Deepavali is a colourful annual Hindu celebration, usually towards the end of October/November. Known as the Festival of Lights, the celebration is to signify the triumph of light over darkness and the victory of good over evil.
While colourful textiles, flower garlands and spices are a regular feature at the Indian hubs around town, they are particularly vibrant during the festive period. This is the best time to buy traditional outfits as there will be varieties galore at good prices. Also, most stores will extend their wares to the pavement – a good time for a henna at the pop-up henna stores (a chair and table makes a pop-up store!). Spilling on the pavements will also be reasonably priced decorative items, instant kolams and clay lamps. Snacks, both savoury and sweet will be widely available but be careful and check all sell-by dates.
Note how the Taoist Laughing Gods stand alongside all the Hindu Gods (Only in Malaysia!)
Textiles, jewellery and décor
Masjid India and Lebuh Ampang:
Conveniently located with LRT access (Masjid Jamek stop), Masjid India has a Muslim quarter next to the Indian enclave and comes alive during the fasting month of Ramadan as well as Deepavali!
Madras Store and Haniffa are one-stop favourites. Offering a multi-level shopping experience, you can get Indian outfits of all colours and budgets for the whole family. Both stock stainless steel serving platters, pots and other kitchen paraphernalia as well.
Sarees, sarees and more at Madras Store!
The Bombay Connection in the lower ground of Semua House has some lovely bangles and accessories and can customise bangles for your outfit.
Menara City One Plaza next door is littered with many stores brimming with salwars and sarees. Go up to the first floor – Amitbals and Lucky Noble often don’t disappoint. If you decide to buy material for a salwar suit or need a saree blouse, there are a few tailors here at your service. They can even make a ready-made saree (strategically placed hooks to hook it up, no need for pleating!). If you are on a super budget, I hear good things about Lulu Hypermarket (Jalan Munshi Abdullah).
Where to Eat: Sangeetha is nice for pure vegetarian fare . If you are a willing to walk ten minutes to Lebuh Ampang, Beetle Leaf has a good vegetarian and non-vegetarian selection. In the same vicinity, there is also Anjappar and Bakti Woodlands.
Brickfields is one of KL’s most multi-cultural neighbourhoods. Buzzing with activity at all times, the arches of Brickfields stand along the gleaming towers of KL Sentral.
Lavanya : Lavanya at the Temple of Fine Arts runs an annual Deepavali sale but do go early. We were late this year and had slim pickings. While you are there, grab a quick vegetarian buffet at Annalakshmi.
Bombay Point: For costume jewellery and accessories.
Modern Stores: The scent of spices will guide you to Modern Stores. It is often packed even on regular weekends, and reaches a feverish pitch during the festive season. But if you are brave, then it is worth stocking on freshly ground spices, curry powder and paste and all other cooking goods: ghee, lentils, cashews, appalam, paneer.
Mylon Trading: A great spot for books on religion, art, literature and some fiction with a focus on Hindu culture and spirituality. Some introductory books available for children. My children like the Chhota Bheem series about good values.
Tengku Klana, Klang
The ‘Little India’ in Klang can be accessed via KTM Komuter if not driving. There are some ‘mega’ stores that offer all festive needs. During the run up to the festival, they sometimes have performances at night – singing, dancing and entertainment. However, they start quite late. With small kids, it is best to get there early in the morning before the heat and heaving crowds. Parking is also not easily available, so you do need to walk a bit.
Gayathri Silks, Sri Kumaran Silks and Ajunta are a series of large stores with everything and anything, from sarees (the trick is to tell them to work around your budget, otherwise, they will show you the high end kanjivarams and fancy silks), kurtas, salwars to accessories and kids outfits. The brassware is particularly good with reasonably priced options.
Aboorvas: For incense, camphor and crystals, Aboorvas is well-stocked.
The annual Deepavali bazaar bustles with stalls peddling all festive season requirements from decorative items to seasonal snacks. The location of Bukit Jalil provides ample parking. It gets busier as the festival draws close so try to go early.
Sweets and snacks
Try getting hold of ‘murukku’ (crunchy fried twists made from rice and urad dal flour), ‘nei urundai’ (ghee balls), ‘athirsam’ (doughnut like fried pastry) and ‘laddus (ghee laden sweet balls made usually from gram flour) . Where to get:
On Deepavali day, most Hindu homes will have coloured patterned pictures on the floor made out of flour, rice or flower petals. The artworks are created to usher the Gods so that they can bless the household for the year. Most stores sell ready made patterns complete with coloured rice – it’s a great activity with kids!
Some paint and a dozen clay lamps are a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I use tea lights instead of oil which is less messy. Over several Deepavalis, my kids have done enough clay lamp décor for the whole porch!
Open houses are a Malaysian tradition and it is always nice to be invited to one! Flowers and fruits are always welcome. Do wear appropriate outfits as a respect to the host on a religious day
The shopping hubs reach a frenzy two weeks before the celebration but on Deepavali day itself, most shops will be shut as everyone will be on holiday! On Deepavali day, temples in the morning are lovely to go as everyone comes decked in their morning finery. All local temples will have special pujas or prayers. Common customs on Deepavali day:
- The house and surroundings are lit with traditional clay/oil lamps to mark the victory of good over evil.
- Kolam or floor designs made using colourful powders, are drawn at the front porch.
- Oil Bath is traditionally taken in the morning before prayers.
- Lots of eating and visiting.