|2014||22 October ^||Wednesday||National except Sarawak|
^ This date for Deepavali is based on the Government Cabinet circular, available here (2014).
Deepavali, or Diwali, is a festival celebrated by all Hindus to commemorate Lord Rama and his wife, Sita’s return to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile. It was a dark night when they first returned hence his people lit their houses with little lamps (diyas) so that Rama and Sita could find their way.
For some Hindus, Deepavali is also celebrated in honour of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lighting of these diyas would then make it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to houses. Thus, this festival is known as the Festival of Lights.
The Festival of Lights is to signify the victory of good over evil; however, it does not just mean the physical lighting of these diyas but refers to an Inner Light, which, according to Hindu philosophy, is called the Atman.
The Times of India sums up Deepavali in this:
What the Festival of Lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple and some not-so-simple joys of life.
On the morning of Deepavali, Hindus get up before sunrise for a ritual oil bath known as ganga-snanam to signify the cleansing of one’s sins and impurities of the past. After that, prayers are conducted on the family altar and some go to temples for special ceremonies and worship. The rest of the day is celebrated over festive fireworks, traditional Indian savoury dishes and sweets like ladu, vadai, ommapadi and the ever-popular murukku.
In Malaysia, Hindus would invite friends of different races and religions for an ‘open house’. This is a unique practice; it definitely builds stronger ties among Malaysians and promotes unity in this multi-racial country. On this occasion, children would be the happiest as they collect purple or sometimes yellow packets containing money.