As you will be aware this Saturday is a public holiday in Singapore for Deepavali but you might not be aware what it is all about. I sat down with a friend to have a chat about what this day means to him and how he’ll be celebrating.
One of the things that I have come to realise since moving to Singapore is that you can’t think of India as one homogenous place. A couple of years ago I asked someone at work to write a quick paragraph about Deepavali. He said he couldn’t as there was no one meaning behind the festival and that it’s different for each region of India. So this is not aiming to be a definitive description of Deepavali but a personal account of how it will be observed/celebrated.
What does this festival mean to you?
It’s a time for the family to get together, have some family time and a big feast.
What is the unique about the area of India that you are from for this festival?
I’m from north India, where our folklore is that Lord Rama’s wife is kidnapped by Ravana of Lanka. Lord Rama raises an army and goes to Lanka to defeat Ravana and get his wife back. Diwali is the day that he returns to his kingdom.
How will you be celebrating the festival this year?
We spend several days preparing for the festival as a group; cleaning the house, making decorations and preparing for the feast.
We get to eat lots of home-made unhealthy food, it’s a time for feasting and throwing your diet in the bin.
On the actual day of Diwali we will start with decorating the house with traditional lamps called deepaks. These are oil lamps like Aladdin’s lamp. Also we decorate the front door step with a colourful design made from Rangoli. This is a fun time with the kids making it up each year using our artistic skills.
In the evening we will pray for a couple of hours at home before we have a big family feast with all the homemade goodies such as gujia, ladoos and mathri.
How do you find it different celebrating Deepavali in Singapore as opposed to back home in India?
Back in India everybody swaps their home-made treats with each other and if you have neighbours from other religions they would swap on their festival days.
The biggest difference though is that back home there are fireworks everywhere. People will spend all the evening setting off and watching the fireworks. Where as here we have a feast after the prayers in India we go to the fireworks and the feast is much later.
Are these all organised fireworks displays or just randomly setoff in the street?
No it’s totally disorganised and everybody does it their own way. There are no organised official displays it’s all personal.
As a non-Hindu, is there anything that you could go along to, to experience this festival?
This is a family festival mainly in the home. The community centres will be organising events that you can go along to. Also Little India it’s decorated with lights similar to how Orchard Road will be for Christmas and there will be shows on and sales in the shops.
So hopefully now you have a better insight into this important occasion.
This is the second in a series of posts covering the major festivals celebrated in Singapore, to read the earlier post about Hari Raya Haji click here.
Ed: Check out this blog for some photos of Little India during Deepavali