Oct 2016 - A Celebration of Deepavali
A group of 23 MCG members met for an early start at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) in Brickfields to learn about Deepavali celebrations, Indian folk dance, home arts, and the making of kolams. For the uninitiated the Temple of Fine Arts is a major cultural institution serving the Indian community in the Klang Valley. The current building is a center of learning for Indian dance and music.
His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswithi conceived the TFA in 1981. The current building was completed in 2008 and serves as a center for Indian Performing Arts in Kuala Lumpur. In addition the organization supports a community medical clinic and dialysis center. 
We were welcomed to TFA by Ravi Shetty, Mrs. Malar, and Mrs. Meena. They led a brief discussion on the meaning of Deepavali within the Indian community. The holiday commemorates the triumph of Lord Rama over the evil Ravana. Celebrations include fireworks, and a morning oil bath. It is a day of forgiveness, unity, and renewal. People dress in new clothes and traditionally employers purchase new clothes for their employees.
In India the Deepavali holiday stretches for five days, but in Malaysia it is officially celebrated for only one day. However, you may find Indian business closed for many days. Day 4 of the holiday honors husbands and wives, and day 5 celebrates brothers and sisters. 
After the welcome we viewed several videos of traditional Indian folk dances. Then we began to put into practice what we saw. The base step in traditional dance is the “dip”, a drop of the body focused on the knees. It is done on the offbeat as in “Dip, one, Dip, two, Dip, three, Dip, four”. The step movement occurs on the beat. You can incorporate double dips. But if you are familiar with low impact aerobics you will find it easy to incorporate the dips into your routine. Building upon the dip step are hand motions, circular step routines, etc. All, including those with two left feet, had fun. 
We then learned the art of garland tying. Several table were covered with strips of yarn and jasmine flower buds. This is typically done in the home all the women weaving garlands to decorate their hair and provide garlands for the Gods. Those participants who knit found it easy to ties the knots. After the garlands are made and then used to decorate the hair, they are then sprayed with water causing the jasmine buds to open and release their scent.
We then began to learn the art of making a Kolam. We utilized pulverized rice and made geometric patterns on several tables. This created the outlines of the designs, which can then be filled in using dyed rice powder.
Finally, some of the attendees joined together for lunch at the Annalakshmi restaurant for a vegetarian buffet. The wait staffs in the restaurant are all volunteers. All profits from the restaurant are directed to the health clinic.
To find out more about the Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur, visit their web page www.tfa.org.my for more information. There is a major showcase of Indian Dance and Music from the 29th of November thru the 4th of December. Check out the website for more information. 
Respectfully submitted by Douglas Hale.
Photos by Michelle Pease