What is Deepavali
Deepavali is the festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains for a variety of reasons, although the main theme which runs throughout is the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
As one of the major cultural festivals in Singapore, Deepavali (also known as “Diwali” or the “Festival of Lights”) is a celebration to mark the triumph of good over evil. It’s when thousands of Hindu families in the city—and across the world—transform their homes into beacons of light, exchange gifts, share feasts and perform pooja (prayers) to deities such as Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.
Before the day of the festival, Hindu families throng Little India to gear up at the district’s many bazaars and snap photos of the stunning street light-up. The monumental installations, Instagram-worthy decorations, and bright, festive lights will stand in the neighbourhood for about a month after Deepavali, so there’s plenty of time to celebrate with the locals.
Chase the scents of floral garlands and incense while browsing through stalls hawking gold jewellery, traditional snacks, embroidered sari(traditional Indian womenswear) and ornamental decorations. Enjoy a musical performance under the stars while getting an intricate henna tattoo done. Or just park yourself at any of the neighbourhood’s many coffee shops with a mug of teh tarik (pulled milk tea) to watch one of the most beautiful festivals in Singapore blossom to life.
To enmesh yourself with the Hindu community, follow the Silver Chariot procession, held twice in the lead-up to Deepavali. Devotees tow a silver chariot that houses an effigy of the goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman all the way from the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown—it’s the oldest of its kind in Singapore—to Little India.
About a week before the big day, the Sri Mariamman Temple hosts another cultural spectacle: Theemithi. In a ritual that continues well into the night, witness thousands of men walk on burning charcoal as a tribute to the goddess.
How to identify a Hindu Family?
It’s hard not to notice a Hindu home during Deepavali. Each doorway boasts a beautiful, vividly-colored picture created out of flour, rice or flower petals. It can take the form of a geometric pattern, a floral shape or a more detailed representation of animals or nature. Known as ‘rangoli’, these artworks are created to usher deities into the home, so that they can bless the household for the year ahead.
Deepavali in Singapore
This year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) unveils themed trains to celebrate this year’s Hindu Festival of Lights, or Deepavali. Rolled out last Saturday (Oct 6), one such train will be on the North-East Line, and another will be on the Downtown Line, until Nov 9. Their cabins will be splashed with brightly coloured designs that are ubiquitous during Deepavali season, featuring patterns of the Indian celestial swan (Annapatchi) as well as rangoli motifs.
Little India MRT station will be decked out in similar fashion, with coloured designs adorning the stairs, escalators, and walkways. Five buses, on services 23, 64, 65, 147 and 166, will also be Deepavali-themed. Look out for them while they are on their usual routes in areas such as HarbourFront, Clementi, Tampines, Hougang and Little India.