An Auspicious Beginning

19 October 2017

Celebrated by Hindus all over the world including Malaysia, Deepavali is a festival of good triumphing over evil. We visit Kortumalai Pillayar Temple in the heart of Kuala Lumpur in the lead up to the Festival of Lights.

Deepavali is celebrated by people of the Hindu faith, and while the meaning of the festival has various regional interpretations, there is one thing that everyone can agree on.

Deepavali, derived from the Sanskrit words dipam (lamp) and oli (glow of lights), is the Festival of Lights, and is seen as the victory of light over darkness. The metaphor of light here can be anything from knowledge and education to self-awareness and good morals, as these values are what humans strive to achieve as they battle their murky demons of ignorance and ill-will. The base premise is the triumph of good over evil, and it is this message that is at the core of Deepavali celebrations.




“Children of course really look forward to Deepavali because of the new clothes, but there is so much more significance than just the material goods,” explains Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan, President of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam.





One of the most popular myths associated with Deepavali, is from the Hindu epic, Ramayana. Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, had just vanquished the demon Ravana, reuniting with his kidnapped wife Sita. The rescue mission had been fraught with danger, but Rama, aided by his brother Lakshmana and the nimble Hanuman, emerged victorious. They then made their way home to Ayodhya, the land from which Rama was exiled 14 years ago.

​However, a moonless night had fallen by the time they reached Ayodhya; to lead Rama and his party safely back home to the palace, the citizens lit lamps on the path outside their homes. To this day, Deepavali falls on the darkest of nights – the new moon night of the month – and Rama’s return to Ayodhya is commemorated by the lighting of clay lamps outside Hindu homes.




Deepavali is also associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and so offerings are made to welcome good fortune into homes and businesses. Along with Ganesh, the god of new beginnings, these two deities are part of the prayers that are held at home as soon as the household wakes on Deepavali morning. It is only after these prayers are done, that the ritual oil bath is taken, and then brand-new clothes are worn.

For many Hindus, this is then followed by a visit to a nearby temple, as there will be a special Deepavali puja (or ritual conducted by a priest) to bless worshippers. While pujas are usually held every day in temples, the Deepavali puja invokes prayers that specifically refer to the significance of the festival in terms of auspicious new beginnings.



For many Hindus, this is then followed by a visit to a nearby temple, as there will be a special Deepavali puja (or ritual conducted by a priest) to bless worshippers. While pujas are usually held every day in temples, the Deepavali puja invokes prayers that specifically refer to the significance of the festival in terms of auspicious new beginnings.





“Many temples also prepare special sweets such as laddus, for worshippers on Deepavali day, and these are taken home to be shared to those who are not able to come to the temple themselves,” adds Datuk Mohan.

After the temple visit, the merriment begins at home with feasts to be shared with family and friends, because really, there is no greater glow than the warmth of kinship.  

Address: Kortumalai Pillayar Temple, Jalan Persiaran Maybank, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur.

By Sumitra Selvaraj
Photos by Joshua Chay

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