Anyone contemplating a holiday in Malaysia should try and time it for during the colourful Hindu Diwali festival.
In a country that is praised for its diversity and tolerance and respect for other religions, Diwali is celebrated by people of all ethnicities in Malaysia. It is also a public holiday which adds to the atmosphere of grand celebrations around the country.
Diwali is honoured in many countries around the world where there are large populations of Hindu and Sikh followers. In some places it is mostly celebrated by Indian expatriates however in some countries like Malaysia, it has been embraced by the general population.
In Malaysia, Diwali is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar. The Hindu community makes up eight percent of the population in Malaysia who honour Diwali as a chance to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Some people refer to Diwali as Hari Diwali and follow the south Indian tradition of taking an oil bath in the early morning. Known as ganga-snanam, it symbolises the cleansing of sins and impurities in one’s past.
The name “Diwali” stems from the word “Deepavali”, which means “row of lamps”. Hindus celebrate the festival in remembrance of the return of Lord Rama and his wife to Ayodhya after being in exile for 14 years. It is said that this happened on a dark night so his people helped them find their way by lighting their homes with little lamps (diyas). This is why Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. However the term ‘light’ also refers to an Inner Light which is known as Atman among Hindu philosophers.
Some Hindus also use Diwali as a chance to honour Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. It is said that lighting diyas will help her find their home and send good fortune their way.
During the festival, diyas are left buring throughout the night and houses are fastidiously cleaned. This is done as it is thought to encourage a visit from Lakshmi. Firecrackers are generally set off as it is thought the loud noise scares bad spirits away but these are banned in Malaysia.
Many people also look to Diwali as a time to invite family and friends from different races and religions into their home in what is known as an ‘open house’. This unique practice helps to forge strong ties and tolerance in this multi-racial country. If you are looking at when to visit Malaysia, going during Diwali means you will have a chance to experience these traditional customs. Many people will also visit their local temple for ceremonies and worships or pray at altars in their own homes.
It is also a chance for people to wear and show off new clothes and indulge in traditional Indian savoury dishes and sweets like ladu, vadai, ommapadi and murukku. Lucky children can also collect purple or sometimes yellow packets containing money.
Diwali also represents a time for renewed hope, putting new energies into relationships with friends and family, general goodwill to all and an overarching celebration of life.
If you are looking for what to do in Malaysia, Diwali is a great time to visit as it offers a unique insight into the important Hindu faith. Celebrations are held all around the country, so if you are looking at places to visit in Malaysia during this time, it is advised to look online for local events taking place.
During religious festivals in Malaysia, it is important to adopt responsible attitudes to travel in line with the principles of eco-tourism.
This includes fostering respect for local cultures during celebrations and at all other times when exploring the country. Taking only photos and leaving just footprints will help retain the beauty of this exotic destination so that many more people can enjoy it in the same capacity in the future.