By Foo Ming Li
Deepavali is a word rooted in the Sanskrit language which means a row of lights as the religious festival is celebrated by the Hindus and known as the Festival of Lights. This festival falls on the new moon day in the Hindu month Kartika and is celebrated to mark good over evil or more commonly; light over darkness. Although the festive celebration is celebrated by Hindus worldwide, other religions from the Indian region like the Sikhs and the Jains do celebrate Deepavali as well.
According to the Hindu mythology, it tells a tale of Narakasura (also known as Naraka), a demon king who oppressed his people and instilled fear in them as his ruling was associated with darkness. The myth expresses that people continuously prayed for the appearance of Lord Krishna to save their unfortunate life from the reigns of Narakasura. Lord Krishna responded to their call for help by engaging in a battle with Narakasura, who eventually died in the battle with Lord Krishna.
The festive celebration which falls on 14 November this year will be celebrated with the new norm of observing the Covid-19 standard operating procedures. This is partly because Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) is in place at the moment in Malaysia.
Prakash Velloo, a lecturer from Centre for Languages, Han Chiang University College of Communication (HCUC) said the thrills of celebrating Deepavali begins when the whole family visits shopping malls and stores to purchase new clothes, flowers, prayer items and traditional candies.
“On the morning of Deepavali, after offering pooja at home, children will seek blessings from their parents and the elderly members of the family. Then, families will visit temples in their new attire where thanksgiving prayers are offered and cleansing rituals are observed. Then, people of all races in Malaysia get together at open houses where fireworks are displayed, rows of lights illuminate homes and a wide range of Indian delicacies are offered,” added Prakash.
“This year, however, it will be a cautious celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic with conditional movement control order, lockdowns and travel bans enforced respectively in different parts of the country. Family members in other districts and states will not be able to travel, thus, video call sessions to their loved ones will be engaged to stay connected virtually,” said Prakash.
On the other hand, Kunasegaran Muthukumaru, a lecturer from the School of Business and Management said his celebration commences with his family spending time buying meat, vegetables, herbs and spices for the main celebration.
“Normally, cooking starts from 5 a.m. and can take up to three hours to fully prepare all the dishes we plan to serve our guests on Deepavali day,” he said.
Once done with cooking and getting themselves prepared with the newly bought traditional attires, he and his family go to the temple to pray around 8 a.m. Later, they shall head back to their home anticipating their relatives and friends will visit their open house.
“For now, we could only just talk on the phone or send messages on WhatsApp to greet each other. It is the only method to stay in touch and everyone should have an understanding of the current situation,” Kunasegaran expressed his despair over the misfortune of not able to spend quality time together with his relatives like they used to due to the increasing cases of Covid-19 in Penang.
Other than buying necessities for the Deepavali celebration and cooking dishes for the guests, Sinthumathi Letchumanan, a HCUC Bachelor of Communication (Media Production) student told that her family members pray at home. Then, the entire family will gather to light up the ghee lamps as a belief of getting rid of the darkness.
“Lighting up the ghee lamps in the home signifies purity, goodness and good luck. In addition, wearing new clothes during the festive celebration can attract good luck and prosperity,” she explained.
“Friends, regardless of ethnicity and religion are also welcomed to visit us during the open house as the reason for the open house is providing food to others which is a good deed. There is no greater deed in this world than feeding the hungry,” Sinthumathi said.
“Using video calls to convey our wishes to my relatives who are living in Singapore and the United States does not provide the warm feeling of meeting them physically, but it is better than nothing,” she added.