Diwali: Celebrating the Festival of Lights in The Garden City
On November 4th, Indian communities all over the world will celebrate Diwali or Deepavali, the most important of all Hindu Festivals. Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” the holiday abounds with all manner of colourful light displays in both private homes and at public events. It symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.”
Although, like many festivals and celebrations this year, Diwali celebrations may be pared down from its usual fanfare, it remains an important time for many people around the world.
The origin of the word "Diwali," which is from the Sanskrit word "Deepavali" where "deepa" means light and "vali" means row or series of lights." This is exactly what is seen in homes during this time—rows of lights in celebration of the festival.
In Singapore, it is a public holiday where Hindus wear their finest clothes and decorate the interior and exterior of their homes with bright colourful lights, oil lamps, and rangolis (colourful art patterns made of dyed rice or flours); visit temples; perform worship ceremonies of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; light fireworks; and partake in family feasts where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared. Diwali is also a major event for the Sikh & Jain diaspora.
Sweet treats are traditionally prepared using flour, semolina, rice, chickpea flour, dry fruit pieces powders or paste, milk solids (mawa or khoya), and clarified butter (ghee). These are then shaped into different kinds of sweets, such as laddus, barfis, halwa, mysore pak, nei urundai rolled and stuffed delicacies, such as karanji, shankarpali, maladu, susiyam. Sometimes these are wrapped with edible silver foil. Confectioners and shops create Diwali-themed decorative displays, selling these in large quantities, which are stocked for home celebrations to welcome guests and given as gifts.
In the weeks leading up to Diwali, one can feel the anticipation and bustle of the holiday as the markets along Singapore’s Serangoon Road, where the “Little India” district is located, comes alive with stalls and crowds, buying food and festive trinkets including, flower garlands, jewellery, souvenirs, and crafts. Henna artists set up stalls ready to draw flowers and other designs on customers’ hands using locally made henna dyes (from the henna plant).
For my family, as part of a long-standing tradition and celebration, I will draw the rangoli on the floor with my daughter and light sparklers in the evening to welcome the festival.
Although Diwali 2021 celebrations may not be as loud and colourful as previous years, the festival will remain a time for positivity and hope. May it bring you peace, prosperity, success, health, and great happiness for the year ahead.