The Hindu community in Sarawak may be small in comparison to other ethnic groups such as Dayak, Chinese, Malay, Orang Ulu, Melanau, etc. but Deepavali is still celebrated in a very festive manner, nonetheless. The celebration falls on the fourth quarter of each year. This time, that day happens to be Nov 14, 2020.
With the current circumstances, Deepavali this year might be a little quieter compared to previous years. Regardless, here are some things that you should know about this festival and how it is celebrated in Sarawak.
The festival of lights
Ever wondered why there are so many lights in shopping malls or in the houses of those who celebrate Deepavali? It is because ‘light’ is the literal essence of this festival.
The word Deepavali means ‘row of lights’ in Sanskrit. That is why Deepavali is known as the Festival of Lights. These lights signify the divine light that wards of darkness, and the triumph of good over evil.
Now you know exactly why the Hindus go big in transforming their homes, lighting it up with tealights and oil lamps during this time of the year!
Deepavali is a colourful celebration. From kolam, to flower garlands and embroidered saree, everything is just so brightly coloured!
The most recognisable art forms associated with the Festival of Lights has got to be the kolam. Households that celebrate Deepavali will be decorating their homes with colourful kolam, placed at the entrance of their homes.
Kolam, meaning “beauty” in Tamil, is an ancient form of folk art that is done on the floor using coloured rice flour and flower petals. The kolam is done as a sign to invite all beings into their homes, including creatures like birds to eat the rice flour!
Depending on the designs, colours and size, drawing the kolam is a meticulous process. It can take several hours or even days to complete one kolam!
Celebrating Deepavali in Sarawak
Sarawak has an Indian population of some 10,000 people. With origins that can be traced back to Brooke’s era, the Indians of Sarawak are found mainly in the urban areas in Kuching and Miri. The Hindus form the majority of them.
Just like it is for any other Hindus in Peninsular Malaysia and the rest of the world, Deepavali is a time of celebration and family reunions.
Lots of preparations are made prior to the festival. Marukus are made. Homes are cleaned and decorated with tealights as well as vibrant kolam. Meanwhile, the womenfolk would beautify their hands and feet with elaborate mehendi designs.
The Hindus in general would go on a shopping spree for bangles, saree and spices. And where else is the best place to shop for spices on days leading up to Deepavali if not at India Street in Kuching?
Deepavali is also a time that reflects the spirit of unity amongst Sarawakians. It is a time where the Indians of Hindu faith would hold open houses and welcome Sarawakians of all races into their homes. This local tradition is unfortunately something to be avoided this year with COVID-19 and all, but thanks to technology, Deepavali can still be celebrated with family members living elsewhere, relatives and friends virtually through Facetime, Zoom and Livestreaming options.
So, if you have friends and family who is celebrating Festival of Lights this year, don’t forget to send them your best wishes!
With that said, BorneoTalk would like to wish a Happy Deepavali to all Hindus everywhere!