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5 reasons Deepavali is Malaysia’s most ‘kesian’ holiday…

[This article was originally published in 2014]


Deepavali is around the corner, but there is absolutely NO feel of Deepavali anywhere, no decorations, no festivity mood… there is not even big sale for Deepavali. Unless you walk into Brickfields (or “little India’ as it is called) there is hardly any evidence that Deepavali is celebrated here in Malaysia.

Let’s look at the facts, this is the breakdown of the races in Malaysia: Malay 50.1%, Chinese 22.6%, indigenous 11.8%, Indian 6.7%, other 0.7%, non-citizens 8.2% (2010 est.). With only 6.7% of Malaysian being Indians (outnumbered by Bangladeshis and Indonesians in the country) we were always told that Indians make the third highest race of people in Malaysia, but obviously this is not true… but does that mean we should be neglected especially on our biggest and most grand holiday? It is almost a surprise we even GET a holiday.

As an Indian myself, I feel like everyone MUST get excited about Deepavali, as it is after all, our only proper festival in Malaysia (I know there’s Thaipusam too, but that is more of a devotional celebration). Many have voiced the frustrations about how cold the mood has been and here are 5 reasons, I think, Deepavali gets NO attention from anyone:

1. There are no Deepavali Songs

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Image from Anak Cucu Tok Haroon. Click Here to watch.

When Chinese New Year, Hari Raya or even Christmas comes along, you can’t go 3 steps without festive songs blasting in your ear. We all even remember the lyrics better that any other overplayed songs from Justin Bieber. We all bear the pain of those songs being played over and over and over and over again, why? Because it is festive and it reminds us that a public holiday is coming.

Deepavali however has absolutely NO songs that bring the festive mood. I have researched this quite extensively, and there are no songs written specifically for Deepavali. Type in Deepavali songs in Google and you get a few hits, mostly just Indian songs from movies and even some devotional songs, but none that have the feel of “Selamat Hari Raya” by the late Datuk Sharifah Aini.

Maybe we should get on writing a “Selamat Hari Deepavali” song, but we Indians are somewhat of a fickle bunch. Even if there were 1 or 2, can you imagine listening to them over and over and over again?


 2. There are no festive mascots


Image from

Christmas has Santa Claus, elves, reindeers etc. and Chinese New Year has the Lion Dance, Lunar Calendar animals and the guy with the long white beard.

What does Deepavali have? Nothing. Maybe oil lamps if you count inanimate objects to be mascots. I mean, you could tell Santa what you want for Christmas, and the kids love that… you could ask your Feng Shui expert what you could expect based on your Lunar birth year Animal and the adults LOVE that… can you do the same on Deepavali with an oil lamp.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the symbolism of the light being always able to defeat the dark… but Santa gives out PRESENTS! Try explaining that to a 5 year old child and see which he would be more interested in.


 3. There is no special food (anymore)


Image from

As Malaysians we are very connected to food, so when Hari Raya comes about, everyone looks forward to some awesome ketupat, lemang and rendang. When Chinese New Year is looming, we all get a taste of mandarin orange, bah kua and even Nian Gao.

Can I say the same about the Indian cuisine during Deepavali? No. Because the Indian cuisine has been oversold everywhere. Many believe that Indian food is the best in the world (and I have to agree) but it is available everywhere at any time. I remember when I was a kid and we used to look forward to Thosai and Mutton Curry in the morning, a nice Briyani in the afternoon and a feast of Mutton, chicken and vegetables in the night. But guess what, all those are readily available throughout the calendar even in the most Chinese of areas in Malaysia. I still remember a time when Thosai was considered exotic in Malaysia, but now it has become way too mainstream.

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It is almost like liking Indian food has become too mainstream, it is not hipster enough. The marketing team on Indian food has done SUCH a good job that it does not leave a sense of enigma or mystery to what we can offer anymore…

Even the last bastion in the exclusively Deepavali cuisine, the Muruku has been oversold. So much so, it is even available in Hari Raya open houses and EVEN in Chinese New Year open houses *GASP*.


 4. Oktoberfest and Halloween are more exciting


Image from

This year, when you walk into a shopping mall, instead of seeing decorations for Deepavali, you will see more decorations for Halloween. OUTRAGE! But then, according to surveys, the buying power of the Indian community is almost negligible, according to sources, which means you would appeal to more with Halloween than Deepavali. GASP! But it is about what sells rather than keeping the minorities happy.

There’s also the Oktoberfest celebrated in Malaysia for the month of October (although traditionally celebrated in Germany on the last 2 weeks of September. Places of leisures and “Tempat Istirehat” have all decided that Oktoberfest would be even more profitable to promote. To be honest, most Indians don’t really need an excuse to celebrate… we don’t care what the promotions are for… as long as there IS promotions for happy juice.


 5. No one knows the actual date


Last year Malaysia confused everyone by moving the date of Deepavali, confusing many on when the holiday actually is. I don’t know how this is possible but it has happened. Even this year, if you  Google the date of Deepavali, you will get 23rd October as the result, but then there was a change to the gazetted date with the advice of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam President.

According to with an article written by Sonia Ramachandran:

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk RS Mohan Shan told that the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam had given this information to the government two years ago.

“Like how we explained to the people last year, Deepavali falls on Chaturdashi Tithi. The early morning bath taken by Hindus on Deepavali day is considered a bath in the holy water of Ganges and this should fall on Chaturdashi Tithi, not Amavasya Tithi, which is considered the day of the black or dark moon.

“The last two years has seen the Chaturdashi Tithi and Amavasya Tithi falling far apart when in the past, they used to fall on the same day with Chaturdashi Tithi falling in the morning followed by Amavasya Tithi in the afternoon. Only now is it falling on separate days. The assumption that Deepavali should fall on Amavasya Tithi is wrong because it shouldn’t be during the black moon,” – Datuk RS Mohan Shan, The Ant Daily

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk RS Mohan Shan told theantdaily that the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam had given this information to the government two years ago.

It sounds very technical and difficult to understand, and that is why people are confused, and have an excuse to forgo the celebrations.

– ———— –

Well, all is not lost of course, because if you still watch terrestrial TV, you could still look forward to Indian movies so outdated, they were made before you were born, or you could go to Bukit Jalil for your cheap Deepavali Fair shopping fix that could get you a bargain (even the fair is held in a place with low number of Indians). There are still many excited for the holidays and there will be some open houses around, so make sure you go and hunt for good free food.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Deepavali and happy holidays.

And for your viewing pleasure:


  1. shikin

    22/01/2015 at 11:59 am

    i laugh when i read this. somehow, those colourful rice and llamp oil will remind me about deepavali. the special thing about deepavali for me is when my neighbour invite me for open house, yeay! but agreed the food can be get anywhere not during the season, or its becoz i didnt know what type of special food that usually cook for deewali coz i’m not indian

  2. Pingback: Anyone remember TV3′s Hari Raya Santa Claus? | CILISOS - Current Issues Tambah Pedas!

  3. visithra

    14/11/2014 at 6:30 pm

    the reason you got bad feedback for this article is coz its not written well enough – it sounds more of a politically correct complaint rather than a sarcasm piece.

    like the deepavalli songs – what you meant was why arent deepavalli songs (which exists) are not being played in malls unlike during raya and cny.

    the closest you got to highlighting your main aim for the article was in the decorations part.

    Coz currently it sounds like a “excuse me-ah actually i want to complain but ah im trying not to make some ppl not get upset so this is all i can write”

    better luck next time.

  4. Linesha

    03/11/2014 at 8:59 pm

    Calm down lah…it’s just the writer’s observations on Deepavali, I do agree that there is not much of a festive feel to it….as a Malaysian Indian, I say no need to be thin skinned, go and eat some thosai. ..

  5. Suyin Chia

    27/10/2014 at 4:15 pm

    Great to see writers that can take a candid take on an important issue. I laughed, and I reminisced, then I reflected, and now I am grateful for my indian friends sharing their unique culture with the rest of Malaysia.

    thumbs up Kavin 🙂

  6. Kavin Jay

    22/10/2014 at 12:02 pm

    I wrote this article as an Indian who is outraged that OUR celebrations are not taken seriously by decision makers in Malaysia, a place we Malaysian Indians call home…

    It has nothing to do with Indians who celebrate Deepavali, I am a Malaysian Indian that celebrates Deepavali… I am celebrating Deepavali with my family too…

    It is all about how interest of other celebrations outweigh ours, and done quite glaringly in the open…

  7. detterent horseshoe

    22/10/2014 at 10:00 am

    Malaysian are so sensitive towards everything. This is a point of view article. Writer is a comedian for christ sake. Nothing to be taken offensive about. You see people like matharan raj is one good example. Sikit sikit mau marah and calling people stupid lol.

  8. thosai_telur_ghee_garing

    22/10/2014 at 7:42 am

    yo kevin jay, kau ni patut bersyukur! we other malaysians only get a once-a-year invitation to our indian friends houses to sample (and maybe till 3rd round i denno just saying) their mother’s authentic cooked-with-love curry and all. i have some friends in mind, but this year there seems to be a lack of invitation…

  9. Chak Onn Lau

    22/10/2014 at 2:04 am

    Sorry to have offended some of you. To us, this piece was not meant to offend Hindus, but more to call attention from the market to celebrate Diwali more.

    We stand by our writer, and his insights. Do try to take them with a sense of humour la, bro.

  10. Lee

    21/10/2014 at 10:40 pm

    Relax guys. This was a poorly written article by a guy who thinks his funny.

  11. தமிழன்

    21/10/2014 at 9:06 pm

    உலகில் இந்துகளை ஒன்றினைக்கும் மந்திரச் சொல் தீபாவளி,
    ஒன்றுபட்டட. தமிழீரினம் தலைநிமிர்ந்தே
    நம்மை பிரிக்க நினைப்போருக்குச் சொல்லி வைப்போம் ………………….???

  12. தமிழன்

    21/10/2014 at 8:34 pm

    Hello bro…if u don’t know about deepavali festival in malaysia,nevemind i can show u how malaysian indian celebrate deepavali festival …u come to my house in balakong…no 08 ,jalan 2/8 jalan rumah panjang 43300 balakong.s.d.e….or give me your add i come show u how to celebrate ….

  13. Malaysian

    21/10/2014 at 4:30 pm

    Hold on. U forget about hiasan beras colour-colour tu. When i saw that I will remember about deepavali la.

  14. Dev

    21/10/2014 at 2:26 pm

    here’s an idiot ranting. so to commensurate with this junk of an article(if you call it one to begin with) , kalau tak suka, pi balik india! ( from one of our beloved MPs)

    p/s: im an indian myself so no racist remark whatsover here. This article is just plain stupid

  15. aiyoyo appa amma

    21/10/2014 at 2:02 am

    Mathan.. Learn how to write properly first before ranting, will ya?

  16. Mathan Raj

    21/10/2014 at 12:29 am

    Stupid statement!!! WHAT U KNEW ABOUT DEEPAVALI? All ur facts is not correct. First,who said there is no Deepavali festive song,u are not search properly.Our local TV and Radio station nowadays always playing Deepavali song. Second thing, Deepavali have its on festive mascot like Kolam decoration,oil lamp and a lot of Indian decoration item. Third,our Deepavali festival also famous for traditional Indian sweets and cookies. Fourth,dun even dare to try to compare our religious important n major festival with october fest or halloween wic nonuseful n immoral. Fifth, Our Deepavali festival date based on Hindu lunisolar calendar n the date is subject to change.WE HINDU know wen to celebrate.

    • Chak Onn Lau

      22/10/2014 at 2:02 am

      Hi Mathan,

      While we agree with your opinions on Diwali, we also acknoledge that it is one of Malaysia’s underserved holidays in terms of commercial participation.

      I’m VERY SURE Hindus do know how to celebrate 🙂 but probably cos of demographics, it’s less supported by the market.

  17. AYOYO

    20/10/2014 at 7:11 pm

    careful guys, this article is being spread within the indian community in facebook, and the comments are very very harsh. u know la malaysians..sikit-sikit sensitive.

    • Chak Onn Lau

      22/10/2014 at 2:00 am

      Thanks mate. We stand by our writer tho. I think his points are quite insightful, and really funny. Unfortunately, not everyone will think the same. We have loads of our indian reader sharing it and saying it’s unfortunately true.

  18. East Malaysian

    20/10/2014 at 5:15 pm

    Erm, it is NOT a holiday in East Malaysia… So technically speaking. It is indeed surprising to see it being celebrated in West Malaysia

  19. Xena

    20/10/2014 at 4:47 pm

    I really wonder why Diwali is not celebrated in India. I hate the stereotyping done and most of all I dislike the stupid Diwali Market in Brickfields where they sell over priced last years things aside form Venusita who’s mithais I love (No i don’t work for them).

    I miss Diwali in india where We would gather for an early morning pooja (with me loitering outside as I am not the right religion for a pooja) and then getting together and helping my friends mom cook an awesome breakfast for us, making rangolis, tying up flower banners and then in the evening after another laxmi pooja (where I would do the rangoli and the flowers but then wait outside eating murrukus), get blessings and burst crackers!
    Damn! I miss Diwali.

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