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Diwali – festival of lights

diwali dancers.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. It is s celebrated in all parts of New Zealand and the events are held on different dates. The dates for Diwali celebrations in New Zealand are usually the nearest Saturday or Sunday to Diwali day.

About Diwali


Diwali, also known as Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and renewal of life. Millions of Hindus around the world, including those in New Zealand, celebrate Diwali with gifts, lights, fireworks, and special meals. Major public festivals, along with private and family celebrations, mark Diwali in New Zealand.

Diwali is a great opportunity to engage with your local Indian Hindu community, especially those members who are families at school. Extend your school Diwali celebrations into the community, by encouraging family input into all aspects of teaching, and learning. It is from families that you will get insights into valuable stories, artefacts, language, and customs.

Curriculum connections 

NZC Curriculum icon.

The importance of recognising and celebrating cultural diversity is a strong message in The New Zealand CurriculumThe New Zealand Curriculum identifies a number of values that have widespread community support, including diversity – "as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages". The value of diversity is visible in schools when we see respect for others and their views, beliefs and cultures; dialogue; tolerance; inclusion; cultural safety; wairua and spirituality. 

Cultural diversity is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. The principle of cultural diversity calls for schools and teachers to affirm students’ different cultural identities, and incorporate their cultural contexts into teaching and learning programmes.  

How can you get involved?

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities:

Diwali Ready to Read

Explore the stories and origins of Diwali
Work with your students to find out about the meaning and traditions of Diwali. Connect with your Indian parents, families and communities to learn the stories and customs. If you work in a primary school you could use Diwali, from the Instructional Series, which describes an Indian girl’s experience of the five-day festival of Diwali. There is an audio version and accompanying teacher support material. Older students could explore the stories of Diwali which include:

Ramayana: Story of Diwali — a classic narrative about Sita's rescue from the clutches of the demon king Ravana.

Diwali in history — covers Indian history and narratives explaining why the festival is a celebration of victories.

The story of Diwali — explains the significance of Lakshmi and Vishnu to the festival.

Share your New Year traditions
Ask your students to bring to school a family object or photograph that relates to their own New Year celebrations. Make a discovery table with the objects displayed. Film children talking about the significance of their item, in English or in a first language. Play your recording near the items for parents and visitors.

Discuss cultural stereotyping
Use photographs as a starter for discussions of cultural stereotyping and how easy it is to look at some very visible things about a culture and make judgements about people in that culture. Does Diwali explain who an Indian New Zealander is and what he/she stands for?


Compare festivals
Ask students to research Diwali and Matariki and compare their findings for the two celebrations. What values and beliefs are the same across the two cultures? How are these reflected differently in the two celebrations? What purposes do these cultural traditions fulfil? Diwali (festival of lights) and Festivals and celebrations (New Zealand) will guide you to safe and reliable websites.

Expand your understandings
Use the following links to expand your understanding of Indian culture and join in the celebrations:

Examine the purpose of festivals and celebrations
“Festivals and celebrations vary across cultures, but often have similar purposes.” Discuss with students whether they agree or disagree with this statement. Ask them to provide examples supporting their opinions.

Instructional Series 

Another great way to get your students involved in Diwali is to incorporate texts about India into your reading and writing programme. The Instructional Series on Tāhūrangi offers the following range of texts. 

Diwali, Ready to Read, shared text, 2006
This third-person recount, set in New Zealand, describes an Indian girl’s experience of the five-day festival of Diwali. 

Monkey and Crocodile, Ready to Read, Level 1, 2019
This traditional tale from India tells the story of what happens when crocodile gives monkey a ride across the river.  

Fly Me Up, School Journal Level 3 November 2018
This article explores the artworks of Tiffany Singh, an artist with Indian and Samoan ancestry, who works with communities to create large, colourful installations that draw attention to social issues.

Look for these earlier texts in your book rooms: 

Wearing a Sari 
Part 1 Number 2 2008
An article in which Sathna shows Jessica's class how to wear a sari.

School Journal Part 2 Number 4 2005
An article about a rangoli competition that was held during Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. 

Bells and Butterflies
Part 2 Number 1 2005
An article that tells how a young Indian girl, Nileesha Parbhu, prepares for and performs in a concert, dancing in the traditional Bharata Natyam style. 

Useful resources

Creating Rangoli

A visual arts unit for levels 1–2 from Arts Online that explores Indian Rangoli designs.

Dance styles
A Secondary dance unit from Arts Online that focuses on Bollywood dance, a style of dance seen in Bollywood movies that fuses classical Indian dance with Western dance.

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Amesbury School – Celebrating Diwali
In this snapshot, teacher Sonali Singh and Associate Principal Angela Johnston describe how they celebrated Diwali at Amesbury School.

Updated on: 03 Nov 2020