Celebrated by Hindus across the world to mark the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, the symbolism of Deepavali is aptly summed up in the simple act of lighting an oil lamp.
And this is precisely what thousands of Hindu families all around Singapore do, turning their homes into enclaves of warm golden light even as they offer prayers, exchange gifts and share sweetmeats with each other.
Longing for a slice of the action? Head to Little India where the streets are transformed into a fantasyland of colourful arches and stunning lights.
How Singaporeans are celebrating the festival of lights
The festival of lights (also known as Deepavali and Diwali) will be marked on November 10 in Singapore this year. As the occasion nears, these Singaporeans told Yahoo Singapore more about their Deepavali plans and how their festive habits may have changed over time.
Some Hindu families and Singaporeans that Yahoo Singapore spoke to still stick closely to the rituals and traditions passed them from generation to generation. Customs common to Hindu families with South Indian origins include waking up early for the oil bath cleansing ritual, morning prayers, blessings given by the elders as well as the temple visits.
Other festive activities such as dressing in new clothes and gathering for meals with traditional food tend to be similar for families with North Indian and South Indian ancestry. Homes will also be filled with lit diya oil lamps or with candles for Deepavali, though the specifics of other rituals and decorative habits may differ.
Street bazaars, gorgeous saris: What you should do this Deepavali
One of the best things about living in a multi-cultural society is that you get to experience and celebrate cultures that are not your own.
As Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, quickly approaches, Skyscanner shares some things you can do to get into the spirit of the holiday.
- Learn how to draw Kolam
- Hit the street bazaar in Little India
- Learn how to cook Indian food
- Find out more about the Hindu faith
- Go shopping for a saree
Shedding Light On Deepavali…Diwali
In the triumph of good over evil, Deepavali and Diwali are on the same path. But there are differences between the two.
Deepavali, also known as the festival of lights is a Hindu celebration that will be celebrated on Tuesday.
‘Deepavali’ is associated with South India, while the North Indians call it ‘Diwali’. For South Indians, Deepavali falls on Ashvina Krishna Chaturdasi, the lunar day before the new moon. For the North Indians, it falls on Ashvina Amavasya the lunar day of the new moon.
In Singapore, both the North and the South Indians celebrate the festival of light on the same day.
Diwali (or Deepavali) - The Festival of Lights
When Indians celebrate, the streets of Little India burst with bright colours, busy stalls, tasty foods and wonderful traditions. Deepavali, also known as the festival of lights, certainly lives up to its name, filling Singapore’s Little India district with dazzling street decorations and fireworks. Indians look forward to this annual event with excitement and joy.
Diwali or Deepavali is one of the most important religious festivals for Hindus and an important part of Singapore’s rich history and culture. The event traces back to Ancient India and several legends are told about the origins, depending on the region.
Some believe the event celebrates the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after a 14-year exile. Legend has it that Lord Rama was deprived of his rightful ascent to the throne and banished to the forests by his stepmother so that her own son could rule. Others say that Deepavali takes place to commemorate Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon king Narakasura. With his victory, the good defeats the evil, the light wins over the dark. This is what people celebrate during Deepavali, the festival of lights.
There are many details to the story and Hindus have devoted many days to celebrate Deepavali, each to honour a different happening as part of the entire story. Deepavali is so important that it is observed as a public holiday in many countries including Singapore.
Several rituals are part of the festival: Families in South India wake up at dawn to take an oil bath. They then dress in traditional and richly coloured clothes and head to the temple for prayers. Many homes light small, oil filled clay lamps and decorate their doors with fresh mango leaves and kolam, colourful drawings on the floor at the entrance also known as rangoli, which are meant to welcome the goddess of power, wealth and knowledge Lakshmi.
Celebrate with the Indian community, marvel at the colourful decorations and try some of the popular sweetmeat dishes such as deep fried batter in syrup, green mung bean sweets, rice flour pancakes and lentil cake. Several stalls offer flower garlands, glittery costume jewellery, Saris in abundance and charming nick-nacks. Watch local artists painting intricate flower patterns on the feet and hands of Indian women using henna, a plant based dye.
Some Hindus believe that Deepavali is celebrated to mark the return of Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after being banished from Ayodhya by his stepmother for a period of 14 years. An important reminder is that Deepavali is not the Indian or Hindu new year. The Tamil New Year falls on either 13 or 14 April every year.
Preparations start weeks before with the spring cleaning of the home. New clothes are bought and women take great pains to make cakes, sweetmeats and other tidbits, the favourite being murukku. Hindus also believe that departed souls return during this time. So, favourite foods of the departed along with new clothes are placed on banana leaves before the photographs of the departed and prayers done.
Early in the morning, the Hindus will have the traditional oil bath. The body is rubbed and massaged from head to toe with gingelly oil that is extracted from fermented sesame seeds. When all the members have had their bath and don their new clothes, special prayers are held at the family altar. Decorative designs or rice flour paintings with intricate designs usually done by womenfolk on the floor at the entrances of homes. Hindus also make it a point to visit temples early in the morning to receive the blessings of Lord Krishna and the Goddess of Wealth. Then it is time for either visiting friends or receiving them. At night, children play with sparklers and are allowed to light clay lamps and display them along the window ledges or doorways.