One of the world's most colourful extravaganzas
takes place in Kuala Lumpur near the end of May
each year. Citrawarna or the Colours of Malaysia is
the kick off ceremony for a month-long celebration
of the cultural diversity of the people who live in the
14 states and 4 territories that make up that
multifaceted country. This event also is one of the
celebrations marking the official birthday of the new
King of Malaysia, His Majesty The Yang Di-Pertuan
Agong. In a kaleidoscope of colourful ethnic
costumes, a procession of nearly six thousand
Malaysians entered Merdeka Square. They escorted
the float containing their King, the Queen and an
assortment of dignitaries to the Royal dais. Then
they presented a spectacular show, with a
continuous presentation of music and dance
significant to their different states or cultures. For
three and a half hours I sat spellbound while being
entertained by the exotic rhythm and movement of
this magnificent mosaic of people. For the fifth
successive year, the people of Malaysia showed
visitors from throughout the world that people of
vastly different cultural and ethnic backgrounds can
live harmoniously and happily in one country.
The multi-ethnic nature of Malaysia's people has roots that go back to the early traders who came to Malacca plying their wares. They came from throughout the world. Chinese and Indian traders came with tea, spices, silk and gold and also brought their religions and cultural practices. Thus Buddhism and Hinduism entered the cultural milieu of the Malay. Traders from the Middle East introduced the Islamic religion, which today has become the dominant religion of Malaysia, with nearly two-thirds of the present population being practicing Muslims. However, Malaysian Muslims do not follow the restrictive form of Islam now practiced in the Middle East. The Europeans, with a large contingent of Portugese traders, who still have a settlement in Malacca, brought Christianity. The Dutch and British also left their mark on the history and people of this country too.
As could be expected, many of the traders who came to the country succumbed to beauty of the
country and its people. One of Malacca's early Sultans took a Chinese Princess for a bride,
establishing, by example, that interracial marriage was culturally acceptable. Intermarriage
produced a blending of cultures. The legacy these forefathers left behind was one of mutual
respect, tolerance and acceptance of the customs and beliefs of other ethnic groups and cultures.
This became ingrained into the people.
Today the pot pouri of cultures and
traditions in Malaysian society is a source of
much pride amongst its people. Mutual
celebration of each other's customs has
become a joyous tradition in the country.
Unfortunately this is not a commodity that
can be exported, but maybe we can all learn
from the harmony that produces such joy in
its friendly people.
Malaysia is a country of frequent festivals.
Whether it's the Chinese New Year, or their
Lantern & Moon Cake Festival; the Muslim
Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrating the end of
Ramadan; the Hindu Thaipoosam, or their
Deepavali also known as the festival of
lights; or the Christian Christmas festivities,
each is celebrated with much colour and
plenty of enthusiasm. When I visited Kota
Kinabalu in Sabah, I attended the opening
of Sabafest in the grand ballroom of the
Magellan Sutera Harbour Resort, where
people displayed their craftsmanship in the
lobby before the impressive ceremonies. Two days later, Kaamatan their annual harvest festival
took place in the city's Padang Merdeka. Music and dance showcased the talented people of
Sabah. It was a wonderful festivity.
The whole country showcases it cultural diversity during their month-long celebration of The Colours of Malaysia. Many special events take place in each state and territory at varying times throughout the entire month. Until I actually saw the colourful mosaic of multi cultural performers at Citrawarna, it was hard to envision so many ethnic groups living together harmoniously. As I watched them all blending their rhythm and movement, looking like a rainbow gone wild in their wonderful ethnic costumes, I began to realize that they not only tolerate their cultural diversity, they celebrate it!
When the economy of the Asia-Pacific countries
took its downturn in the mid-nineties, Malaysia
decided to stake its recovery on tourism. Knowing
that they have much to offer tourists, they dug their
heels in and began to work towards their goal. They
said, " Salmat Datung" to the world or "Welcome."
In the past five years the number of tourists who
have visited this country has increased ten fold.
The man behind the phenomenal growth in tourism
is Dato' Paduka Abdul Kadir bin Haji Sheik Fadzir,
Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism. This genial
man, with an engaging smile, works hard to
spread the word about Malaysia's many assets: a
tropical paradise with fantastic scenery, beautiful beaches, the world's oldest rainforest and a
diverse population of friendly and tolerant people. Citrawarna or The Colours of Malaysia is the
showcase for this message.
the fireworks erupted over the clock
tower, in Merdeka Square, during the finale
of Citrawarna, I knew it was the end of the
best show I ever had the privilege to see!
© Story and pictures by M. Maxine George
For further information about Citrawarna contact:
Tourism Malaysia (Canada) 830 Burrard St., Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2K4 Tel: 1-888-689-6872 Fax: 011-603-746-5637
Malaysia Airlines Reservations: 1-800-552-9264
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To sign in as a fellow traveler on Magic Carpet Journals or to contact us just click here to send a message. Last Updated on January 10, 2006 by M. Maxine George editor. © 2003 Magic Carpet Journals. All rights reserved