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5 ways to soak up the Deepavali feels in Penang's Little India

Photo credit: Eeda Shiu

Fringed by Queen Street, Chulia Street and Market Street, Penang's Little India is shining bright since the beginning of the month in anticipation of Deepavali. Vibrant, colourful and chaotic, the heritage-rich Indian enclave is one of the best places to soak up some Deepavali feels. Here's our guide for an all-round sensorial Deepavali experience this October.

#1: Feast on banana leaf rice

The best way to experience a culture is through its food, so sit back and fill your belly with banana leaf rice. Little India has a long lineage of ethnic Indian restaurants serving banana leaf rice, and its finger-licking goodness is perfect for an authentic taste of Deepavali. A typical banana leaf meal is served with white rice, vegetable dishes, an assortment of curries and crispy papadum and is best eaten with hands! Pro tip: If you’re not a rice person, then opt for thosai, a savoury South Indian pancake, instead.

#2: Glam up your Deepavali #ootd

Glam up your Deepavali #ootd with brightly coloured Punjabi suits and sarees! Shops in Little India sell Punjabi suits and sarees sourced from major cities in India such as Chennai and Delhi. There are also crisply starched cottons and intricate thread work sarees to choose from. The streets are filled with vendors selling flower garlands and fashion accessories so dress up your hair with jasmine flowers and complete your look with a rhinestone handbag, shoes, and jewelry!

#3: Feast on Instagram-ready Indian sweets

No Deepavali celebration is complete without feasting on Instagram-ready Indian sweets. According to Ravi, a street vendor at Queen Street whose cart is filled with traditional Indian festive treats, local Indian customers would look for adhirasam (Indian-style doughnut) and jalebi (spiral-shaped sweets) while tourists prefer brightly coloured coconut candies instead. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is your chance to indulge but if sinfully sweet treats are a thing of the past, then chow down on savoury snacks such as murukku and mixed nuts.

#4: Get a henna tattoo

One of the coolest unexpected Deepavali trends in recent years is henna tattoos, and frankly, we’re all about it. This well-loved Indian tradition, once seen only on brides, has become a much sought-after festive trend. According to Ramya from Ruba’s Bridal & Beauty Salon, there are various designs and colours to choose from, but customers are more likely to choose a floral motif tattoo with added rhinestones to bedazzle their palms, hands, legs and ankles! Henna tattoos, although temporary, can surely make a lasting impression! Also, you can get a manicure to match your tattoo! 

#5: Visit Penang’s oldest Hindu temple

Dedicated to the Hindu deity Sri Muthu Mariamman, the century-old Sri Mahamariamman Temple on Queen Street is the jewel in Little India’s crown. You can spend all day admiring sculptures of gods and goddesses over its main entrance and facade. Be sure to reach the temple before 12pm if you want to watch the temple’s priests anointing the deity with oils, sandalwood paste, and milk before bathing the deity with water. Observing the priests performing puja (prayers) while devotees performing archanai (offering) amidst a riot of colours stemming from saree-clad womenfolk, intricately drawn kolam and garlands of flowers can be spiritually pleasing, too.

Lebuh Pasar, 10450 George Town, Penang