Learn About India
Festivals & Fun Activities to Learn About India
Activities to learn about India:
Henna tattooing has just started to become more popular in the west as a safe, painless and temporary body art. The powder used for tattooing comes from the henna plant which is grown in various places around the world including India, the southern United States, Australia, the Mediterranean and Africa. The powder naturally ranges in colour from green to brown (Black henna is NOT pure henna and is NOT SAFE – avoid black henna or any henna that is coloured as it is not pure and the additives it contains may be harmful).
The powder from the henna plant is mixed with water to form a thick paste which can safely be applied to hair or skin to cause temporary colour changes. Mehndi, or the art of applying the paste to create temporary tattoos, has been practiced in India for thousands of years. Originally it was used as a method of cooling oneself down by dipping one’s hands or feet into the henna paste. This eventually gave way to elaborate and beautiful designs as a means of cosmetic adornment.
Mehndi designs are often used to decorate hands, feet, pregnant bellies and various other parts of the body. It is considered safe for use during pregnancy. Try designing and applying your own henna tattoos. Henna products can often be found in local drug stores or on the web. Just be sure to avoid contact with items you don’t want dyed and follow the direction of the kit your purchase.
Festivals of India:
Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that commemorates the love between sisters and brothers. It is usually held in late August (falling on Thursday, the 2nd of August.). “Raksha” means to protect and “Bandhan” refers to an enduring bond. The celebration consists of sisters tying a rakhi, which is usually a colourful or decorative thread or bracelet, around their brothers’ wrists. Brothers then reciprocate by giving their sisters small gifts (often a small amount of money). Although it traditionally denotes the protection of sister by brother, it also signifies the love that is shared by them.
for celebrating Raksha Bandhan in the Earthy Family home:
Siblings can all make each other bracelets and then exchange them in a ceremony where they pledge to love and respect each other. Try using one the following ceremony pledges, or tailor them for your family or even for each of your siblings. For ideas on making bracelets, check out some of these sites:
Hemp and bead bracelet from Canku Ota
(Insert Name), I promise to love, honour and respect you.
(Insert Name), I appreciate your ________, value your _________, and enjoy your _______. Accept this rakhi as a token of my love and respect for you.
(Insert Name), you are a wonderful (brother/sister). I give you this bracelet as a symbol of my love for you.
Experiment with the following materials and methods:
- Embroidery thread
- Hemp string
- Cotton string
inspiration, check out these books:
Hemp Bracelets (Klutz) by Anne Akers Johnson
Making Friendship Bands by Lynette Silver & Susie Poland
Friendship Bracelets by Laura Torres
Diwali is known as the Hindu Festival of Lights and is one of the most important and beautiful festivals in the India calendar. It is celebrated on the 15th day of Ashwin (usually in October or November) and for 2012 it begin on Tuesday, the 13th of November and will continue for 5 days until Saturday, the 17th of November.
Diwali signals the beginning of winter and the sowing season in India, and honours a variety of Hindu gods and goddesses. There are great regional differences in Diwali celebrations and meanings, but it is celebrated by just about the entire Indian population (non-Hindus included) and focuses on harmony in the community and the beginning of a new year (in the lunar calendar).
Houses are thoroughly cleaned and filled with beautiful flowers the day before Diwali starts. Torans (a garland for doorways) are hung and Rangolis (designs drawn in coloured powder) are painted in front of houses. The small clay lamps, diyas, that are lit along roadways, in doorways and in the windowsills of each house create a beautiful and enchanting atmosphere. These hundreds of flickering lamps are the reason that Diwali is also called the Festival of Lights. The homes are decorated and the lamps lit to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. A visit from this goddess is considered especially lucky during Diwali.
The foods of Diwali are sweet in nature. Traditional foods include laddoos (chickpea flour cookies), gulab jamuns (milk balls served in syrup), and murkis (made from lentil flour dough) – all morsels that can be shared and exchanged with friends and family.
Ideas for celebrating Diwali in the Earthy Family home:
Make Rangoli designs together. Rangoli designs are temporary
art created with inexpensive and common materials such as
rice flour, white stone powder, vermilion, and lime and either
fingers or brushes. They are typically painted in courtyards
and range from simple or complex geometric patterns to extraordinarily
detailed scenes, often including gods and goddesses. Rangoli
art can easily be made at home with flour or brightly coloured
spices (try tumeric and/or paprika) or even sidewalk chalk.
If it’s nice out, Rangoli designs can be made on your
front step or sidewalk. If it’s not so nice out, try
making designs on cookie sheets. The great thing about temporary
art is that it can be made again and again.
For some beautiful examples of Rangoli art, check out the Kamat website.
Create your own festival of lights. Light several tealight candles throughout your living room (just be sure to use these safely), turn down the lights and share sweets and perhaps an Indian fairy tale or two. As Diwali is about harmony in the community, a family talk about harmony in your own community may be just the thing.
Information on India:Facts & Figures
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Activities & Festivals
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