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Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday November 1, 2013 MYT 9:25:40 AM
by gayathri nair
On Deepavali, Hindus keep the flame burning. -- Pictures by Mogan Selvakannu
Hindus adhere to different Deepavali traditions and rituals, but celebrating the festival of lights with loved ones is still what’s most important.
ON Deepavali, Bamani Devi Gobalan, 31, and her family would light the oil lamp in their prayer room and keep the flame burning all day.
“This lamp will continue glowing until the end of the day. If at all the fire begins to dim, more oil is added to enable the flame to continue burning.
“The burning lamp signifies the continued brightness the family is blessed with on Deepavali day and throughout the year,” she explains.
Other traditions that Bamani and her family follow include having hot oil baths on Deepavali morning, saying their prayers and receiving blessings from the elders in the family.
Unlike Bamani, Prasana Thiruchelvam, 22 and her family do not adhere to Deepavali traditions like doing the hot oil bath or having prayers at home. But they believe in seeking blessings from their elders and visiting the temple on Deepavali morning as a family.
Then, they would gather at her grandfather’s house, together with their relatives from all around the country.
“Once everyone has arrived on Deepavali morning, we would touch our grandparents’ feet to receive their blessings.”
The elders would also give out gifts of money to those who are unmarried. These days, they use envelopes that are modelled after the red packets or ang pow that are given out during Chinese New Year, except that the ones used for Deepavali are usually in other colours such as purple or yellow.
Prasana and Bamani’s family observe this ang pow giving tradition, but there are no fixed rules. It’s not only the elderly who give ang pows to the young. Working adults would also offer ang pows to their parents, and to the children in the family. Cousins would give out ang pows to the younger ones, and older siblings to their younger unmarried siblings.
Whether or not they adhere strictly to traditions, families make sure everyone is decked out in new clothes on Deepavali.
“It’s the tradition that on Deepavali day, we must be dressed in new, vibrant-coloured clothes. Times have changed and these new clothes don’t necessarily have to be traditional. But we make it a practice to avoid dark, dull colours such as black and grey,” says Prasana.
“The youngsters are more likely to be clad in non-traditional clothing, but the elders will stick to the traditional saris and punjabi suits.
“As for the men, it’s a lot easier – a new shirt and a pair of new pants will do. But if they opt for traditional wear, then there’s the jeepa and dhoti,” says Bamani.
For Bamani and her family, preparations for Deepavali usually begin a month before the festival.
“We do not just shop for new clothes but also new items for the house. Items on the list include curtains, cushion cases, carpets and sometimes new furniture to replace the battered ones.
“Come Deepavali day, the house will look vibrant!” she says.
A tradition that both families observe is the rangoli which is also known as the kolam. This is a bright (sometimes plain white) pattern at the entrance of the house to welcome the Hindu goddess Lakshmi to the house on Deepavali day, and is also believed to bring good luck.
“The patterns are typically created with materials such as coloured rice, flour, sand or even flower petals,” says Bamani.
“This activity is traditionally done by women, however men too can offer their creative input,” says Prasana who enjoys drawing the kolam with her mother and brothers.
One of the more fun traditions amongst all families and their children is playing firecrackers during the Deepavali season.
“Many may think that playing with fireworks during Deepavali is just for fun. But crackers were traditionally played to ward off evil spirits,” says Prasana who adds that they love this activity most because it’s fun.
And of course, as it is in all Malaysian festivities, food reigns supreme on Deepavali. Family and friends look forward to the Deepavali spread of homecooked delicacies. Be it traditional cookies, cakes or delicious curries, food brings everyone together.
The preparation for some of the food could be tedious, but the task is lightened by the anticipation of the festivities. It’s also a tradition in many families to gather and prepare the food together. “The women in my family would gather every night two weeks before the big day and combine forces to make the traditional cakes.
“We can start as early as 7pm and end at 2am. By morning, our limbs and muscles would be sore from pressing, flipping, cutting, shaping and frying. But it’s all in the joy of doing things together,” recounts Bamani, beaming at the memories.
In Prasana’s household however, her mother is the heroine when it comes to traditional cakes and usually prepares them on her own with no help.
“Mum will begin with all the traditional cakes and cookies a couple of weeks before the festive day. She’s careful not to make them too early, because my brothers, father and I might finish everything off before Deepavali comes,” jokes Prasana.
On Deepavali, there would be more cooking to be done. “Most Hindu festivals such as the Indian New Year require us to be vegetarians, but Deepavali is the one festival where meat is allowed.
“So it’s meat galore throughout the day. Be it mutton, chicken, fish, prawns, you name it. There will also be traditional Indian fare such as thosai, idli, idiyapum (string hoppers), chutney and more,” enthuses Bamani.
No matter how they celebrate Deepavali, it is who they celebrate the festival with that is the most meaningful.
“My family have gathered to celebrate Deepavali together for over 20 years. Although there are some changes here and there, the closeness and the celebratory mood has remained the same. The reward is celebrating the day with your family and being amongst people you love,” she concludes happily.
It is the same with Prasana and her family. “Because most of our family members are scattered around the country and busy with their own lives, it’s always nice to catch up with one another on Deepavali.
“It’s something my brothers and I look forward to each year. Who knows what other fortunes the coming years will bring?” she says.
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Family, Family & Community, Deepavali; Festival of Lights; Family Traditions
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