You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : November 2001

[Indian-Malaysian] Let the light shine through

From: Vee Jay (
Date: Mon Nov 12 2001 - 14:26:09 PST

Dear friends,

I would like to wish all of you a very Happy Deepavali. Spend some quality 
time with your family, friends and beloved ones. This is a time of the year 
that we should put-away the materialistic living, and come to reality that 
we need each other to survive immaterial of race, religion, and color. We 
are all humans on the eye of the earth, and shall see from the same eyes.

Learn to love everyone so that everyone would love you the same. Hate and 
anger is not going to bring us peace, happiness and prosperity. One is just 
hurting one’s self by carrying the cancer of anger and hate.

If I had hurt you in anyway, I do humbly ask for forgiveness.

Learn to give so that you will be given.

Valgha Valargha (Prosper with Prosperity)


May the Light of Deepavali brightens your life.


Let the light shine through

India is a land of great cultural diversity and richness but the one 
festival that unites all the different castes is Deepavali. A Sanskrit word, 
Deepavali literally means “a row of lights”. The festival is celebrated 
across India and beyond with fervour and gaiety to ward off the darkness and 
welcome the light.

Subarna Chakravarty Prabhakar, 31, a Bengali who grew in Mumbai, confesses: 
“My family has lived in Mumbai for as long as I can remember so we tend to 
adopt some of the customs followed there.

“For me, Deepavali has always been a time of great joy and peace. My mother 
made sure that we were all involved in the preparation for Deepavali and 
contributed in what little way we could.

“Preparation always began with an annual housecleaning long before the 
actual day itself. Deepavali cards and greetings were sent out to friends 
and relatives far and near. We all pitched in to help make the sweets.

“Our traditional Bengali sweets are made of semolina, coconut, flour and 
ghee. Savouries too are prepared, like nimki, which is made of refined 
wheat, and chakli, which is made of rice flour.”

Bengalis celebrate Deepavali or Diwali, as it is known in north India, over 
three days, explains Subarna. Dhantrayodashi (also known as Dhanteras), the 
first day of Diwali is considered very auspicious.

The word “Dhan” denotes wealth and the women of the house buy gold, silver 
or anything made of metal as this signifies lasting prosperity.

On the second day, Choti Diwali, or small Diwali, 14 lamps are lit around 
the house signifying the attempt to dispel darkness and ignorance by 
spreading the radiance of love and wisdom. On Badi Diwali or big Diwali, the 
day is spent visiting close family and friends and exchanging sweets, 
lighting firecrackers and partaking in feasts.

Deepavali signifies the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya after 
14 long years in exile to kill the evil Ravana, thus marking the triumph of 
good over evil.

Continues Subarna, “We also do a Lakshmi puja on Choti Diwali, where the 
goddess Lakshmi is worshipped for wealth and prosperity, and a Kali puja on 
Badi Diwali to propitiate the goddess Kali.”

“Over the three days of Diwali,’’ reveals Subarna, “the house is decorated 
with alpona (rice powder mixed with water) and on the night of Choti Diwali, 
you use it to ‘draw’ the feet of Lakshmi entering your house. Strings of 
flowers are used to decorate the puja (prayer) room and the rest of the 

It’s not called the festival of lights for nothing, says Subarna. “Several 
kinds of lights are used including electric lights, diyas (small, 
beautifully decorated lamps fashioned out of clay, filled with oil and lit), 
candles and kandeels (paper lanterns) to decorate the house during Diwali.

“The paper lanterns are ingenious: shapes range from the regular stars and 
squares to the S.S. Titanic! Diyas in their various shapes and forms are now 
a major fashion statement in Mumbai and are even given as gifts. Streets and 
shops are lit up for a whole month before Diwali and vie to be the most 
attractively decorated around.’’

Subarna recalls with nostalgia: “A walk along the streets of Mumbai on 
Deepavali has always been the highlight for me. The entire city is 
transformed into a fairyland, with lights and flowers decorating every 
house. The general atmosphere of hope, joy and bonhomie gives me a sense of 
comfort of being in touch with my roots and culture”.

For Seema Chandnani, 29, a Sindhi, who grew up in the city of Hyderabad, the 
onset of Deepavali is heralded by a thorough cleaning of the house that 
begins as far back as a month and half before the actual festival.

The cleaning is significant, she explains, because, “The goddess Lakshmi is 
said to visit the house on Deepavali day so the house and the surroundings 
are cleaned in anticipation of that.”

Sweets too have to be prepared well in advance, as exchanging sweets and 
other gifts amongst friends and family is an important part of the 
celebration. Sindhis prepare their traditional sweets, like laai which is 
made from rice flakes and lentils.

For the traditional Deepavali dinner, it is customary to make a mixed 
vegetable dish comprising seven different kinds of vegetables. On auspicious 
days like Deepavali, most Hindus, including Seema and her family, tend to be 

Other preparations include buying new clothes for the occasion. Men buy gold 
jewellery for their mothers, wives and daughters as this is said to usher in 
prosperity. The house is decorated with new things and, in the evenings, 
diyas are lit so that the house exudes warmth and light.

Seema recounts, “The day begins very early for most households as everybody 
is filled with anticipation and joy. Everybody dresses in festive finery. 
Some of the members of the house go visiting friends and family, exchanging 
good wishes and sweets while others stay back as there will be many visiting 
us as well. In the evening, the new clothes and jewellery are worn and 
everybody goes to their place of work to perform the Lakshmi puja, a prayer 
to the Goddess of Wealth to shower them with prosperity. After the prayers 
are over, the youngsters in the house seek the blessings of the elders who 
in turn, give them some cash. After that, crackers are lit symbolising 
happiness and celebration.”

One of the most striking customs which characterises the spirit of Deepavali 
is the large-scale gambling, especially in North India.

It is believed that whoever gambles on Deepavali night will prosper 
throughout the coming year. Deepavali also coincides with New Year in 
Gujrat, and amongst the Jain merchant communities old accounts are closed. 
The first day after Deepavali is considered the first day of the new 
financial year and new account books are opened with the blessings of the 
goddess Lakshmi.

Senthil Dhruva Kumar, 31, a Telegu Chettiar who lives in the city of 
Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu says, “The first sign of Deepavali is the burning 
of crackers which commences five days before the actual date. We make sweets 
and distribute them to all our friends and family both before and on the 
actual day itself.

“Deepavali day begins with a ritual oil bath, after which we place the new 
clothes in the puja room to be blessed. After a bath, we drink a spicy 
concoction of ground pepper, aniseed, cardamom, coriander seeds and several 
other exotic ingredients. We then perform a simple prayer at home, after 
which the elders give cash to the youngsters.

“The entire family then goes outside and lights crackers till late in the 
morning, after which we have a huge breakfast.

“Being in the jewellery business, the months leading up to Deepavali are 
very hectic with sales and other promotions held,” says Senthil. “During the 
good times, our employees in the retail showroom are given their salary and 
bonuses well in advance, as this is the time when most people splurge on 
clothes, jewellery, crackers and sweets for their families.”

On a personal note, on account of being a Malayali, Deepavali does not 
figure in the official list of festivals that we celebrate but having lived 
in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, all of my growing years, the spirit of Deepavali 
is embedded deep in my soul.

The mention of Deepavali brings to mind the memory of being woken up to the 
sound of crackers as early as three in the morning and joining in by 
lighting sparklers, flower pots and rockets. The entire night sky would be 
illuminated with the sights and sounds of crackers going off all over town!

Temples resounded with the prayers of the faithful who thronged to worship 
the deities and receive their blessings on the auspicious day. Greetings and 
good wishes poured in via telephone, cards and personal visits.

The only difference I can perceive with regard to the celebration of 
Deepavali in Malaysia is the concept of “open house”, which I think is a 
uniquely Malaysian custom. But the spirit of Deepavali remains the same as 
goodwill and bonhomie abound, encompassing both the celebrants and those who 
partake in the celebrations .

Happy Deepavali!

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
To Post a message, send it to:

Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to