Week 13: Deepavali!

Selamat Hari Deepavali! Diwali valthukkal! Happy Divali!

Deepavali was this week, one of the major Indian holidays. It’s known as the festival of light, and it’s famous for lots of lights, kolam, murukku, Open Houses, cookies, and angpao gifts of money for students.

We had a Deepavali celebration on Wednesday after school put on by Kelab Rukun Negara, the club that all of the non-Malay students are a part of.  We dressed up in sarees and watched students do traditional dances, and we went up and sort-of danced with them. We each (us and the Indian students) received angpao, envelopes with small gifts of money and then ate. An Italian AFS student and a local volunteer (who is a festival host daughter of my host family and was a returnee from AFS in the US!) came from the state of Terrenganu for Deepavali short-term exchanges. For Deepavali, all AFS students in Malay or Chinese host families got to go live with an Indian family for the week. Most students came to our state, Perak.

Receiving RM1 angpao from the principal

Before we could officially begin Deepavali on Saturday, we had to do a lot of preparations. We started by washing all of our clothes and laundry, and then cleaning the entire house: washing curtains, windows, floors, bathrooms, the fridge, pretty much everything. A big part of Deepavali is having new beginnings— cleansing our lives of the old and welcoming in new light.

Buying new clothes is important for Deepavali as well, which is why we went to a clothing store with students from school whose families couldn’t afford new clothes (as I mentioned in my post about the previous week).

Once the house was all clean, the fun part could begin!

Thursday, after cleaning, we went to Ipoh for  the AFS handing-over ceremony. AFS students and 18+ Volunteers from throughout Malaysia came to be sent to their Deepavali host families in Perak for five days.

AFS provided each student with a soup pot to give as a gift to our “temporary” host families
After the ceremony, we went to a football game! It was a finals match, the Perak state team vs. the Malaysia Indian Football Association (MIFA). We stayed for half of the game, and it was so fun! We sat with the Indian fans, and everyone was very enthusiastic and cheered a lot. (Apparently MIFA won 2-1). I  was so excited to go to a professional football game in a country that takes football (by which I mean soccer, of course) this seriously. 

After that, we went to Little India in Ipoh to buy cookies, shirts for Appa and Anne, and other supplies for Deepavali.

The next day, we resumed cleaning and preparations.

Our display of cookies I delicately organized. (We didn’t make them ourselves)

Making kesari, an Indian dessert

Later, we went to the Tapah cemetery for prayers for the family’s ancestors. First we cleaned yp the gravesites, and then we laid out offerings and did prayers. 

Where Indian bodies are cremated

Gravesite of grandmother/ grandfather (their graves are next to each other)

Later, I made kolam using flour. Traditionally, every Indian family (well, the female members) makes kolam art in front of the house for Deepavali. Ying used a premade mold to place colored stones. 

The final product! Kolam I made using flour

The following day, Saturday, was officially Deepavali. 
The first Deepavali custom was an oil bath— the elders of the house rub oil on the younger family members and each other, and then everyone sits in the hot sun for a bit early in the morning. We woke up late, and it was overcast anyway, so we just did an abridged version of rubbing oil and didn’t sit outside. 

Next we had family prayers, including a blessing for our new clothes. (A part of Deepavali tradition)

We were too late to go to the temple (Hindu temples are open until noon each day and then again in the evening. This is customary everywhere) so we just took pictures in our lovely new Deepavali clothes. 

Later that night, we visited open houses of our neighbors and family friends. Open houses are pretty much what they sound like, with guests usually seated in the front room, offered drinks and cookies from the impressive display of Deepavali biscuits laid out on the front table in every Indian house. My family didn’t host an open house this year in remembrance of some Tapah Indians who died in a hospital fire in Johor the week before. 

Amma feeding me Deepavali cookies since my hands were covered in henna and I couldn’t touch anything
Receiving a blessing from the elders
The next day, we went to Penang to visit family. We visited more homes and consumed a lot of (really delicious!) Deepavali cookies. We stayed for two nights. 

Typical front table Deepavali cookie display

Seeing how murukku is made by my host aunt

This is murukku, among the most important Deepavali foods. Every family is supposed to make it (but we didn’t)
I’ll post an update of the next week soon!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kendall says:

    So cool!! I love all the interesting traditions and beautiful clothes. Btw you’re gonna have to make me so much cool food when you get back


    1. Hahaha yes thank you! & I’m so excited to cook for you


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