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The ultimate guide to Deepavali in Singapore

All you need to know about the Festival of Lights which falls on November 4 this year

Delfina Utomo
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Delfina Utomo
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Deepavali (also known as Diwali) is a key festival for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists around the world. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the celebration symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil. If you take a walk around Little India, you'll see the vibrant cultural enclave shining brighter during the festive season with magnificent art and light installations. Before you start your celebrations for Deepavali on November 14 proper, here's a primer on what it is about. 

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Origins
Photograph: Udayaditya Barua/Unsplash

Origins

Deepavali is associated with many different things, depending on your beliefs, but despite the differences, most of the tales usually have the common theme of good triumphing over evil.

To the South Indians, Deepavali is tied to a myth about Lord Krishna who defeated the cruel demon king Naraka in a fierce battle. The festival is to commemorate the day the demon was slain, effectively ending his rule of darkness to welcome light into the world.

Up in the North, the story of Deepavali is associated with the Indian epic Ramayana. It tells the story of Lord Rama of Ayuthya who was exiled to the forest for 14 years. After killing the demon Ravana, Krishna returned home with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to reclaim his throne. As a gesture, people in the villages lit up their houses with clay lamps – also called diyas – to celebrate the defeat of evil. This tradition continues today.                                                

Prayers and blessings
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Prayers and blessings

As with most religious celebrations, the day starts with prayer rituals (pujas) and younger family members receive blessings from their elders. After the morning rituals, some Hindu families pay a visit to the temple to offer their prayers and then spend the day visiting relatives and friends. 

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Traditional practices
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Traditional practices

This year's Deepavali falls on November 14, but preparations for the special day begin early. There is cleaning to be done, new clothes to be bought, and sweet and savoury snacks to be prepared. 

As part of the celebrations, entrances of homes, shops and temples are decorated with kolam (also known as rangoli). The floor art of kolam is achieved through the sprinkling of coloured rice on the ground in geometric shapes, dots and lines to form intricate patterns. These are often set out to attract good luck and ward off evil spirits. Diyas are lighted up to bring good energy into the home. 

Food and snacks
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Food and snacks

Being a religious festival, some Hindus choose to abstain from eating meat during Deepavali. But there are also many other snacks and sweets served during the holy day. 

While the ellu urundai (sesame seed balls) is known as a sweet only available during this festival, more popular favourites include the gulab jamun (buffalo milk and saffron balls), halwa (a dense, sweet dessert) and sugee (ghee, sugar and vanilla/almond biscuits).

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Fresh threads
Photograph: Kiran Joshi/Shutterstock

Fresh threads

On Deepavali, most don new clothes because it represents new beginnings and a fresh start. Women wear vibrant sarees made from silk, chiffon, and velvet while the men put on the classic kurta and dhoti – although these days you might see more people dressing more casually for comfort. But one thing's for sure – the colour black is avoided because it is associated with death and regarded as inauspicious. 

 

Celebrations in Little India
Photograph: Charles Postiaux/Unsplash

Celebrations in Little India

If you make your way to the Little India area, you'll see the lights and decorations that are just as impressive as the Christmas lights in Orchard Road. During this period, the area becomes livelier than usual with many flocking to the shops even at night to get textiles, clothes, gold jewellery, flowers and ingredients for making festive goodies, while also stopping to marvel at the lights. 

Get festive ready

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