post she did for the children’s lit blog Chicken Spaghetti awhile back.  In her post, she mentions how in northern India, Diwali is a celebration of the homecoming of Ram whose story can be found in her suggested picture book title Rama and the Demon King: An Ancient Tale from India by Jessica Souhami.  I found Souhami’s book at my local library; it was a bilingual one in Somali and English!   The story of Rama is found in the Hindu text The Ramayana which is a 24, 000 couplet poem written in Sanskrit by Valmiki around 300 B.C.   My daughter’s view of this ancient story of Rama was rather quaint; she said she liked stories where the good guy (Rama) and a bad guy (Ravanna) fight it out over a woman (Sita)  — although in this case, the bad guy is terrifying ten-headed demon!

Hope you have a happy Diwali this year!  Poetry Friday is hosted by JoAnn at Teaching Authors.

6 Responses to “Poetry Friday: About Diwali and its Poetic Origins in the Ramayana”

  1. Andromeda Jazmon Says:

    My second grader learned about diwali at school from one of the teachers who is Indian American. He came home excited and talking all about it. Great to see these resources here! Thanks for posting.

  2. Sally Says:

    Cool! There’s Diwali festivities held every year in my city but I just missed them this year, alas. It’s great that your son’s teacher told you about this holiday.

  3. choxbox Says:

    And have you seen Sanjay Patel’s Ramayana? AWESOME it is! One of the best versions I’ve seen actually.
    Got it courtesy utbt :)

    Here’s the link:

  4. Swati Says:

    And a joyful and prosperous diwali to you too!

    Reading this post I wondered if I could recommend any book, then realized with a little shock that I couldn’t, that I didn’t have any in our collection either! I do have the whole story – Amar Chitra Katha comics are a great source for mythology for children, but nothing about the festival per se. Perhaps because we take it for granted, or maybe even if I found a book, I didn’t particularly choose it as not being quite true or useful or pretty? Interesting. I will watch out for festival books now!

  5. choxbox Says:

    @Swati: There is this book called ‘The Story of Diwali’ by Katie Daynes. Perfect first intro.

  6. Marjorie Says:

    I didn’t know Lights for Gita had been made into a film. That’s great – it’s such a lovely story.