KUALA LUMPUR: The flickering coloured lights adorned the porch, the paper and cloth decorations in different shades hung from the ceiling of the hall, and the lighted shining brass oil lamp stood at the centre of the colourful artwork or kolam at the entrance.
The contrasting colours, added with the pungent fragrance of burning incense sticks and the hive of activities at home made eight-year old Ashwina Murali excited.
The colours, the bright lights, the scent and excitement are the clearest indication that the Indians are celebrating Deepavali, also known as Diwali.
It is Deepavali eve and later in the night Nivashinee’s 16-year old brother brother Prashant will light fireworks and firecrackers that will further enhance the celebration atmosphere.
The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains throughout the world. It is one of the major celebration for the Indians.
The different communities celebrate the day in different ways but in essence they are reminded of the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Malaysians are familiar with the celebration with their Indians friends, neighbours and colleagues, cleaning and decorating their homes and inviting their counterparts in the typical Malaysian open house spirit.
Those who have been to Jalan Masjid India, Lebuh Ampang and Little India in Brickfields would have noted the place being hive with activities. Major shopping complexes too have set up kolam and lights, adding to the festive atmosphere.
R Kumarasen, in his 50s, who came to Jalan Masjid India all the way from Seremban to shop with his family said times have changed.
“When I used to come here during my younger days, there weren’t much shops catering for Indians. Today they are so many traders during Deepavali selling so many types of merchandise. Moreover, as Malaysians have become a consumer society, I see some even buying new handphones for Deepavali.
“Today one can get every festive snacks ready made. Muruku, Omapodi, nei urundai (ghee balls), athiresam (doughnut like pastry) and others,” he said adding that in those days they have to be prepared early by the families.
Common Tradition of the Celebration
On the auspicious day, Hindus usually wake up early and the first ritual is to bathe using gingerly oil and Shikakai powder (a herbal combination), which is an important feature although the younger generation prefer soaps and shampoo.
The next is they dress up in their new clothes usually men wearing dhoti or kurta’s
while women in silk saree’s and Punjabi suits of various colour and shades and they head to temple.
Hindus will also pray and pay respect for the elderly and the deceased as it is an important tradition to be followed.
The most interesting part especially in the Malaysian context is visiting the open houses where one will get taste of variety delicious Indian food like chicken or mutton curry, puri, idli, thosai and etc.
The Changing Spectacle of Deepavali
However, like how Kumarasen said times have changed, the way Deepavali is celebrated these days too has changed.
Anita Murugan, a mass communication student who is doing her attachment with Bernama, noted during her younger days the neighbours would compete to blast firecrackers as long as they can, up to wee hours.
She noted that nowadays as neighbourhoods have formed associations, a deadline has been set to limit the noise from firecrackers and fireworks. Normally the cut off time is 10pm, but this is often breached.
There was a time when Deepavali sweets and savouries were made by the ladies at home. However, now these sweets and savouries are readily available at the shops and with the hectic pace of life there is no time to make them.
Also, people nowadays are more concerned about health and perhaps don’t want to consume much sweets and meat like before.
In those days, even up to early 1980s, people used to light the ‘diyas’ (oil lamps) around their house but nowadays they prefer to buy electric light decorations.
Large families use to meet and hand each other gifts personally. However, today as many families have members dispersed far and wide, phones and social media keep the celebration atmosphere alive. Gifts, snacks and savouries are delivered through courier.
One more thing, sending and receiving Deepavali cards through post is something of the past now. With a host of hand held gadgets at our disposal, one can send Deepavali greetings with a touch of the screen.
Deepavali e-cards and greetings via Whatsapp and Facebook has become the norm, replacing the old tradition of sending written Deepavali cards.
Anyway we at Bernama wish all Malaysians celebrating the auspicious day a very Happy Deepavali. — Bernama