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A Joyous Festival of Lights

Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is celebrated as a day when good triumphs over evil – the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakasuran and the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana. It is also a day when families and friends come together. We gather at our family home, pray to our ancestors and enjoy a feast both for our eyes (read: fireworks and new colourful clothes) as well as for our stomachs (food!). We usually share our past experiences with our loved ones and plan our future at these gatherings.

Deepavali is also a time for us to light up our minds and hearts, freeing ourselves of ignorance, hatred and bigotry while embracing compassion, forgiveness and wisdom. Family and friends come together, lighting up one another’s life with laughter and joy. This is why Deepavali is known as the Festival of Lights.

People from different countries celebrate it differently. Let’s take a peek at some of these countries.

Malaysia

Hindus in Malaysia start their day at dawn with the traditional oil bath and wear new clothes. After a prayer session at home and/or temple, the entire family (including extended family members) enjoy a sumptuous breakfast of traditional fare like idli and tosai with a variety of chutney and curries – chicken, mutton and sometimes, even turkey. Then, in the usual Malaysian hospitality, friends and neighbours are invited to open houses to enjoy scrumptious food and great company. At night, oil lamps and fireworks are lit to make sure that the darkest night of the year is as bright as possible.

Singapore

Our neighbours down south celebrate the Festival of Lights in many ways that are similar to us, but the celebrations are centered at Little India along Serangoon Road. On the holy day, people offer prayers at the temples, which number more than 18. There will also be a fair with cultural performances to be enjoyed by both locals and tourists.

Thailand

Diwali is celebrated as Lam Kriyongh in Thailand. It is celebrated modestly with people greeting each other happy returns of the day and sharing sweets. They make lamps out of banana leaves and place candles, coin and incense on it. These lamps are set afloat on rivers and look pretty at night.

India

Celebrations go on for 5 days! The whole country goes into a frenzy of shopping for clothes, food, decoration items and fireworks. Most houses have colourful floor designs called rangoli at their entrance, and they lit up with earthern lamps or diya at night. Family and friends visit one another and give boxes of sweets like ladoo, gulab jamun, halwa, barfi and peda. Special prayers are held at homes and temples.

Nepal

Diwali is known as Tihar in Nepal and is also celebrated for 5 days, but with a difference. This is a time for reverence not only to the Gods and fellow human beings, but also to animals that have a close relationship with humans. The first day is for giving food and other offerings to that ward off grief and death. The second day is dedicated to dogs, as they are messengers for Lord Yama, the God of Death. On the third day, cows are garlanded and fed with the best grass. The evening is a time for giving thanks to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, through joyous music and dance. Homes are lit up with oil lamps and fireworks take to the skies, while groups of young boys and girls dance and sing from home to home in exchange for money, fruits and a special bread called Selroti. On the fourth day, which is the first day of the Nepal Sambat calendar year, some people worship the oxen while others worship the Govardhan Mountain. The fifth day is for sisters to pray for their brothers’ long life and thank the brothers for protecting them.

Sri Lanka

Diwali is important in Sri Lanka as it’s the place where Lord Rama conquers the demon king Ravana as mentioned in the epic of Ramayana. People make toys of enamel and figurines of crystal sugar called Misiri. They also light oil lamps and burn crackers in the evening. A large meal is prepared and enjoyed.

Trinidad & Tobago

Diwali celebrations go on for more than a week in this twin island state off the coast of Venezuela in South America. The festival is celebrated with prayers, feasts and lighting of thousands of diya all over the country. These diya are put on bamboo poles that have bent into different shapes. Open-air theatres are set up in villages and two stories related to the origin of Diwali are acted out by actors dressed in full costume. Government employees and even ministers dress up in Indian costumes during the weeks before Diwali. There’s even a place called Divali Nagar or City of Lights! Divali Nagar, the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture, is the main place for Diwali celebrations.

Fiji

Diwali is celebrated grandly with lighting and candle decorations. The festival encourages people of different faiths to live in harmony. Schools organize Diwali celebrations with various competitions like singing, essay writing, quiz, rangoli drawing and greeting card designing. People exchange greetings, sweets and gifts.

Here are two healthy festive recipes chicken kurma and tandoori fish from the Resepi Sihat, Pilihan Bijak Volume 2 Part 1, which is a collection of healthy recipes, courtesy of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia. Try them out this festive season!

Chicken Kurma

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 600 g (5 pcs) chicken breast, discard skin
  • 5 shallots
  • 2 pips garlic blended with ½ cup water
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 50 g kurma spice
  • 175 ml coconut milk, from ¼ grated coconut
  • 175 ml low fat milk
  • 250 ml water, to mix with kurma spice
  • 5 tbsp fried onion
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cm cinnamon
  • 2 cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 screwpine (pandan) leaves, folded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 potatoes, quartered

Garnishing

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 red chilli, cut lengthwise

Method

  1. Marinate chicken with blended ingredients, fried onion, low fat milk and coconut milk for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil. Stir-fry sliced onions with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken, kurma spice mixed with water and cook.
  4. Add screwpine leaves and salt.
  5. Lower the heat and cook until chicken is tender.
  6. Add potatoes and cook until soft. Add tomatoes and red chilli.

Weight per serving: 125 g

Nutritional content per serving:

  • Calorie 392 kcal
  • Fat 22.0 g
  • Protein 28.0 g
  • Calcium 104 mg
  • Cholesterol 42 mg
  • Iron 3.8 mg

E_126886640

Tandoori Fish

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 350 g (2 medium size) black pomfret
  • ½ cup low fat yoghurt
  • 1 lime, for juice only
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cm ginger
  • 4 pips garlic
  • 2 tbsp chilli powderblended with ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 cardamoms
  • ½ tsp salt

Method

  1. Wash, clean and make slits on fish.
  2. Mix the blended ingredients, yoghurt, lime juice and salt.
  3. Marinate fish with the mixture of blended ingredients, yoghurt, lime juice and salt for 1 hour.
  4. Grill fish in oven until cooked.

Weight per serving: 150 g

Nutritional content per serving:

  • Calorie  58 kcal
  • Fat 0.9 g
  • Protein 8.9 g
  • Calcium 48 mg
  • Cholesterol 22 mg
  • Iron 0.8 mg

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And we can’t celebrate Deepavali without any sweets! So, here’s a simple recipe:

Milk peda

Makes 12-14 small peda

Ingredients

  • 200 g sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tbsp ghee or butter
  • ¾ cup milk powder
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • A pinch of nutmeg powder
  • 3-4 green cardamoms

Method

  1. Mix condensed milk, milk powder and ghee/butter in a microwave-safe bowl until there are no lumps.
  2. Microwave the mixture on high for 1 minute.
  3. Grind the cardamoms to fine powder.
  4. Add cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and saffron strands to the mixture. Stir and microwave on high for 1 minute.
  5. Stir, microwave on high for 30 seconds and check. If the mixture looks slightly watery, microwave again for 30 seconds on high. It takes about 3 minutes to get the right texture.
  6. Let the mixture cool slightly and shape into small balls while it is still warm.
  7. For variety, you can place a small piece of pistachio on each ball and press slightly.
  8. When the sweets are completely cool, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Resepi Sihat, Pilihan Bijak Volume 2 comes in Part 1 and 2 and has about 200 healthy recipes, which are favourites from all over Malaysia. To buy a copy, email: president@nutriweb.org.my or secretary@nutriweb.org.my

References: 1. Diwali celebrations around the world. Available at www.diwalifestival.org 2. Diwali Around the World. Available at http://festivals.iloveindia.com 3. Veg Recipes of India. Available at www.vegrecipesofindia.com

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