Diwali (North India) or Deepavali (South India) is a Hindu festival that is celebrated by Hindus across the world to mark the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Hindus mark the symbolism of this event by lighting an oil lamp. During this festival, millions of Hindu homes are bathed in the warm, golden light of these lamps as prayers are offered amidst the scent of jasmine garlands, sweet incense, and the fragrance of Indian spices. Families gather to exchange gifts, share meals, and enjoy a fireworks display. Many homes will display a colourful geometric artwork made out of coloured rice, and flower petals in their doorway or courtyard. Known as ‘rangoli’ or ‘kolam’, these artworks are made to welcome the Hindu deities into their home, so that they may bless the household for the year ahead.
To Jayanthi, a Federation University student from Malaysia, Diwali was the one day she would look forward to all year long as a young child. “It meant receiving money, getting a brand new outfit, and having friends over to play with all day long. My mother would wake early in the morning and start cooking up a storm. Delicious smells of mutton biryani, prawn masala and chicken curry would waft in the air. At night there were always fireworks,” she said with a wistful smile.
She added that cultural celebrations in Malaysia are made all the more enjoyable with the concept of ‘open house’ which is unique to Malaysians. It is a time when Malaysians of all races open their doors on the first day of each festival. “Anyone can drop by for something to eat and drink. It also happens on the first day of Eid Mubarrak, Christmas day and Chinese New Year. We had friends of all races and religions visit and there was always this strong feeling of community.” Describing her childhood in Malaysia, she said that her family would have anywhere between 80–150 friends and neighbours visit them on Diwali day, from morning up until midnight. “We had non-Hindu friends who would tell us they would spend the whole day visiting their Hindu friends on Diwali day. There was always so much food and drink and much laughter,” recalled Jayanthi, “with food leftovers for the second day!”
In 2016, Diwali will be celebrated on 30 October.