Deepavali, synonymously known as Diwali or the festival of lights, is an annual festival mainly celebrated by Hindus. Deepavali, part of which literally means light, symbolises the defeat of evil and darkness in its various forms, despite the various stories of origin for the occasion. The celebration spans across several days and varies according to origin and tradition, but I’ll be telling you how I, as a Malaysian Indian Tamillian, have been celebrating it for the two decades of my life.
I have never celebrated Deepavali in my own primary residence in Kuala Lumpur. Instead, my family and I always go to either my paternal or maternal grandparents’ home, often both. That does not give me the excuse to escape the spring cleaning war my mum wages on our house though. We usually go to my grandparents’ house the day before Deepavali, or a couple of days before. All the biscuits and murukkus made weeks prior are arranged in little glass jars for guests to help themselves to, rangolis are made, and there is always that last bit of cleaning left to do. On the night of Deepavali eve, we light up numerous oil lamps around the house and pray to our deceased ancestors to look after us and ensure fruitful years to come. After my mum makes sure all the ingredients are in place for breakfast and lunch the next day, we retire to the living room to play games or watch television, being glad that this is an excuse among late nights of work and assignments for us all to be together.
And the next day is Deepavali!!! What joy! Just knowing it’s Deepavali is enough to put a smile on one’s face. The elder women of the family rub sesame oil onto our scalp and hair as soon as we wake up, and later,after getting ready and donning our new traditional attire, we pray at home, and then head to the temple. After praying, we get the prasadham–sanctified food that is offered to God–and return home to mum’s scrumptious breakfast of idly, curries and multitude of chutneys served on a freshly cut banana leaf. That leaf makes everything so much more delicious, but before devouring the food, we take blessings from our elders. They give something to all of us, usually money, like the Chinese tradition of getting ang paos. Mum usually proceeds to finish cooking lunch as all our cousins and uncles and aunts begin to arrive. We watch the latest movies on TV, play games, eat all the delicious cookies and meals cooked that are fit for royalty, and continuously top up the drinks of our elders as they sit aside catching up with each other.
That night, we sit back contentedly and watch various firecrackers being burst and lit, exclaiming when a particularly huge or colourful one lights up the night sky. Bed time is usually as late as we can go without succumbing to our parents’ scolding to turn off the lights as every minute spent with cousins is one that brings us back to our joyful childhood.
The next day is usually slightly sombre as all of us head back to our own homes, promising our grandparents and each other that we will visit every chance we get. The days after that are still spent wishing each other a happy Deepavali and sharing and eating murukkus for weeks with all our friends, ensuring that the joyousness of Deepavali captivates not only the ones celebrating, but everyone around as well.