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Deepavali, Singapore Overview
One of the grandest festivals in India, Deepavali in Singapore is quite grand. As light triumphs over darkness, the Little India of Singapore comes to life with colourful rangolis and vibrant fairy lights. Prior to the grand Deepavali celebrations in Singapore, the streets of Little India are thronged by families for shopping at the many vibrant bazaars lining the stunningly lit up streets.
Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is a Hindu festival which falls on the month of Kartika in the Hindu calendar each year and is a massive celebration among the Indians residing in Little India. The Goddess Lakshmi is the prime deity worshipped during this festival to seek prosperity and fertility.
The entire market area is decorated with bright festive lights, with the scents of floral garlands and incense flowing across the whole area and jewellery and clothes shops swamped by people looking to buy jewellery and traditional Indian wear. Deepavali is Singapore is incomplete without enjoying the music performances under the stars in Little India while getting an intricate henna tattoo done. People can also be seen visiting the many coffee shops in the neighbourhood and enjoying a wholesome mug of Teh Tarik to watch one of the most beautiful celebrations in Singapore.
The name Deepavali is a blended word of 'deepam', meaning 'light, or lamp', and 'oli', meaning 'glow of light'. The myths encompassing the celebration of Deepavali are aplenty, depending upon the region and the philosophical background. However, the one that is the most popular is the fall of Ravana in the hands of Lord Rama.
Diwali is celebrated to mark the return of the victorious Lord Rama to Ayodhya along with his wife - Sita, brother - Lakshmana and his devotee - Lord Hanuman after fourteen years of exile. To pay tribute to Lord Rama for his successful conquest against Ravana, the residents of Ayodhya illuminated the streets with oil lamps and celebrated the victory of good over evil with merriment and feasting. Since then, Deepavali has been celebrated every year to mark the triumph of hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness.
Deepavali Celebration in Singapore - How is Diwali Celebrated?
Gearing up for the grand celebration The residents of Little India connect to their motherland as they come together to celebrate Deepavali in Singapore. Prior to the day of the festival, people clean their houses and redecorate them to start afresh and welcome the Goddess Lakshmi into their humble abodes. They shop for new ethnic wear, buy greeting cards and sweets, and adorn the entrance of their houses with brightly coloured rangolis. The rooftops and the facade of the houses are decked with brightly coloured fairy lights and garlands. It is also a common practice to tie a string of eleven mango leaves at the front door of the houses since it is believed that it draws in positive energy and shuns evil. Women get their hands covered with beautiful patterns using henna dyes.
The big day On the day of Deepavali, people wake up early in the morning and take a ritual oil bath to cleanse themselves of all impurities. Post the cleansing ritual, they dress up in their best attire which is mostly new colourful clothes that they purchase prior to the festival and avoid black colour which is considered inauspicious. People in Singapore make it a point to visit Little India where the Indian community of Singapore and Indian foreign workers gather to offer prayers and do festive shopping. The streets of Little India are decorated with flower garlands and glittering tinsel.
Celebrations of Deepavali in Singapore features the Silver Chariot procession held twice in the lead up to Deepavali. In this procession, the devotees tow a silver chariot that houses an effigy of the goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman all the way from Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown - the oldest of its kind in Singapore to Little India.
Decoration People also decorate the entrance of their houses with rangoli or Kolam, which is the art of floor painting using rice grains or powdered rice and colour powder. Diyas are placed on it and everywhere on the house so that Goddess Lakshmi can find her way around and bless the household. The main door of the house is decorated with 11 mango leaves as the Hindu believe that this lead arrangement attracts positive energy and repels evil.
Food On the day of Deepavali in Singapore, Hindus cook traditional dishes at home to devour with family and friends. The popular dishes include the non-vegetarian delicacies such as tandoori chicken, prawn sambal and fish head curry and sweets such as Halwa, burfi and laddoo and vegetarian dishes such as dosa, idlis and naan. One can find these dishes at restaurants in Little India as well.
How to Reach Little India
The nearest MRT station is Little India Station (NE7) Those taking a bus can hop on the bus numbers 67, 851, 980, 48, 56, 57, 66, 166, 170R, 66A, 1N, 3N, 5N and 6N.
To reach Little India from Chinatown, one can take NE4 (Purple line) then take the North-East Line towards Punggol and after 3 stops, reach Little India. One can also take the SMRT bus no 851 from the bus stop at New Bridge Road and get down at Little India Station exit A at Bt Timah Road. One can also take a cab too.
To reach Little India from Orchard, one can take the NS22 (Red) then take the North-South line towards Jurong east and after 1 stop, alight at Newton NS21 (Red), change to Downtown line DT11 (Blue) towards Expo and after 1 stop, arrive at Little India DT12 (Blue). Or, take the SBS Transit bus no 65 from the bus stop at Lucky Plaza and get down at Broadway Hotel. Or else, one can take a cab too.
To reach Little India from Kampong Glam, take the Bugis (DT14) ( Blue), then take the Downtown line towards Bukit Panjang and after 2 stops, arrive at Little India. Or else, take the line bus no 170 from bus stop at Queen Street and get down at Little India Station. One can take a cab as well.