Autumn is a great time to visit Singapore as the country comes alive with festivals. The festivities start with the Mid-Autumn Festival where Chinese families come together and celebrate with mooncakes and lanterns. Then the Muslim community observes the religious 'Festival of Sacrifice' or Hari Raya Haji before handing over the celebratory baton to Hindu friends who host the most important festival in their almanac and one of the most colourful events in Singapore's festival calendar.
Deepavali, also known as the 'Festival of Lights', is where Hindus celebrate the spiritual triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness. Devotees gather at the Sri Veeramakaliamman, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman and Sri Srinivasa Perumal temples to light oil lamps and give thanks to the Gods and Goddesses. This is also the occasion when the whole of Little India comes alive with a canopy of lights, performances, floral garlands, sweets, bazaars and shoppers. The festival which brings unique sights, sounds and smells to the cultural precinct officially opened on 12 September with cultural performances at Kinta Road. Access to all bazaars and event area are FREE so head over to Little India today and enjoy the Deepavali festivities before they close on 21 October.
You can't celebrate Deepavali without the festive sweets and savoury snacks like Kesar Peda, Gulab Jamun, Badam Katli, Milk Peda, Coconut Ladoo, Mullu Murukku, Gathiya, Namkeen and Ompodi. No searching is required as they are abundant from bazaar stalls, shops and eateries all around Little India during this period. Make sure you buy some loose pieces for a real taste of Deepavali.
Celebrate Deepavali with Mahalakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity at the Festival Bazaar in Hasting Street. From 11am to 10pm, you can join a Scratch and Win Competition which entitles you to a chance to grab a chunk of luck from Mahalakshmi's Golden Pot. There are 50,000 prizes up for grabs including gold coins, silver coins, jewel boxes and many more. Each Scratch and Win ticket will also be entitled to a Grand Lucky Draw for the prize of a 50 gram gold coin. The Draw will be held on Deepavali Eve during the Deepavali Countdown Show. You can also take a photo with 'Mahalakshmi' and post it on 'Instagram' with a # to the Little India Facebook page. The post with the most number of 'likes' will win a prize.
While flower garlands are a common sight in Little India on a regular day, they remain central to Deepavali celebrations. Visitors are welcomed to purchase and wear the sweet scent while strolling Little India. You may also catch a glimpse of rangolis used to attract the attention of Goddess Lakshmia in some shops. It is a floral floor design made with flowers like carnations, roses and orchids of various colours.
The ancient art of henna practiced for over 5000 years in India is especially popular with the ladies during Deepavali. Traditionally tattooed on the palms, the varied Mehndi designs are symbols of good luck, health, fertility and sensuality. This temporary form of skin decoration is available from artists located around Little India.
Once a common sight in Little India, parrot astrology has nearly disappeared. So make a beeline for the astrologer in Hasting Street where you can have your fortune picked by the green parrot for mere loose change. The card selected will be accompanied by an explanation of your 'future'.
Photo courtesy of Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association
Check out the brightly coloured ethnic Indian wear including intricate clothing and fabrics, gold, silver and costume jewellery available from shops along Little India's Serangoon Road. There's the one-stop shopping at Little India Arcade and specialist saree and textile shops like Sri Ghanesh Textiles and India Saree Emporium to help you dress up for Deepavali.
Photo courtesy of Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple
Don't forget to visit the Hindu temples situated along Serangoon Road. The exterior will be decorated with flowers and lights for the Deepavali celebrations. You can also enter the temples for a look around and absorb the religious celebratory atmosphere at no charge.
Deepavali means a "row" or "series of lights" so visit Little India at dusk where decorations and streamers light up Selegie Road all the way through Serangoon Road and also Race Course Road till 2 November.