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October, 2017

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Deepavali (also known as Diwali) is a Hindu celebration which literally means row ((avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians will light outside of their humble abodes as a symbol of inner light which protects them from spiritual darkness as cited by National Geographic. This glorious celebration is enjoyed by most Indians, doesn’t matter the faith; be it Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. Even in Malaysia, it is declared a National Holiday (we are, after all, a very multicultural country).

Being raised in Sabah and living most of my adult life in Peninsular Malaysia, I had the privilege of experiencing this wonderful celebration amongst other Malaysians who celebrates this auspicious day in colourful sarees and salwar kameez, and decorate their homes in bright lanterns, children running around playing with sparklers and firecrackers, while the elders join together to eat all the delicious Indian desserts they can put their hands on.

Deepavali - Festival of lights

Indian Mythology – Celebrating Diwali for Lord Krishna’s victory on Narakaasura

Most Indians celebrate this auspicious day for various legends pointing to the celebration of Deepavali. One of it is to celebrate Lord Rama’s (together with Ma Sita and Lakshman) long awaited return from being exiled in the forest after a fourteen year exiled from his kingdom and triumph over the demon king Ravana. It is to honor Lord Krishna’s victory over the demonic Narakaasura who kidnapped as well as terrorized the gopis of Vrindavan. It is also to rejoice the day Bhagwan Vishnu tied the knot with Maha Lakshmi.

On a whole, Deepavali is to celebrate good against evil, truth over fallacy, light over darkness, prosperity, power to forgive and forget, and the power to progress.

The first time I ever stepped foot into a Deepavali Celebration, I was covered head to foot in a 6 metered white and red saree, and accessorized with chunky gold embellishments. I felt like I was overdress, but I was wrong. I was underdressed! All the women were in rich coloured sarees filled with beautiful accessories from head to toe, oh how I was smittened by their looks! And the men, wearing the most handsome outfits fit for a king. Their homes were decorated with the most lavish coloured lanterns, and each nook and cranny you can spot clay lamps with flickering lights shying away each time the wind came to say hello.

Deepavali - Festival of lights

Indian girls make colourful Rangoli

Deepavali - Festival of lights

Apply Pottu/Bindi on the forehead

An old aunt came up to me to ask whether I was married, to which I answered no. She then placed a black Pottu (a dot) just above and in between my eyebrows. I didn’t really understood it at first, but got to know a bit later on that it was to ward off evil spirits or curses and black dot was to show that you’re not married (the world knew I wasn’t married, well, the Indians knew immediately.

I got to try out all sorts of food! From mains such as Lamb Biryani and Chicken Masala, to mouthwatering desserts such as Jalebi and Payasam (my personal favourite). I was fed like a King! I wasn’t the only non-indian there, mind you, there were many others who were from different religions as well and I felt very much welcomed even if I did not speak their native tongue.

Deepavali - Festival of lights

Diwali Sweet Recipes

Here in Sabah, there are many Indians as well that has resided and made Sabah their home. We’ve got the beautiful Sri Pashupatinath Temple, very serene and visited by many local Indians for meditation; Sri Subramaniar Hindu Temple, as colourful as Batu Caves Temple; Thirumurugan Temple, as though covered in gold from head to toe; and many others to which has their own devotees.

Deepavali or the Festival of Lights is basically celebrated around the globe. It is a celebration of South Asian identities. If ever you have the chance to visit Malaysia, do not forget to join in the celebration of Lights and experience the exceptional wonders of this beautiful culture and tradition.

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