Deepavali 2021 in Singapore: All you need to know
Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is a major cultural festival celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Contrary to the common misconception we have, Deepavali is not a celebration of the Indian New Year. The Indian New Year is usually celebrated around April 14 every year.
Both words, Deepavali and Diwali, originate from the Sanskrit term “Dipavali” which means “row of lights”. They refer to the same festival, but each name is used by people from different regions. We use “Deepavali” more in Singapore as the majority of our early Indian immigrants were Tamils from South India. Diwali, on the other hand, is the Hindi term used more commonly by the North Indians.
Why is it celebrated?
There are various stories from Hindu mythology surrounding the origins of Deepavali. One of the most popular ones is the story where Lord Krishna defeated the Demon King Narakaasur – making this holiday all about the victory of good over evil, or light over darkness. The festival is also widely associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and wealth.
What are some of the traditions practiced during Deepavali?
Lighting Up The Home with Diyas and Rangoli
Hindus light up and place diyas (oil lamps made of clay) in the doorway of their homes on the first day of Deepavali. Besides that, they also spring-clean their homes and decorate their doorways decorated with rangoli – a traditional form of floor art portraying beautiful patterns that are usually made out of rice, sand, flour or flower petals. These special decorations are done up to invite Goddess Lakshmi into their homes.
Hindu men are dressed in traditional kurtas (and sometimes dhoti), while the women wear sarees. Sarees are a traditional Indian costume worn by many Indian women during Deepavali. Measuring 6 metres in length, sarees come in a variety of colours and intricate patterns and are interestingly one of the longest piece of garments in the world. On top of that, women also adorn henna on their hands and feet as a way to signify beauty, femininity as well as good luck.
On the morning of Deepavali, devotees wake up early to perform traditional rituals such as taking oil baths, offering prayers at the temple, before visiting their relatives and friends for feasting. The festival is also celebrated by the Sikh and Jain communities in Singapore and it is common to see non-Hindus and non-Indians visiting Hindu homes to join in the festivities. The celebration usually lasts about five days and typically occurs in the months of October and mid-November each year.
Deepavali is also a time for friends and family to get together and the host will prepare festive meals as a mark of the celebration. One of the typical food served during this festive event includes mithai, a sweet delicacy given to friends and family as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Mithai is made with an array of ingredients such as nuts, sugar, milk, flours, Indian spices and fruit. Other sweets like barfi (powdered milk and sugar) and chakli (deep-fried flour made with several spices) are common during celebrations as well.
Deepavali Celebrations in Singapore
Deepavali celebrations used to be centred around High Street as the street was popular for Sindhi and Sikh jewellery and textile businesses. These days, the beaming display of festive lights has moved to Little India and Serangoon Road, with some festivities extending out to Chinatown as well where Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman temple, is located.