THE first Deepavali celebration for a newly-wed couple is bound to be the most memorable.
As tradition dictates, the couple’s first Deepavali, or thala Deepavali, is an important time for the bride’s family to welcome their new son-in-law.
While most of the rites and rituals are focused on the groom, the couple’s first Deepavali also marks the first and supposedly final time the couple will celebrate Deepavali at the bride’s family home.
Newly-weds Rames Harikrishnasamy and Jamunaa Ambikabothy’s families are based in Cheras and Klang, respectively, and the couple will follow the rites practised by Jamunaa’s parents, Ambikabothy Natchimuthu and Vasialatchimy Suppan.
“On the eve of Deepavali, the couple will stay at our home and perform prayers together.
“The next morning, we will all have our oil bath and morning prayers before our relatives and friends come to visit and celebrate the festival with us.
“We’re very excited to celebrate their first Deepavali as husband and wife, but I think next year onwards, we will find new ways of celebrating together,” Ambikabothy said.
“Maybe next year, my wife and I will visit Jamunaa and Rames in their own home and perhaps the year after that we will visit Jamunaa’s older sister’s family in Johor,” he said, adding that the couple need not always return to the parental home.
Playing a key role in her family’s usual Deepavali celebration, Jamunaa said she will miss being an equal part of the preparation with her family.
“Usually, I am in charge of the kolam drawing and my mother will be in charge of the cooking.
“My father will put up all the decorations and my brother will go to the market to get supplies.
“We all had a role to play and I think I am going to miss that the most,” she said.
Jamunaa’s mother Vasialatchimy said she would feel the void of her daughter’s absence during the preparations for Deepavali.
“I will miss my daughter very much.
“My daughter helps me with tying my saree, making muruku and driving around to do the necessary things for Deepavali,” she said, adding that the two also took naps together.
“Not only is Deepavali going to be different, every other day in this house will be different,” she said.
Rames explained that he foresaw both their families celebrating Deepavali together every year
“It doesn’t matter which house. We will manage our time to visit the house that has plans and requires us to be around first.
“I don’t see my in-laws as an extended family. I see us as one entire family.
“It is not an issue at all to decide who we visit first because I know every Deepavali is going to be with them,” he said.
Hindu expert and academic Sivanesan Baskaran explained that thala Deepavali is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion and its rituals are significant.
“The day starts early with the brahma muhurtham with the eldest in the family applying the gingelly oil for everyone as part of the oil bath ritual between 4am and 6am.
“The newly-wed couple will receive new clothes from the bride’s family and offer prayers to goddess bhooma devi.
“This was practised in the time of Rama and Sita during their thala Deepavali.
“In those days, the couple stayed the night at the bride’s family home and on the morning of Deepavali, the couple and the bride’s family would take sweets to visit the groom’s family home.
“And only after the morning prayers are done, will the couple return to the bride’s family home to continue Deepavali celebrations for the rest of the day.
“This was easier in the earlier days when both families lived in the same village or nearby,” he said.
While these practices are passed down from one generation to the next, Srisaktitriyambaganathar Shiva kovil veedu chief priest Siva Sri S. Jeyakumar said the rituals were important regardless of the distance between the homes of both families.
“Simple rituals such as the father-in-law tying the dhoti for the son-in-law and the couple joining the ancestors’ prayer on the eve are important ways to include the son-in-law into their Deepavali celebration.
“In the early days, Deepavali was supposedly the first grand occasion following the wedding, and the new couple could get to know relatives and friends personally.
“The point of thala Deepavali is to unite both families.
“Following this, the bride will celebrate future Deepavali with her husband’s family, so it is also seen as possibly the only time the bride’s family will get to bond with their new son-in-law,” he said.
Another newly-wed couple Mohana Kumara Velu and Prakash Anpalakan, both 28, happen to live two floors above Mohana’s parents in the same apartment block.
While distance has never been quite an issue for the newly-weds, Mohana explained that her usual Deepavali celebrations were based in her father’s side of the family as per tradition.
“We used to travel to my grandfather’s house in Senai, Johor, for Deepavali and then we would travel to my mother’s eldest brother’s house in Masai, Johor.
“The first day will always be on my father’s side and the second day onwards it will be at my mother’s side.
“Before I started work, I’d always buy all the decorations and bring it over to my grandfather’s house to decorate there. We did not really do much in our own house,” she said.
Though this is not the first time he will be celebrating with his wife’s family, Prakash said this year would be his first year celebrating since he began working as an air steward.
“Usually, we would have a small prayer at my house after the oil bath and then I’d go visit my friends.
“Mohana and I have known each other for nine years and during the seven years we dated, I’d visit her family for Deepavali.
“I think from here on, we will play a game or something to decide which side of the family we will visit first,” he joked.
Mohana’s parents Kumara Velu Shanmugam, 55, and Malika Arujaunan, 50, who married 29 years ago, said distance had a lot of do with choosing which side of the family to visit first.
“It has always been a ritual to celebrate at the groom’s side on the first day.
“But back then many people lived far apart from each other and travelling from, say, Penang to Johor would take a long time, and that is why some chose to visit the nearest family home first.
“It is a flexible matter. This year we will stay back in Sentul because its Mohana and Prakash’s first Deepavali,” he said.
Regardless of which side the couple choose to celebrate Deepavali first, in the coming years Malika said the most crucial part was doing the Deepavali preparations together.
“All I hope for them is that they will share the workload.
“Even if it is a small thing such as helping to cut vegetables or put up the decorations, I hope they will continue to do things together as a couple,” she said.