Signifying the triumph of light over darkness, Deepavali or Diwali is a significant festival among Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. This year, it is celebrated on Saturday, 14 November.
It’s chiefly marked by family time, lively music, fragrant food, brandished sparklers and the lighting of lamps and candles, and places like Little India and Brickfields are buzzing with the excitement for this celebration.
Impressive rangoli kolam drawings, made using coloured rice flour and chalk, adorn the thresholds of homes and malls, alongside vibrant decorations of peacock and elephant depictions, flower arrangements, oil lamp stands and various other cultural symbols. Colourful sarees, Punjabi suits and kurtha suits and the like are worn by devotees, adding to the visual flair of Deepavali.
Next to classical Indian cuisine like idli (a type of rice cake), dosa (a type of pancake), biryani and various meat curries are numerous savoury and sweet snacks.
Bite-sized delights such as murukku (fried flour spirals) gulab jamun (balls of fried dough in syrup), kheer (a sweet rice and milk dish), barfi (sweets made from milk and sugar), and laddus (fried semolina balls) are familiar sights.
A time to shed the old and make way for the new, Hindus around the world embark on preparations weeks ahead that range from home renovations and decorations to shopping for clothes and jewellery.
In Malaysia, Deepavali, like other main festivals, is also marked by city folk making their mass exodus to celebrate with family in their hometowns.
Deepavali During CMCO
This year, things are different as the pandemic makes it difficult to safely hold large gatherings. The current Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in almost all states also disallows inter-district and inter-state travel unless for emergency or work, or other permittable purposes.
However, the festival can still be celebrated on a smaller scale as long as special care is taken. Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN) or the National Security Council has released SOPs on Deepavali celebrations in CMCO areas, which can be found below.
[Do note that the following information should only be used as a guide and the SOPs may be updated by MKN at any time leading up to the festival. Vision KL shall not be held liable for any omission, error or inaccuracy. Please consult with MKN through their online channels (website, Telegram, Facebook or Twitter) or call them at 03 8872 6817 for the latest updates and more information on these SOPs, as well as to learn about SOPs for areas under other forms of the movement control order.]
The prayer ceremony must comply fully with SOPs that have been issued, and with not more than 30 people at a time (subject to the size the temple) observing physical distancing.
Any sweets are to be distributed in packaging to devotees.
Devotees should immediately disperse and leave after the prayer ceremony has been concluded.
Security and infection control
A counter at must be set up the temple’s entrance to check body temperature and screen for COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.
Attendance must be recorded using the MySejahtera application or an attendance book.
Devotees with chronic diseases, the elderly, and children aged 12 and under are not encouraged to attend prayer ceremonies.
The celebration crowd should be limited to immediate family members with not more than 20 people on one time for landed properties
The celebration crowd should be limited to immediate family members with no more than 10 people at a time for strata properties less than 1,500 square feet in size, and no more than 15 people for strata properties more than 2,500 square feet in size.
Individuals must ensure physical distancing of at least one metre.
They must also avoid the 3Cs – crowded area, confined area and close conversation.
Family members should avoid visiting elderly relatives and individuals with chronic diseases.
Individuals are encouraged to wear face masks.
Periodic sanitation should be performed, especially on dining tables and exposed surfaces prone to multiple hand touches.
Hand washing and sanitising
Hand soap and hand sanitiser should be prepared for use.
Every individual should prioritise personal and general hygiene.
Any food served should always be covered and uncontaminated.