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What is Diwali & Deepavali - Celebrate Diwali 2016 in Malaysia

Updated on October 3, 2016
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Mazlan is proud of his Malaysian and Asian heritage and likes to share its mysteries, culture & current issues.

Diwali oil lamp
Diwali oil lamp | Source

What is Diwali and Deepavali?

Just as Christians celebrate Christmas, Hindus all over the world will celebrate Diwali.

Diwali or also known as Deepavali or the festival of lights symbolizes the victory of good over evil and is celebrated in the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. This is usually in October or November.

Deepavali is the original name from Sanskrit, and it means row of lamps. Diwali is the contraction of the original name Deepavali and may have been simplified during the British Rule of India.

Update: Diwali/Deepavali 2016 in Malaysia

In Malaysia, Diwali or Deepavali for 2016 will fall on a Saturday, October 29th.

Example of Kolam - a common feature during Diwali
Example of Kolam - a common feature during Diwali | Source

Diwali abounds with mythology and folklore

There are many versions of mythology and folklore that attributed to this festival. Probably the most popular story and the one commonly associated with Diwali celebration is the return of Lord Rama after a 14-year exile, reuniting with his wife Sita, and after having killed the demon King Ravana.

The prince’s triumphant return to his homeland was joyously celebrated by lighting up the homes and the streets with earthen oil lamps.

Get Your Travel Guide to Malaysia here

Travel to Malaysia and celebrate Diwali

In Malaysia, Diwali is observed as a public holiday and it being a day of festive joy many Malaysians will visit their friends of Hindu faith. Malaysians have a tradition of “open house” where friends and relatives will visit their homes and celebrate the festive seasons together, irrespective of their faith. This will happen not only during the Hindu festival, but also the Muslim’s Eid al-Fitr, Chinese New Year or during Christmas.

Driving back to their families

This is also that time of the year when highways leading out of the main cities will be congested; not just with Hindus driving back to their hometown to celebrate Diwali with their families, but also other races taking advantage of the public holiday.

Special food

As guests are from various ethnic groups and religious beliefs, the host will also prepare special food such as ‘halal’ food for their Muslim guest.

I always make a point of visiting my Hindu friends on Diwali, not just to wish them Happy Diwali, but also because I am a great lover of Indian sweets and desserts. My favorite is nei orundei then again I also like, gulab jamun and laddu and ras malai, in fact, I love them all and can’t decide, which is my favorite sweet. Then, you have kallu orundei that is so hard that if you are to throw it at a wall, the wall will probably break! I will usually have this last or not at all!

Of course, the well-loved murukku and omapodi that have been unanimously accepted by all races in Malaysia to be the must-have cookies at any festive seasons will grace the dining table.

Best Diwali Sweets to Try

You must try at least one of these favorite Indian sweets, served not just during Diwali, but also all year round:

  • Palkova: Made from boiled milk and sugar. It is usually thickened with milk powder & ghee
  • Laddu: This is my favorite Indian sweet. It looks like a golf ball and is slightly hard. Made from a mixture of roasted chickpea flour, cardamoms, sugar and ghee
  • Jelebi: This circular coils shaped sweet is too sweet for my taste as it is soaked in syrup. Made from yogurt, rice flour, cardamom seed powder, rose water and sugar.
  • Halwa: This is another favorite of mine and is made from a mixture of ghee, raisins, flour, milk, sugar and cashew nuts. Another variation is the Gajar Halwa that is made with grated carrots
  • Kesari: Made from a mixture of milk, semolina flour, fresh milk, sugar, cardamom powder, ghee, raisins and cashew nuts
  • Mysore Pak: This very hard sweet that takes an effort to bite is made from roasted dhal flour, ghee and sugar
  • Gulab Jamun: Despite its very sweet syrupy taste, Gulab Jamun is my top favorite of Indian sweets. This spongy sweet milk ball made from flour, suji, ghee and milk, is deep-fried and then soaked in scented syrup (lemon, cardamom & kesar)
  • Rasmalai: This is served chilled and topped with chopped pistachios. Made from cottage cheese, sugar, semolina, cardamom and milk
  • Athirasam: Another favorite of mine. Made from rice flour, jaggery, cardamom and ghee, these crunchy dark brown ring-shaped sweets are deep-fried, so it can be a bit greasy

Some of the Indian Sweets, from top left clockwise. Laddu, Jelebi, Palkova, Halwa and Gulab Jamun
Some of the Indian Sweets, from top left clockwise. Laddu, Jelebi, Palkova, Halwa and Gulab Jamun


Besides Diwali, the other major Hindu religious festival that is celebrated on a grand scale is Thaipusam. Although it is not declared as a public holiday for the whole country, some states do declare it as a public holiday.

So travel to Malaysia and celebrate Diwali.

Open House

This Malaysian tradition of open house is held not only in private homes, but has also been adopted by the business community as a way of ‘keeping in touch’ and saying thank you to their clients. Political parties use this event to reinforce their ‘presence’ in the area. This practice is so uniquely Malaysian that even travel agencies have taken advantage of this uniqueness by getting tourists to partake in the feasting and merriness. Come to Malaysia and savior this unique culture and event.

A melting pot of many different races and cultures

This intermingling of friends of different races and religious belief is what makes Malaysia truly amazing and awesome. To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia. Malaysia is a melting pot of many different races and cultures, and during any particular festive season, you may find foods or practices of other ethnic group being adopted by the other groups. One classic example is giving away money in a special packet. This adaptation of the Chinese red ang pow packet usually benefits the children who will eagerly wait for that moment of giving and receiving the yellow packets with money in them. Typically, the packet will be red for Chinese New Year, green for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr and yellow for Diwali. Companies such as banks will take advantage of this symbolic event by printing the packet with their company logos and giving it away free to their clients (without the money, of course) This has resulted in many versions of colors and designs for the packet.

Day of Celebration

Typically, on the eve of Diwali, offerings and prayers will be made to ancestors and deceased family members. On Diwali or Deepavali morning, waking up before sunrise, Hindu will then do the herbal oil bath ritual where oil is applied on heads and then a bath is taken. This ritual known as ‘ganga snanam’ is the cleansing of impurities of the past year. Prayers are held at the family altar, or they may go to the temples for the Thanksgiving prayers. Diwali being a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of good over evil will have their homes decorated with oil lamps. Burning the oil lamp throughout the day as well as into the night is believed to ward off darkness and evil. The doorways will be hung with torans of mango leaves.

The entrances to their homes will be adorned with ‘kolam’, an intricate design using rice flour and are believed to invite prosperity to the home.

Preparation for Deepavali in Malaysia

Diwali preparation in Malaysia usually starts at least three weeks beforehand. They will be busy cleaning their houses in preparation for the festival and of course shopping for new clothes and new things for their house. With the current economic situation now, most Malaysians will be careful with their expenditures and will forgo any new items for the house. Some may not even buy any new clothes for themselves, but will definitely get at least one for the children. Some women will follow the traditional way to celebrate Diwali by having henna art painted on their hand.

Diwali Pictures - Street Bazaar selling murukku and omapodi during Diwali in Little India, Kuala Lumpur
Diwali Pictures - Street Bazaar selling murukku and omapodi during Diwali in Little India, Kuala Lumpur | Source

Street Bazaar

This is also the time of the year when local authorities will issue special permits for vendors to open small kiosks along busy streets in Kuala Lumpur (KL for short) or Penang's Little India or other areas that are patronized by Indians. These street bazaars will be selling delicacies such as Indian sweets and desserts, saris, clothes and accessories such as bangles, festive items such as greeting cards, garlands and traditional oil lamps, etc.

Little India in Kuala Lumpur

The streets of Little India will also be beautifully decorated and lit up in various festive colors. Come and watch, as customer bargain and haggle for a good deal and stalls owner trying to attract customers with many offers that are hard to resists. While you feast your eyes on these happenings, feast your tummy with Indian food such as roti canai, thosai, curries and don’t forget to order ‘the tarik’, the Malaysian version of the frothy milk tea.

Shopping for Diwali

Most Indian wives who are working and do not have the time to cook and prepare these lavish sweets, dessert and the delicious Indian curry will either buy from these vendors or from other housewives who take advantage of this festive season to earn extra income by preparing and selling these delicacies. If they are known for their great culinary style, producing great tasting foods, you may have to do advance booking otherwise they may not be able to accept your order. Likewise for clothes, good tailors may not accept any late orders.

You may think that only Indians will be shopping, but you will be surprised to see other races patronizing these areas as well, buying that special Indian dress or the Indian desserts and sweets. This is what makes Malaysia unique. Travel to Malaysia and celebrate Diwali

Additional Information on Diwali

Hindus in some part of India do not recognize Diwali as a major festival as they may have other festivals unique to their state/province. If you want more detailed description on Diwali or Deepavali including the many religious tales and significance, you may want to read our fellow Hubbers’ article on Diwali.

So where is Malaysia?

You may have heard of our neighbor Thailand, which is to our north and Singapore, which is to our south. Yes, you are right; we are in the heart of Southeast Asia. It is about 13.5hours on a direct flight from London to our capital city of Kuala Lumpur. It will be 16hours on a direct flight from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, and we are on the GMT +8.00 time zone.

Exchange Rate

At the time of writing, the exchange rate between US$ and Ringgit Malaysia (RM) is trading at US$1.00 = RM3.06.

Wow, it is so affordable!

Just to give you an indication of how affordable it is to holiday in Malaysia, a McDonald Big Mac McValue Lunch will cost you RM8.95, i.e. US$2.92 (medium size with carbonated drink and french fries) wow awesome eh?

Multicultural Malaysia

Malaysia is a multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural society. As I had mentioned earlier, we are a melting pot of many races and many cultures and the predominant races are Malay, Chinese and Indian. That is why Malaysia tag line is Malaysia, truly Asia!

Most Malaysian Indians are of ethnic Tamil ancestry originating from South India. When the British colonized Malaya, (the old name for Malaysia), they brought the Tamils to work on the plantation and, the Tamils today is the descendant of these workers.

They are now the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia (after the Chinese and the Malays) and make up 8% of the Malaysian population.

Have You Visited Kota Kinabalu?

Read what this interesting town has to offer to visitors Travel to KK

Celebrating Diwali in Malaysia?

If you cannot make it for Diwali celebration, not to worry, Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural society, and there are many more festivals either religious or otherwise. Multiculturalism has made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise, and this is the place to enjoy food at its best. Make your travel booking now.

Thaipusam, another Indian Festival

If you to know more of this colorful and bloody(?) Indian festival, celebrated mainly by Tamils from South India, then click on this link: Thaipusam,

©greatstuff 2011

Kolam Making

Making Muruku, a favorite Indian Snack, not just during Diwali but on normal days as well

© 2011 Mazlan


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    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Marieke, Penang will be a good alternative to KL. It has a large Indian population and it was the main landing point when Indian from South India first entered Malaya (old name for Malaysia), a century ago. Hence, historically, Penang has many significant Indian heritages.

      It is known for the best Indian food in the country. When you are there, go to restaurant that says 'Nasi Kandar' and try their fish head curry.

      Penang has some interesting temples and other attractions and I am sure you will enjoy the city.

      From KL, it will be about 5 hours’ drive. Alternatively, you can fly (1hr) or take the train (5hr)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Hi there, this is a very interesting read about your country! Would you be able to recommend a city to go to for deepavali in malaysia other than KL? Many thanks! Marieke

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Thanks Geoffclarke, hope ypu had a good stay and will come back again..looking forward to your articles

    • geoffclarke profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Enjoyed your article. I've just returned from a trip to Malaysia and was lucky enough to be there during the lead up to Deepavali. Hoping to set up a hub about my trip in the coming weeks. Good luck with your writing - you're off to a great start!

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi wwriter - Thanks for your comment and so nice to meet you here on HubPages! Keep in touch

    • wwriter profile image


      8 years ago from India

      It is great to read about the Diwali celebration in Malayasia. It is really good to see people of all faiths celebrating festivals together. After all, is this not what festivals are all about - getting together of peoples hearts and minds!

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Nell Thanks. You should come over to Malaysia as well..alot of nice places to do the face exercises!!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, interesting and lovely hub about Diwali, I have a friend who goes to Malaysia every couple of years and she says its wonderful! really enjoyed reading about the different cultures and beliefs, rated up! cheers nell


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