Singapore has fully geared up to celebrate the festival of Deepavali with utmost gusto and panache. The Indian diaspora spread across this wonderful island find this time to get relief from their work and spend time with family, friends and enjoy the festival. Their homes literally turn into enclaves of warm golden light as they offer prayers, exchange gifts and share sweets with one another.
The festival, marking the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, is the commemoration of the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to their kingdom of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile. They return to their home after defeating the demon king Ravana. Hindus in Northern India celebrate the festival with lighting earthen diyas (oil lamps) and setting off fire crackers.
The festival is marked by a comprehensive cleaning of the house and redecoration. The doorways of the house are 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).
Beautiful earthen oil lamps of various sizes are placed around the house to welcome the Goddess of Light and Prosperity Lakshmi. This is done for bringing prosperity to the house.
People like to drape themselves in colourful clothes - the bolder and brighter the better - as dull colours are a strict no for Deepavali wardrobe. It is a special time for the women as they cover themselves in resplendent sarees and trendy couture. Hands and arms are decorated with henna tattoos.
As Deepawali is a community festival, Singaporeans love to visit their friends and family to offer prayers and exchange gifts and sweets. Lavish parties are thrown where big meals are served. The delicious dishes usually comprise of Gajar Halwa (made with milk and carrots) and Gulab Jamun(a tasty cinnamon and cardamom doughnut-like ball).
However, the most alluring part of Deepavali in Singapore is witnessed in Little India, which comes alive during this period. The streets of the area have been transformed into a fantasy land of colourful arches, stunning lights and larger-than-life decor.
The Serangoon Road and the Race Course Road have been decorated with at least 1.5 million bulbs. Visitors are welcomed through two main archways by two giant elephants. In addition to this, there are 54 smaller arches throughout the area. The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) has laboured hard to put this spectacle for Deepavali.
This time, there are two bazaars in Little India- Deepavali Festival Village in Hastings Road and Campbell Lane; and the Deepavali Fair near Birch Road which is bustling with people and festivities.
The wonderful bazaars are glittering with gold and gems where one can find Indian ethnic wear including exquisitely embroidered sarees, intricate costume, jewelleries, wood carvings, ornamental decorations, gleaming oil lamps, spicy treats, sweet desserts, festive cookies and other items required for the Deepavali festival. The scent of marigolds, roses and jasmine wafts into the air giving a unique experience.