Deepavali is considered one of the most important day of Hindu calendar. Deepavali or "Festival of Lights" is annually celebrated in Singapore and is declared a as a public holiday. Deepavali is also known as Depawali, Dipavali, Dewali, Diwali, Divali, Dipotsavi or Dipapratipad in other parts of India. It marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year according to the Lunar Calendar.
Deepavali literally translated from Sanskrit means 'Row of Lights' (dipa = lamp / awali = row, line).
Deepavali is celebrated in India to commemorate return of Prince Rama to his kingdom after his 14 years of exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana. For Hindus, Deepavali celebrates the triumph of Lord Krishna over the evil Narakasura. Lord Krishna symbolizes goodness while Narakasura represents evil. It celebrates the victory of goodness over evil, light over darkness, and ushers in the new year.
For the Hindus, this festival is like a New Year celebration, while they welcome relatives and friends at their own homes for exchanging some blessings. On the first day of the Deepavali, festival people pray, eating a special breakfast made of many different foods. During the festival, doorways are hung with torans of mango leaves and marigolds. On the day of Deepavali people exchange gifts and having festive meals. In other parts of the world, it is celebrated using firecrackers, making fireworks and bonfires although in Singapore we do not do these.
When is Deepavali?
According to the Indian Almanac, Deepavali will fall on the following dates this year and coming years:
Deepavali 2010: Friday, 5th November 2010
Deepavali 2011: Wednesday, 26th October 2011
Deepavali 2012: Tuesday, 13th November 2012
Deepavali 2013: Sunday, 3rd November 2013
Deepavali 2014: Thursday, 23rd October 2014
Deepavali 2015: Wednesday, 11th November 2015
Deepavali in Singapore
In some parts of India, Deepavali is a 5 days festival. Although, in Singapore we only declare the first day as the holiday, the festival is usually celebrated a month long with most activities starting end of October till November annually. Deepavali is Singapore's important festivals and it helps to promote harmony and goodwill, and share understanding through various ethnic groups.
For this event, people are cleaning their houses and wear new clothes. For Indians in Singapore, they warmly welcome relatives, friends and even friends from other ethnic groups to their house for exchanging some blessings and nice food. I had been invited to my friends’ house a few times in the past and I must say it is a nice interesting experience and it is fun!
Oil lamps or Diyas is symbolic and unique part of this festival and you can see it lighted up in most places of celebrations and homes. It is believed that there are spirits of departed relatives who come back to earth during this festival and so the lights are the guidance for those wandering souls.
Where to Be?
In Singapore, the festival is most felt and experienced in the Indian ethnic area of Singapore, the Little India. There is no better place to visit than the Little India during this times of the year to feel the rejoicing and renewal of the locals especial the Hindus and the Sikhs.
During this auspicious time, Serangoon Road in Little India and temples in that area such as Sri Veerama Kaliamman, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman, and Sri Srinivasa Perumal are adorned with spectacular display of fairy lights, garlands of jasmine, and colorful arches to mark this festive period.
Locals and visitors pour into Little India at night for celebrations, sightseeing, and festive goods such as costumes, food, furniture, arts, crafts, and jewelries.
In the next article, I will show you where to go and what to do during this colorful festival.