Another public holiday is on the horizon, and while we all appreciate the break from work and maybe the chance to plan a brunch with family or friends, it’s also rewarding to discover more about the celebrations of this cultural festival. In 2023, Deepavali falls on 12 November. Here, we run our eye over what Deepavali is, some of its key aspects and things to do.
What is Deepavali?
Meaning a “row of lights” in Sanskrit, it’s a religious festival and major event in the Hindu calendar, celebrated by Hindus all over the world. Also known as Diwali, as a variation in north Indian languages, it marks the triumph of good over evil and, symbolically, light over darkness.
When is it celebrated and for how long?
The Hindu lunar calendar determined the date on which Deepavali falls. It typically occurs sometime in the months of October and November. The celebrations last about five days.
Why is it celebrated?
There are various legends surrounding this vibrant festival. One of the most popular ones is the story of the return of Lord Rama and his wife to their North Indian Kingdom after a 14-year exile. The people joyously welcomed him with thousands of lamps.
How is it celebrated?
Similar to how lamps were lit for Lord Rama’s return, diyas (oil lamps made of clay) are placed around homes during the festivities. Devotees also clean their homes to prepare for the occasion. Doorways and entrances are often decorated with rangoli – a traditional form of floor art which consists of beautiful patterns usually made out of flour, sand, flower petals or rice. These special decorations are to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into the home.
Festivities begin early on Deepavali with rituals such as oil baths, putting on new clothes, heading to the temple to pray and visiting homes of friends and relatives for feasting. You can expect a mix of sweet and savoury eats and delicacies. They include mithai (South Asian sweets) such as gulab jamun and puran poli, a sweet Indian flatbread.
The different days of Deepavali
Day 1: Dhanteras. This is an auspicious day for buy gold, silver or any precious metal. These items are believed to bring abundance to your home for the year to come.
Day 2: Choti (small) Diwali. The final day of the fight between good over evil (where good triumphed!).
Day 3: Diwali. The main celebration, involving prayers to the Goddess Lakshmi for protection and abundance in the year ahead.
Day 4: Govarndhan Puja. A celebration to show gratitude to the gods and goddesses for their protection.
Day 5: Bhai Dhooj. A celebration for siblings.
Where can I take part in the celebrations in Singapore?
#1 Deepavali Light-Up
Catch the annual Deepavali light-up in Little India, which kicked off in September and runs until 3 December. Stroll along the streets and you’ll see all kinds of colourful arches, bright lights and other adornments such as peacocks and lotus flowers.
Shop till you drop at the annual bazaar in Little India! Campbell Lane is again hosting the Deepavali Festival Village in 2023, where you can take your pick of colourful apparel, tasty desserts, festive decor and other popular items. Daily from 10am to 10pm (until 1am on the nights of 10 and 11 November)
To indulge in the cultural flavours of Deepavali, head along to the Food Bazaar at Poli@Clive Street. This is a feast for the senses and for the taste buds too, as lovers of Indian food gather to enjoy highlights of the cuisine. 2pm to 10pm daily, until 11 November.
#4 Indian Heritage Centre
This year, the Indian Heritage Centre’s (IHC) Deepavali Open House (running until 14 November) welcomes everyone to celebrate the occasion with an exciting array of programmes. Visitors can enjoy the annual Little India Deepavali street light-up and decorations on the Deepavali Big Bus Tour, which will run over the Open House weekends.
Other Deepavali-themed programmes include craft workshops, cooking- demos, heritage trails and evening trishaw rides. Find out more at ihc-programmes.peatix.com.
Thanks to Puja Surtani for updating this article. Her online perfumery Eastern Scent is where you can spoil yourself or discover a thoughtful gift for him or her!
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