Deepavali Celebration in Penang

Deepavali has long been embraced by the Hindu community as a significant event in the Hindu primary scripture, Srimad Bhagavatam to commemorate the victory of light over darkness. However, there’s more to Deepavali than its summary. Based on one of Hindu’s finest epics called Ramayana, Deepavali is a sacred day to commemorate the homecoming of a dignified king, who is also an incarnation of Lord Krishna, named Lord Ramachandra, following his 14-year exile in the forest upon slaying the demon Ravana. The kingdom of Ayodhya, which once loomed in darkness and sadness following their king’s exile, was then brought to life by earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fireworks to welcome Lord Ramachandra’s return.

Deepavali also signifies the end of the harvest season and as harvest symbolises prosperity, the day is consists of a lively celebration to give thanks and appreciation to the Gods for bestowing a good harvest.

‘Before sunrise during Deepavali day, we would wake up early and the elders will put siakai (traditional shampoo) and gingli oil on our heads before taking a bath’ said Mr Kisora Krishna Das who serves as the Chairman of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Botanic Gardens, ‘After that you ask for forgiveness from your family and the elders and they will present you with new clothes to wear’. The morning of Deepavali continues by glorifying Lord Krishna’s alter with a song, followed by presenting offering and prayers at the temple.  

Capturing the Spirit of Deepavali
From cultural buzz to shopping frenzy, the scene in Little India, George Town intensifies during Deepavali. Thumping, upbeat tracks of new Bollywood are looped from day to night to attract the shopping crowd to their vibrant shops and stalls. Here, you’ll get home decoration items, sarees, Indian sweets and snacks, religious items and jewellery.

Open to all, shoppers passing by a few stores in Little India, George Town can offer ghee light to Lord Krishna or Damodara. As part of the Damodara Panthal Programme organised by ISKCON, it is believe that when one offers a lamp during the auspicious month of Kartika, held from 9 Oct until 9 Nov, his or her sins from the many thousands and millions of birth would be perished.

Third-generation trader Mr Ghirish of Kanganam Trading is hard at work to sell home decoration items like rangoli (otherwise known as an Indian folk art called kolam), diyas (small lamps and candles) and more. ‘About 80% of the items here are imported from India,’ says Mr Ghirish before he adds that the remaining items are brought over from China. ‘You can tell the difference just by looking at the handiwork and texture. The ones sourced from India are handmade and painted by master artists’. Religious statues also filled the shelves in Mr Ghirish’s shop. ‘One of the most popular statues is Lord Ganesha. The Hindus would put the statue of Lord Ganesha in their homes’.

Jewellery of beautiful designs are sold in abundance. Jewellery store manager Ms Shumeethi shares that customers have a keen eye for details for either classic or modern designs. ‘We sell everything like earrings, bangles, chains and necklace sets,’ she says. Most of the accessories are dotted with synthetic precious stones for a pop of colour. ‘Some of the jewellery here has ruby, emerald, blue sapphire or white stones. Because it’s synthetic, they’re slightly cheaper and has nicer design too’.

New saree and dhoti choices are in abundance during this time of year. Owner of a textile store Ms Ummadevy has spent four years in the business and can predict trends easily. According to her, colour-wise, wearing striking colours is the way to go this Deepavali and Ummadevy is not shy to say that the more colourful, the better. ‘This year, the popular colours are orange, yellow and apple green’.