Celebrate Diwali at the Met!

Mary Ann Bonet
November 10, 2015

Diwali dance performance in Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Members of the East-West School of Dance perform the Story of Diwali. Photograph by Don Pollard

«This Sunday, November 15, from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., join us for Diwali, the Indian "festival of lights!" Diwali is a chance to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. During the festival, you can learn the steps to classical Indian dances, listen to stories from India in Nolen Library, make lanterns, and more. Families can also see the story of Diwali come to life in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium.»

Want to learn more before the event? In the Museum's galleries, or online through #MetKids, you can find out more about the Hindu deities, or gods and goddesses, that are celebrated during Diwali, like Lakshmi, goddess of fortune, or #MetKids favorite Ganesha, the elephant-headed god who can remove obstacles!

Diwali also celebrates the Ramayana, the epic story of how Lord Rama triumphs over the evil demon Ravana. In the story, Lord Rama and his wife, Sita, have been exiled from their kingdom and banished to the forest by Rama's father.

Rama and Lakshmana on Mount Pavarasana
Rama and Lakshmana on Mount Pavarasana, ca. 1700. India (Punjab Hills, Bahu). Ink, opaque watercolor, and silver on paper; 7 x 12 1/8 in. (17.8 x 30.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 1999 (1999.400)

One day in the forest, the evil demon Ravana sneakily kidnaps Sita. Once Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana realize what has happened, they go looking for her.

Hanuman Conversing
Hanuman conversing, 11th century. Chola period (880-1279). India (Tamil Nadu). Copper alloy; H. 25 3/8 in. (64.5 cm); W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Bequests of Mary Clarke Thompson, Fanny Shapiro, Susan Dwight Bliss, Isaac D. Fletcher, William Gedney Beatty, John L. Cadwalader and Kate Read Blacque, Gifts of Mrs. Samuel T. Peters, Ida H. Ogilvie, Samuel T. Peters and H. R. Bishop, F. C. Bishop and O. M. Bishop, Rogers, Seymour and Fletcher Funds, and other gifts, funds and bequests from various donors, by exchange, 1982 (1982.220.9)

Along the way, our heroes meet Hanuman, the monkey god. Hanuman is no ordinary monkey—he's strong, and can fly and even shape-shift! Together, they are able to defeat the evil Ravana. When Lord Rama and his family return home, they are welcomed with flowers and lamps that light up the city.

The Combat of Rama and Ravana
The combat of Rama and Ravana, late 18th century. India (Coromandel Coast). Painted and mordant-dyed cotton; Overall: 34 1/4 x 212 1/4 in. (87 x 539.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2008 (2008.163)

Want to get a head start on the festivities? The Ramayana, the epic story of Diwali, has inspired artists for centuries. Check out other objects in our collection that feature scenes and characters from the story. Let us know which one is your favorite in the comments. We hope to see you on Sunday!

Related Event
Sunday, November 15, 12:00–5:00 p.m.
Free with Museum admission; admission is free for children under 12 with an adult

Mary Bonet

Mary Ann Bonet is a program coordinator of for teen and family programs in the Education Department.