This year, Singapore celebrates the Indian festival, Deepavali (or Diwali) on Tuesday, 6 November. One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Deepavali symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. It falls on the 15th day of the Hindu month of Karthik, so the actual date varies every year.
To help our children become truly global citizens, expose them to other cultures, religions and learn about Singapore’s multi-racial heritage tol help them better understand and be tolerant of the different races and yet recognise how all races celebrate common values such as family bonds, truth and good through their own unique customs.
Deepavali is marked by people lighting small earthen oil-filled lamps over the next few days and decorate their homes with rangoli – coloured designs made from dyed rice, flower petals or coloured sand placed outside their doors to welcome guests. These days, people can buy ready-made sticker rangoli.
Traditionally, Deepavali is celebrated over 4 or 5 days where people will light up their homes and offices. People also exchange mithai (Indian sweets or candy) as a form of well wishes and blessings. Hindus would take an oil bath as part of a ritual of cleansing and visit the temples for blessings.
Rituals and preparations traditionally start a few weeks in advance with each day of Deepavali having its own significance and tale relating to the different Indian gods. Accordingly, the rituals and customs follow in respect of the god being worshiped on that day.
Interestingly, on the last day of Deepavali, Hindus honour the sister-brother bond with a festival called Yama Dvitiya (also known as Bhai Dooj). On this day, sisters invite brothers to their homes and offer sweets or a meal to their brothers and pray for their brothers’ health. In return, brothers give gifts to their sisters and take a pledge to “protect” their sisters.
Yama Dvitiya follows the legend where the River Goddess Yamuna invited her brother, Lord Yama (God of Death), to her house and prepared a meal for him. In appreciation of the meal, Lord Yama granted his sister’s wish that all brothers who visit their sisters on this day will not face an untimely death and sisters who feed their brothers will not become widows.
Learn more about Indian heritage and culture at the Indian Heritage Centre’s Deepavali Open House. Free admission to all, they have lined up craft activities, Little India trails, interactive performances, free goodies and more. Find out more here.
Your family can immerse in the festival by heading to Little India for an Indian meal, an evening walk with your family and even shopping at 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre which has almost everything you need.
A Deepavali Festival Village will pop up along Campbell Land and Hastings Road where you can find many bazaar stalls selling festival goodies such as ornamental decorations, snacks and sweets. You could buy ethnic clothes, Indian accessories, and jewellery and marvel the work of henna artists.
In the evening, marvel at the illuminated streets of Serangoon Road and Race Course where about 2 million coloured light bulbs shine brightly to mark Little India’s 30th year Deepavali light-up.