Deepavali or Divali or the festival of lights is observed by Hindus in recognition of the triumph of good over evil in the seventh month of the Hindu calendar. Thanksgiving prayers and cleansing rituals
take place at temple and household altars throughout the country.
Deepavai is celebrated on the Hindu month of Kartik in October / November. It is also called the Festivals of Lights.
It's a day of festive joy and Malaysians visit their friends of Hindu faith to extend good wishes and to partake in the feasting and jollity.
The word "Deepavali" is a combination of the words ‘Dipa’ and ‘Gavali’, the former meaning ‘light’ and the latter meaning ‘a row’. Thus symbolizing the rows of
lights that can be seen at the houses of Hindu celebrants. As light dispels, this festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
Several days before the celebration of Deepavali the houses of the Hindus as well as their surrounding areas are cleaned from top to bottom.
The entrances of Hindu homes are decorated with the ‘kolam’, an intricate floral design on the ground which signifies religious believes. This religious
connotation, revolves around the Goddess of Wealth, the deity Lakshimi (Laksmi). Many
believe that the Goddess Lakshimi (Laksmi) would only enter a home with a ‘kolam’ at the entrance.
The Kolam is a form of drawing that is drawn by using rice flour/chalk/chalk powder/white rock powder often using naturally/synthetically coloured powders in Malaysia and a few other Asian countries.
The glow of lights, whether “vilakku” (oil lamps fashioned out of clay) or colourful electric bulbs, brighten up the abode
of both rich and poor, signalling the coming festivities
The Hindus would prepare numerous traditional cakes and sweets for the day, among them are "murukku", "omopadi", "athirrsam", "achi murukku", "laddu"
and "mysore pahu". These are made a few days before Deepavali.
On Deepavali morning, many Hindu devotees awaken before sunrise for the ritual herbal oil bath., They put on new clothes. Then they go to the temples
where prayers are held in accordance with the ceremonial rites.
The rest of the day they distribute cakes and sweets to their neighbours and friends and many have "open house" for their non-Hindu friends, as is customary in Malaysia.
Most devout Hindus tend to be vegetarian, but that doesn't change the fact that Deepavali is the day to savour the many delicious Indian delicacies such as
sweetmeats, rice puddings and the ever-popular murukku.
The history of the Kolam
Kolams are thought to bring prosperity to homes. Every morning in Tamil Nadu, millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice flour. Through the day, the drawings get walked on, washed out in the rain, or blown around in the wind; new ones are made the next day. Every morning before sunrise, the floor of the house, or where ever the Kolam may be drawn, is cleaned with water and the muddy floor swept well to create an even surface. The kolams are generally drawn while the surface is still damp so the design will hold better. Even powdered white stone can be used for creating Kolam. Occasionally, cow dung is also used to wax the floors. In some cultures, cow dung is believed to have antiseptic properties and hence provides a literal threshold of protection for the home. It also provides contrast with the white powder.
Decoration is not the main purpose of a Kolam. In olden days, kolams were drawn in coarse rice flour, so the ants would not have to walk too far or too long for a meal. The rice powder also invited birds and other small creatures to eat it, thus welcoming other beings into one's home and everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, not the least of whom is Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and wealth. The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes. Folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines must be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirits from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home.
3x3 symmetry 9 goddesses swastika Kolam with a single cycle by Nagata S, each of which corresponds to one of the nine Devi (Goddess) of the Vedic system.
It used to be a matter of pride to be able to draw large complicated patterns without lifting the hand off the floor or standing up in between. The month of Margazhi was eagerly awaited by young women, who would then showcase their skills by covering the entire width of the road with one big kolam.
In the kolam patterns, many designs are derived from magical motifs and abstract designs blended with philosophic and religious motifs which have been mingled together. Motifs may include fish, birds, and other animal images to symbolise the unity of man and beast. The sun, moon and other zodiac symbols were also used. The Downward pointing triangle represented woman; an upward pointing triangle represented man. A circle represented nature while a square represented culture. A lotus represented the womb. A pentagram represented Venus and the five elements.
The ritual kolam patterns created for special occasions such as weddings often stretch all the way down the street. Many of these created patterns have been passed on from generation to generation, from mothers to daughters.
Seasonal messages like welcome can also be used in Kolam. Volunteering to draw the kolam at the temple is sometimes done when a devotee's wishes are fulfilled. The art of Kolam designs has found its way into the future through social networking sites like Facebook. Many Kolam artists have big fan followings online and are playing a role in making the Kolam art form a key part of South India's contemporary art scene.