Here’s How My Family and I Celebrate Diwali with DIYs Every Year
Diwali is known as the Festival of lights, centered on the lighting of the diyas (lamps) that mark the celebration of life, well-being, and spirituality. It is time to introspect, when charity, goodwill, family values, and spirituality are reinforced, and for some, it marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Diwali is truly a time to spend time together, and the most magical time of the year in my family.
Growing up, we would prepare a month in advance for the five-day New Year celebration. We would line the entire house inside and out with fairy lights, collect all the ingredients for the menu we were going to cook that week, send out dinner invitations to friends and family, shop for gifts, plan our outfits, and — last but not least — bring out our crafting supplies for DIYs. It’s a whirlwind of sparkly colors and delicious new beginnings.
My most memorable Diwali was when I was eight years old, visiting my dad’s side of the family in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It was on that trip I fell in love with crafting: my cousins taught me how to DIY everything from rangoli (rainbow mandala type sand art) to batti (cotton wicks). Ever since that trip to India, we never missed a year of DIY-ing for Diwali at home together.
Now, I have a 7-year-old nephew named Vir, who recently started having an interest in home crafts. This year, Diwali’s five-day celebration begins on Nov. 2, and when my mother brought up Diwali prep during our last family dinner, Vir raised his hand. He squealed “Nina Masi (Aunty), I’m coming over this weekend to work on Diwali projects with you.” And so, we spent the weekend cooking up some real goodies.
Below are our five creations. These are just stepping stones to what can be done for your own Diwali prep, and variations of materials in these classic Diwali DIYs are encouraged. There are no hard and fast rules — just remember, to use your imagination and work with what you’ve got.
Marbled Diyas (lamps)
The word “Diwali” come from the Sanskrit word deepavali which means “row of lights.” To celebrate, most families light firecrackers, fireworks, and/or diyas (oil lamp) in their homes and public places to celebrate. For some, diyas symbolize the victory of good over evil, inner light over spiritual darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
How we made it:
Cut up polymer clay into thin, circular layers of different colors. Layer them on top of one another and press together to make a marbled look. Mold the mixed clay into the shape of a saucer and pinch the ends like “beaks on a bird,” as Vir describes in the video above.
After shaping the desired amount of diyas, stick them in the oven at 265 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. And there you have it! For a more detailed recipe, check out a tutorial on lifestyle blog Love Laugh Mirch.
Batti (cotton wicks)
Dipped in either ghee or oil, batti are made of cotton and placed in diyas. They can be DIYed in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Typically, they are used during festivals, religious ceremonies, or to light ones home or mandir (Hindu place of worship).
Pull out 1-inch chunks of cotton, use your finger as a mold, then twist the top. Vir loves rainbows, so we decided to color the tops using his favorite colors. If you don’t have colored powder around the house, you can use spices — such as turmeric or saffron — to naturally dye the cotton tops.
After making 50 or so, dip the balls in oil (or ghee), soak them overnight, and store them in an airtight container. If you don’t have or want to make diyas at home, here is this clay set that we used in the video above.
Rangoli is an Indian folk art form where designs are made on the floor using colorful dry flour, flower petals, rice, sand, or grains. Like torans, they are usually made in the entrance of a home but can also be placed in the backyard or any place that has a smooth surface.
How we made it:
Growing up, we painted a white square in our front entrance, drew a design on the floor, and filled the colors in by hand. But this year, since I live in a shared apartment building, we made a rangoli indoors by using an elephant stencil and did it on a terracotta plate to minimize mess. You can also dye rice or flower pedals instead of using colored powder. Whatever method you choose, just don’t sneeze!
Torans are usually hung in entrances for festivals and weddings, to welcome guests. Traditionally, they are made with mango leaves and marigolds.
How we made it:
We used mango leaves and marigolds because they were in season, but you can use whatever you have at home. Take a needle with string and thread it through your leaves and flowers of choice. You can add small bells into the mix as an optional addition.
Diwali Card (pressed foil art)
Who doesn’t love snail mail? For any holiday, there’s something special about sending a handmade card to friends and family. DIYed Diwali cards are becoming more and more popular these days.
How we made it:
Get plain cards and envelopes and use your imagination. We decided to sketch “Happy Diwali” with pencil and then cover the letters in glue with gliding adhesive using a thin brush. Place a gold leaf sheet over the glue, then use a brush to scrape away the excessive gold leaf sheet pieces. But this is just one artistic option — feel free to get creative!