8 Things You May Not Know About the Festival of Lights
Ready for an explosion of colours, delightful eats and dazzling celebrations? If you’ve not been introduced to Deepavali, this is a great opportunity to learn about one of Hinduism's most important times of the year.
To start, Deepavali is also known as Diwali. It is a five-day religious festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, which explains the kaleidoscope of colours, in the form of festive illumination, clothing, fireworks and food in homes and all over Little India! It is believed that these customs bring new light, joy and love to the whole community.
1. A Time for Reflection
Different legends explain the origins of Deepavali. One of the most popular legends features Lord Rama defeating the demon-king, Ravana during his 14-year exile. Thousands of oil lamps were lit up to illuminate his road of return, marking a grand triumph of good over evil. Hence, Deepavali means “rows of lighted lamps” and is known as “Festival of Lights”.
On a personal level, Deepavali is also about the triumph of goodness over evil within. It is a reminder to discover one’s inner “light”, truth and goodness. This means evaluating one’s thoughts and actions in the past year, letting go of any negativity, and reflecting on how to move forward as a better person. These reflections provide a new sense of purpose, passion and appreciation for the new year.
2. Spend Time with Family
Deepavali is about community, so spending time with friends and family, offering each other well wishes and helping those in need, are important traditions.
The custom of gifting Indian sweets called “mithai” is an important way to share joy, wish each other prosperity and show appreciation to family, friends, colleagues and even neighbours.
If you are preparing to have friends over for some delectable Indian savouries and sweets, try Ponni Indian Groceries
at Changi City Point for authentic Indian delicacies and snacks delivered to your doorstep, or order up healthier whole grain tandoori platters, prata, biryani or naan meals from Prata Wala
at Northpoint City!
3. Share Good Wishes
Did you know that there are many different ways to wish someone Happy Deepavali? As the ancestors of Indian Singaporeans travelled from various regions of India, they brought along with them a diverse range of the language to Singapore. For example, you would say “Deepavali Nalvazhthukkal” in Tamil or “Diwali ki Shubhkamnaye” in Hindi. If you have Hindu friends, do wish them a life filled with light, happiness, prosperity, and a “Happy Deepavali” or “Happy Diwali.”
4. Abundance of Delightful Treats
This festival is when family members spend time in the kitchen to catch up and cook together. They usually enjoy a big family feast after and indulge in delicious sweets, dried fruits, and savoury snacks.
Indian sweets are usually milk or ghee-based and come in all colours, shapes and sizes! Every family and region has their signature “Mithai’, and many families make their own. Some of the iconic ones include Jalebi (crispy orange swirls covered in sweet syrup), Gajar Ka Halwa (sweets made with grated carrots and milk), Gulab Jamum (cinnamon and cardamom donut balls in rose syrup), Ladoo (sweet dough made of flour, ghee, dried fruit or nuts), Kaju Katli (cashew slice with saffron), Burfi (a fudgie treat made of condensed milk), and a sweet pudding called Kesari. Don’t be surprised if you see pineapple tarts among the mix!
Popular Deepavali snacks and dishes include Samosa, Murukku, Paneer Tikka, lentil curry, potato Varuval, cauliflower fritters and lots more!
Some of the best places to savour these delights are Deepavali Festival Village on Campbell Lane, and Deepavali Hipster Bazaar on Tekka Lane. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a cosy vegetarian meal featuring vegetables and curry dishes served on a banana leaf, try Veera’s Cafe
at Bedok Point. Or, if you’re well-versed in the kitchen, impress your family or friends with a homemade Indian dish. Head over to Sri Murugan Supermarket
at Northpoint City or Eastpoint Mall, to get premium quality and affordable Indian groceries!
5. Dress to Impress
Did you know that saris are the longest types of garments in the world? On the other hand, men wear high-collared tunics called Dhoti. It is common practice to dress in your newest, brightest and boldest outfit and avoid wearing dull, white or black colours.
6. Ancient Body Art
Along with beautiful outfits, you will see women with intricate floral henna decorating their arms. These are believed to be sacred and can represent beauty and spiritual awakening. Did you know that henna dates back to Egyptians when Cleopatra was believed to use henna for body decoration?
7. Brighten the Home
Spring cleaning and decorations are a must before Deepavali. An important custom is to light up the house with traditional clay or oil lamps called ‘diyas’ to symbolize the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
Colourful powdered floor designs called rangoli decorate doorways of Hindu homes to bring fortune and prosperity. They are considered an artform and are made of coloured flour, rice or flower petals. If you look closely, they usually feature geometric patterns and are inspired by nature and deities.
8. Morning Prayers
In the morning of Deepavali, Hindus wake up early to perform a spiritual cleansing in the form of an oil bath. They then head to the temple for prayers or “puja” where they express gratitude and wish for blessings from deities.
Decorated in breathtaking colours during Deepavali, there are over 35 different Hindu temples in Singapore, each with their own unique story.
The oldest and largest Hindu temple in Singapore is Sri Mariamman Temple. Located in Chinatown, it was built around the early 1800s and devoted to Goddess Mariamman who is known for her power to cure illness and disease.
Another famous temple is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India. It was built by pioneer Indians in Singapore during the mid 1900s, in honour of the powerful goddess, Sri Veeramakaliamman, who was believed to be the Destroyer of Evil.
Now that you understand a little more about Deepavali, head to Little India to soak in its awe-inspiring sights, smells and sounds! Catch the extraordinary festive installations lighting up the entire district from 7pm till midnight.
We hope these have inspired you to start counting your blessings, spending quality time with loved ones and learning a thing or two about Deepavali!