The Indian Heritage Centre in Singapore has organised a special hybrid Deepavali celebration this year. Titled 'Welcoming Light', it comprises a varied array of online programmes available from October 1 to November 14 as well as a miniature replica of the Deepavali street light-up arch along Campbell Lane for visitors to IHC.
The decorated arch, along with peacock designs that extend from the institution’s entrance to its stairwell, the light installation serves to invite people from all walks of life to join in the festivities and get into the Diwali spirit, an official statement read.
"If you are heading down to IHC this festive season, remember to snap a photo of yourself enjoying the festivities, upload it onto social media and hashtag #IHCDeepavali to redeem limited edition money packets featuring the arch and peacock designs from the light-up," said Maria Bhavani Dass, General Manager, Indian Heritage Centre.
In an interview with Connected to India, she wished all residents a safe and happy Deepavali and elaborated on the celebrations this year held amid COVID protocols.
Connected to India (C to I): Please tell us more about IHC's theme for its Deepavali celebrations this year, 'Welcoming Light', and why it was chosen.
Maria Bhavani Dass: Deepavali is known as the Festival of Lights, and this year, the IHC’s Deepavali theme 'Welcoming Light' invites everyone to usher light into our hearts and minds as individuals, as a community, and as a nation. While we are unable to celebrate Deepavali as we normally do this year, we still hope to bring cheer to others and take the festivities into the homes of our community. In fact, the celebrations take on a special meaning this year as we contemplate the importance of family and loved ones in these unique times. This is why we are presenting a rejigged version of our celebrations, with online offerings to ensure that more can participate in the festivities safely.
C to I: What are some key highlights of this year's programme line-up? What is unique about this year's celebrations?
Maria Bhavani Dass: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we wanted to explore how we can continue to present programmes that will enable everyone to welcome light during this festive season, and to celebrate safely. Members of the public will be able to enjoy an exciting array of programmes organised by IHC to immerse themselves in the Deepavali spirit. This includes a miniature replica of the Little India street light-up – a signature element of every year’s Deepavali celebrations — which will welcome visitors to IHC. Apart from adding to the festive atmosphere, it is also the perfect backdrop for visitors to take a Deepavali #OOTD, or for families to pose for their Deepavali photos. At the same time, our online offerings invite everyone to discover and appreciate the cultural practices, traditions and meaning of Deepavali from the comfort of their homes. Some highlights to look forward to include a specially commissioned Deepavali short film which follows a family as they immerse themselves in the celebrations of the Festival of Lights; a video titled The Story of Deepavali, which explores the various origin stories of Deepavali celebrations; a handy Deepavali guide that introduces the public to fun facts about the festival; and a series about the history and evolution of the Deepavali street light-up in Singapore.
C to I: What were some of the challenges the IHC faced in organising this year's event, particularly in these difficult times? With the recent rise in COVID cases in Singapore, what additional precautions are being taken?
Maria Bhavani Dass: While we had to cancel some on-site programmes in the interest of public health and safety, we still do have a suite of online offerings so more can join in the festivities from home. We also had to tweak other ongoing on-site activities to align with the latest safe management measures, such as requiring all visitors and participants be fully vaccinated. In challenging times such as these, it is especially necessary to welcome light into our hearts, which is why it is important to us to continue offering safe programmes and activities for Deepavali.
C to I: Please tell us about the early reactions and responses from people who have taken part in some of the celebrations.
Maria Bhavani Dass: Despite the current situation, we truly appreciate the enthusiasm and support given by our visitors and participants. Our Trishaw Trails and workshops are very quickly taken up by participants. They appreciate the exciting and fun activities and the safety measures put in place. Our online posts are also doing well as they are a fun and engaging way to learn about the traditions of Deepavali.
C to I: What do you hope visitors will take away from this year's programme?
Maria Bhavani Dass: We hope that visitors will gain new perspectives and a deeper understanding of Deepavali, while also basking in the richness of the celebrations and culture. Of course, we also hope that the public will have fun and create new memories with their loved ones, whether joining in the festivities physically or virtually.