If every festival had its own song, Deepavali would have a slightly modified version of the one in La La Land - "City of Lights, Are you Shining Just for Me?" Deepavali or 'The Festival of Lights' can transform any place into a well-lit, brightly coloured paradise. As light triumphs over darkness, as good conquers evil, the Little India of Singapore comes to life with colourful rangolis and vibrant fairy lights. Households are adorned with floral garlands, beautiful, geometric shapes created with colourful powdered rice or flower petals embellish the entrances, the streets are ornate with gates made of dazzling rice lights, and the markets are loaded with fashionable jewellery and knick-knacks.
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 the Little India district. Amidst the tantalising aroma of scrumptious snacks and the soft glow of oil lamps, people exchange gifts and bow their heads in prayer to seek the path of light and ask for strength to be able to conquer the darkness that surrounds life. The Goddess Lakshmi is the prime deity worshipped during this festival to seek prosperity and fertility.
The dawn of Deepavali
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. This festival 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.
How is Deepavali celebrated in Singapore?
The residents of the Little India District connect to their motherland as they come together to celebrate this colourful festival of lights. Prior to the day of this 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.
On the day of this festival, people wake up at dawn to take a bath, preferably in oil, to rid themselves of any evil, and then head out to a local temple to offer prayers and seek blessings. These places of worship are also wonderfully decorated and are ever ready to welcome every person who wishes to step in. The endless maze of glittering streets, the delectable Indian food, the gorgeous illuminated patterns and the Deepavali Festival Village in Hastings Road loaded with gorgeous Indian souvenirs give the city an extraordinary charm altogether.
The most delicious dessert devoured during Deepavali is the muruku. This deep-fried cookie dipped in syrup is a sweet treat which melts in the mouth and appeals to the taste buds. Other food items that loom large during Diwali are delicious lentil cakes, scrumptious sweet yoghurt, appetising rice-flour pancakes, and mouth-watering sweets made of mung dal. Varieties of fireworks are lit, some adorning the sky, others decorating the ground. On the evening of the festival, many communities arrange for cultural programmes which include traditional dances and songs, and one or two theatrical performances as well. People get dressed and throng the streets after twilight to witness the gorgeous decorations, shop for trinkets and devour some tantalising food.
What is the best part about Deepavali in Singapore?
The highlight of the festival is undoubtedly the decoration that adorns the households and streets. It is not difficult to differentiate the locality during Deepavali when set in contrast to every other festival. The gargantuan arches in the streets adorned with psychedelic lights, the brightly glowing oil lamps and lanterns, the fragrance of the garlands, and the many-hued rangolis are unmatched when compared to the other activities that make up the festival.
When is Deepavali celebrated?
Deepavali falls on the month of Kartika of the Hindu calendar, which corresponds to somewhere between the middle of September to the first week of November. In 2018, the Festival of Lights is going to be celebrated on the 6th of November, which is a Tuesday. The preparations for the divine welcome will begin by the second week of October itself.
Where in Singapore is Deepavali celebrated?
The entire city of Singapore celebrates Deepavali, owing to the five per cent of the population comprising of Hindus. However, the celebration in the Little India district remains a notch above the rest. You can disembark at the Little India MRT Station right at the heart of the district. If you prefer to travel by bus, take the bus 23, 48, 56, 57, 64, 65, 66, 131, 139, 147, 166, 170, 1N+, 3N+, 5N+ or 6N+ and alight at the Little India bus interchange.
Deepavali is truly the Festival of Lights. With delicious food, fun-filled activities and group outings, the bonds between people tend to become stronger. The families and friends come together and join hands to deck Little India with vibrant colours. The oil lamps, incense sticks and candles offer an aesthetic aura, and the atmosphere of merry-making comes alive. Overall, Deepavali is a time when fun, frolic, religion and culture blend in a beautiful, enchanting way.