DEEPAVALI (also known as Diwali) is a far bigger celebration in Malaysia than it is in India, but the significance of it is still the same.
This is the time of year when Hindus, Jains and Sikhs (and even some Buddhists) celebrate what is considered the Festival of Lights.
When they say that “light conquers darkness”, it also means knowledge (or enlightenment) conquering ignorance.
There are many reasons for this celebration, some going back to stories from Hindu mythology, such as Prince Ram returning to his kingdom after defeating King Ravana, or Lord Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura.
In western India, the festival commemorates the day that Lord Vishnu sent the demon King Bali to rule the nether world.
In Jainism, Diwali marks the Nirvana – or spiritual awakening – of Lord Mahavira, while in Sikhism, it honours the day that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment.
In Malaysia, we celebrate it with a bang (depending on how financially sound we are) over the course of one day (this Sunday).
In actuality, Deepavali is supposed to be a five-day event.
On the first day, which takes place three days before the actual Deepavali day, you are supposed to clean your home and business premises, and perhaps buy some gold and some new utensils for the kitchen.
There is no harm in starting preparations days in advance to avoid rushing later on.
On day two, you should decorate your home with clay lamps. You are also encouraged to draw a kolam on the floor of the entrance to your home using coloured rice, flour or sand.
These pretty, intricate drawings serve to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into your abode.
On day three, the family gathers to pray to Lakshmi, followed by a celebration featuring good food and some revelry.
On day four, which is officially the first day of Deepavali, you should wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives (usually bringing some gifts along) and wish them a good year ahead.
Traditional Indian businessmen used to close their old ledgers and open new ones on this day.
On day five, brothers must visit their married sisters who, in turn, must welcome them lovingly, and provide a lavish meal.
Ultimately, as with any festive celebration, Deepavali is all about family. So, Happy Deepavali to all those celebrating it this year!