Photo by Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA)
As one of the major cultural festivals in Singapore, Deepavali (also known as “Diwali” or the “Festival of Lights”) is a celebration that marks the triumph of good over evil.
It’s when thousands of Hindu families in the city—and across the world—transform their homes into beacons of light, exchange gifts, share feasts and perform pooja (prayers) to deities such as Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.
Join the action
Before the day of the festival, Hindu families throng Little India to gear up at the district’s many bazaars and snap photos of the stunning street light-up.
The monumental installations, Instagram-worthy decorations and bright festive lights will stand in the neighbourhood for about a month after Deepavali, so there’s plenty of time to celebrate with the locals.
Chase the scents of floral garlands and incense while browsing through stalls hawking gold jewellery, traditional snacks, embroidered sari (traditional Indian womenswear) and ornamental decorations. Enjoy a musical performance under the stars while getting an intricate henna tattoo done. Or simply park yourself at any of the neighbourhood’s many coffee shops with a mug of teh tarik (pulled milk tea) to watch one of the most beautiful festivals in Singapore blossom.
To learn more about the Hindu community, follow the Silver Chariot procession, held twice in the lead-up to Deepavali. Devotees tow a silver chariot that houses an effigy of the goddess Sri Drowpathai Amman all the way from the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown—the oldest of its kind in Singapore—to Little India.
About a week before the big day, the Sri Mariamman Temple hosts another cultural spectacle: Theemithi. In a ritual that continues well into the night, witness thousands of men walk on burning charcoal as a tribute to the goddess.
A divine welcome
It's hard not to notice a Hindu home during Deepavali. Each doorway boasts a beautiful, vividly-coloured picture created out of flour, rice or flower petals. It can take the form of a geometric pattern, a floral shape or a more detailed representation of animals or nature. Known as rangoli, these artworks are created to usher deities into the home, so that they can bless the household for the year ahead.