Here's all you need to know about the colourful festival that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.
We love multicultural Singapore and all the festivals we get to celebrate, and next up is the religious celebration of Deepavali! Deepavali in Singapore, or Diwali as it is also known, is Saturday, 27 November, (and with it comes a public holiday!).
This colourful festival gives us all the chance to have some cultural family fun before we start planning the Christmas holiday season. So if you’ve popped into the Little India neighbourhood lately, you will have noticed the gorgeous colourful lights teeming throughout the streets and brightening up the dullest of nights. The festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains worldwide, and we’ve been getting the lowdown on how the first Deepavali came about, which traditions are part and parcel of the fun, and where we can join in the festivities…
The legend behind the celebration
The five-day Deepavali celebrations usually fall between the middle of October and the middle of November, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. Each faith has its own legend behind the origins of the festival, but generally the most popular is that of Lord Rama and his wife Sita: the power couple who defeated the demon king, Ravanna. By kicking the demon’s butt, they were finally able to return to their kingdom after a 14-year exile, and the homecoming in Ayodhya, Northern India became the first celebration of Deepavali. Earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fire crackers galore filled the city to not only welcome home Lord Rama and his awesome wife, but to also celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
How it’s celebrated
Colour is definitely the aim of the Deepavali game and houses are given a thorough spring clean and redecorated in the weeks before the festival, and doorways bedecked with beautifully etched rangoli (pictures – usually nature inspired – made from flour, coloured rice or petals and a combo of 11 traditional leaves believed to repel bad energy). Oil lamps in small, large and every size in between are placed around the house in honour of Lakshmi – the goddess of light and prosperity – to encourage her blessings upon the household. When it comes to a Deepavali wardrobe, dull colours need not apply: the bolder and brighter the better! Hands and arms are often also decorated with henna tattoos. Don’t forget to dive into our guide to making easy Deepavali crafts to brighten up your own home with!
Deepavali is very much a community occasion, and visits to friends and family to offer prayers, sweet meats and gifts are all part of the celebrations. Big meals are a given, and delish delights traditionally served include Gajar Halwa (made with milk and carrots) and Gulab Jamum (a tasty cinnamon and cardamom doughnut-like ball).
Join the festivities
While celebrations mostly take place in homes, Little India is where the hub of the celebrations will be happening. Experience the festive transformation of Little India’s bustling streets into an exotic wonderland of colours, myriad twinkling lights and larger-than-life decor. Make sure to check out the Deepavali Festival Village on Campbell Lane and Hastings Road too, where you’ll find bazaars with stalls hawking glittering saris, spicy treats, saccharine sweet desserts and shiny oil lamps by the ton. And if you’ve been meaning to try out a parrot to predict your fortune, well you’re in luck: look out for the parrot astrologers who will pick out tarot cards to give you a bird’s-eye view into your future…
Food, glorious food!
If, like us, you can’t get enough of amazing Asian dishes, then sampling the authentic Indian meals in restaurants all around Little India is a must. Race Course Road is literally back-to-back with fabulous fare offering mouth-watering curries for every taste and budget.
Head to a Hindu temple…
All of the temples around Singapore will be decked out in their colourful finest during the course of the celebrations. We have a soft spot for Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple on Ceylon Road (which we pass on the school run every day, and Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India, where an enormous deity of Goddess Kali resides in order to ward off evil.