Deepavali is the name used in Singapore for the celebration also known internationally as Diwali, or the “festival of lights.”
It is a Hindu holy day, marked with a public holiday in Singapore.
It takes place in autumn each year, falling some time between mid-October and mid-November.
It coincides with the darkest new moon night of Kartika, the eighth month of the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. Deepavali is symbolic of the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
Understanding Deepavali in Singapore
Hinduism is one of the four main religions in the country, along with Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The history of Hinduism in Singapore can be traced back to the 7th century AD, and Singaporean Hindus typically have Indian heritage. Hindu immigrants from India in the early 19th century settled in a community which is now known as Little India, east of the Singapore River.
Little India is the centre of Deepavali celebrations in Singapore. It is decorated throughout the month leading up to Deepavali with ornamental lights depicting traditional Indian motifs, such as oil lamps, elephants and peacocks. Before Deepavali, bazaars are held in the Little India Arcade and the field opposite the shopping mall, Mustafa Centre, where visitors can buy greetings cards and a variety of traditional Indian items including incense, costumes, food, toys and music. Exhibitions, parades and concerts also take place. These events are mainly organised by The Hindu Endowment Board of Singapore.
Deepavali in Singapore’s Little India Night Market
Before Deepavali, Hindus prepare by cleaning and renovating their homes. They decorate their doorway with a rangoli, a colourful picture made of rice, flour or flower petals, which is believed to invite deities into the home to bless the household. Then, on Deepavali night, they dress up in their best clothes and put out lights and candles both inside and outside the home. Together, the family prays to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, in a ritual known as Lakshmi Puja. After this is complete, there is a feast, fireworks and an exchange of gifts.
There are around 30 Hindu temples in Singapore, each dedicated to gods and goddesses from the pantheon. Two of these, the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, are listed as National Monuments of Singapore. Deepavali events are held at the temples and they are decorated with beautiful lights and garlands. The culture of Singapore is so diverse and well integrated that many non-Hindus take part in Deepavali. Tourists and non-Hindu residents of Singapore often visit the Little India district and the Hindu temples to enjoy the festivities and admire the colourful decorations.
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