For this Diwali, I wanted Pari to explore some of the meaning behind our traditions and rituals – but of course in a fun and playful way.
Hence, when making Diwali cards for her friends and family, I wanted her to try decorating with rice, pulses and beans. The different colourful pulses are a fun substitute for paint. For a child of Pari’s age (5-6), identifying them during or after the art activity is a great lesson in itself.
For a toddler, it turns out to be a nice activity for sorting, gluing, etc.
Grains – rice and wheat – and pulses are ‘ingrained’ in the Indian way of life. Not just in terms of our staple food, but also how we use them for art, rituals, festivals and a dozen other things.
Rice, also called Akshat in Sanskrit, is used in the powdered form as well as coloured form to make ‘rangolis’. Rangoli, which is a sanskrit word comes from two words – ‘Rang’, meaning colour and ‘Avali’ meaning ‘row’. So, it basically means – rows of colours.
As a kid, I loved making real big rangolis with the rice paste and another paste I used to make with powdered brick – for the rust coloured red. The combination of these colours made very eye catching art.
Going back to Pari’s rangoli cards, she loved sketching the patterns first and then gluing them with the different types of pulses and beans. Being a avid Pasta lover, those spiral pasta had to find a place on her tray! Well, so be it. It’s an integrated world, after all. (smiles)
The activity was not over at just making the cards. After that we decided to sit at my laptop to find out where those Pulses are grown – In India and elsewhere across the world. In the process, she learnt the concepts of ‘import’ and ‘export’.
These concepts fascinated her and led to a series of questions. First of all, she asked – when Canada is so much smaller than India in size (after looking at the map), how is it able to ‘export’?
To this, I explained in as simple a way as possible – that Canada has fewer people than India and hence it has surplus or extra food that it can sell to other countries.
She then wanted to write down the names of the pulses in Hindi as well as in English.
Finally, she wanted to know if the chickpeas she had used on the card were the same as those we used for making Hummus the other day? I said, she was bang on. After which, she racked her brain some more to figure out which pulse did I use to make our dal. Which one for the Sambhar etc. etc.
Isn’t it amazing how an art activity can lead to such interesting lessons in geography and language and cuisine and who knows what else? I absolutely love this kind of learning where each subject is effortlessly connected with the other. The child does not learn each subject in isolation.
And why should she, when everything that we do is invariably interwoven. Why should learning be in compartments and siloes?
This is the philosophy Waldorf education is based on too.
Coming back to Indian festive art, here is a Dia or Deepak (clay lamp) as we call in Hindi/Sanskrit that I had made using beans and wheat grain. I tried shaping it like the lotus flower by sticking petals cut out from thick paper and shaded the paper petals in hues of pink. Pari contributed by decorating with acrylic paint on the inside.
I would love to know how you will be celebrating this Diwali.
Any special art, craft, food, decor?
Update on Nov 9 2012: