Malaysia is a colourful country of different cultures and lifestyles, islands and ancient jungles, quaint old towns and swish modern cities. The feather in its cap are the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest buildings in the world today. The country has a long history and its eclectic mix of cultures – Indian, Chinese, Malay, tribal – makes it an interesting place to visit.

Malaysia is a federation which consists of thirteen states (Negeri) and three federal territories (Wilayah Persekutuan). Eleven states and two federal territories are located on the Malay Peninsula while the remaining two states and one federal territory are on the island of Borneo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Deepavali Festival in Malaysia

Diwali or Deepavali as it is known in Malaysia is celebrated over 6 days. It is a national public holiday in Malaysia, usually falls around late October or early November. It is also called the Festival of Light.

The Festival of Diwali

Celebrations and rituals together with their attendent myths and legends that surrounds them.
The First Day of Diwali is named after the Lord of Death or Yam. On this day a lamp is placed on the southern end of one's house. Prayers are offered to Yam and in return to request for Shakti or the female energy force to help one complete one's life and return home safely.
The Second Day is known as Naraka Chaturdasi. On this day, Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura who was the son of the demon Hiranyaksha and Mother Earth, Bhumi Devi. Narakasura had committed all manner of evil and had stolen 16,000 princesses. It was Bhumi Davi who had requested the Lord Krishna to kill Narakasura. For that reason, Lord Krishna is always glorified by devotees as the personification of good. One who always triumphs over evil.
It was told that on this day, Lord Krishna rode into the capital of Naraka-asuran to battle with the demon or asura. He was assisted by his wife, Sathyabhana. Narakasura had committed so much sins towards the devotees of Lord Krishna that his own mother, Bhumi, had requested that he be destroyed.
Bhumi, out of compassion for her son, prayed to Lord Krishna for Narakasura's moksham or the liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Krishna granted her prayers and thus Diwali was started.
Traditionally one starts the day by praying for the pristine waters of the Ganga River, which symbolically come from the feet of the Lord and enters into the their homes. Hindu devotees will take a bath with oil and hot water in the morning before sunrise on this Naraka Chaturdasi day. They pray for the moksham of Narakasura and of their own. They wear new clothes and eat special Diwali sweets and nourishments. They light lamps and fire crackers to celebrate this festival of light.
The Third Day is known as Dhanteras, so named after Dhanwantari. Dhanwantari is the physician of the gods and a reincarnation of Lord Krishna. He is said to have arisen from the sea with a pot of milk or amrita. Amrita is an elixir of life and gives immortality to whoever posseses it. Dhanwantari is the Father of Ayurveda or the Indian system of traditional homeopathic medicine.
On this Dhanteras Day, Hindu devotees bathe early in the morning and observe a fast till sunset. They light earthen lamps and place it at the gate or entrance to their homes. They wear new clothes and buy a new pot which is placed near the altar.
The Fourth Day is known as Sri Laxmi Puja. It is said that on this day, Lord Vishnu, another incarnation of Lord Krishna, fell in love with Laxmi or Goddess of Wealth. The Hindu business community will start their accounts on this Sri Laxmi Puja day. A Maha Lakshmi Pooja grand ritual is performed on this day to bless the business for the coming year.
The Fifth Day of Diwali or Deepavali is known as Amavasya or the Dark Moon. On this day shops are brightly decorated. People make and buy Diwali or Deepavali gifts to give to their family and friends. They visit each other and share the joys of festival. It is a day when sad or bad things of the past are forgotten and joyful moments are cherished.
Today is celebrated in honor of the return of Rama and Sita from exile. It signifies victory of good over evil and lightness over darkness. It is told that during the reign of rich and prosperous King Dasharth, Rama was exiled to the deepest jungle of India.
The king had three wives and his favorite was Kaikayi as she had saved him during his time of peril. As a result, he had promised her two favours. The king also had four sons and his favorite was Rama, who was the eldest. Rama was very popular with the king's subjects and he was married to Sita.
Just before Rama was to be coronated, Kaikayi reminded Dashrath about his promise to her. She requested that her son, Bharat, be coronated instead of Rama. Her second request was for Rama to be banished from the kingdom. The old reluctantly honored his promises and that broke his heart.
During their exile, Sita was captured by Ravana, the demon. Fortunately, with the help of Hanuman, the monkey god, Rama was able to free Sita. After fourteen year in exile they returned to Ayudthya. This day is remembered as a mark of triumph of good over evil.
The Sixth and Final Day of Diwali is known as Govardhan Puja or Ankut. It is a day when Mt. Govardhan is worshipped. People offer more than a hundred varieties of Diwali sweets and other goodies as offerings to the deities. This ceremony is known as Ankut or mountain of food.
It commemorates the lifting of Mount Govandhan by Lord Krisna who was only seven years old when he performed this feat to protect his devotees from the forces of Indra. Indra was another deity competing for the worship from the devotees.

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