Deepavali in Malaysia is celebrated by the local Hindu community in commemoration of Lord Rama and his wife, Sita’s return to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile, signifying the triumph of good over evil. Also called 'Diwali' or Festival of Lights, the religious event falls on the day before the new moon according to the lunar calendar so this year’s Deepavali takes place on 18th October.
As with most festivals in Malaysia, Deepavali is a day for people of all races and religions getting together with lively open houses, fireworks displays, and a wide range of Indian delicacies. About a week prior to the celebration, Hindus conduct a massive spring-cleaning of their homes while lit oil lamps are placed around different areas of the house, especially on the porch and balcony.
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Meanwhile, Hindu temples all over Malaysia are lavishly decorated with flowers while offerings of fruit and coconut milk are placed at altars by devotees. Some also prepare for this festival by going on a fast or vegetarian diet.
On the morning of Deepavali, many Hindus take an oil bath before heading to the temples for prayers and ceremonial rites. For the rest of the day, they usually open their houses to guests, friends, and neighbours to feast on delicious Indian food such as sweetmeats, rice puddings, and murukku, a type of fried flour cookie.
Where to Go in KL during Deepavali
First-time travellers to Kuala Lumpur may find restaurants and shops operating as usual during Deepavali, but Indian-owned businesses are closed on Deepavali. A great place to witness the local Hindus preparing for the event is Little India Brickfields, located just a five-minute walk from KL Sentral Station. This prominent street is flocked with locals about a week before, shopping for spices, religious items and decorations, as well as traditional apparel such as saris, Punjabi suits, and colourful bangles.
Hindu temples such as Sri Kondaswamy Kovil Hindu Temple and Sri Mahamariamman Temple make for excellent photo opportunities. Just make sure to dress appropriately (no shorts and sleeveless tops) and head there in the morning as that’s when Hindus conduct prayers and ceremonial rites.
Major shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur such as Pavilion KL, The Gardens Mall, and Suria KLCC are also decorated with an array of colourful lights and Deepavali decorations. A unique display you’ll find at the entrance of these shopping venues is kolam, an intricate floor design that’s made with coloured rice and powder. Usually created several weeks before Deepavali, designs are typically of flowers and animals such as peacocks and elephants.