Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events

Known as the Festival of Lights, Deepavali falls between October and November of the Gregorian calendar every year. North and South Indians believe in different legends regarding its origins, but a common and recurrent theme is the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, which is symbolised by the lighting of lamps.

Goods for sale at a Deepavali bazaar in Little India, 2017Deepavali at Little India, Singapore, 2007. Courtesy of Yeo Kirk Siang.

In the run-up to Deepavali, many Indians will visit goldsmiths to purchase jewellery and shop for ethnic clothing. Many Indians will thus flock to Little India, the heart of Singapore’s Indian community, as it is the focal point for festive shopping.

During Deepavali, it is customary for elders to smear turmeric on new clothes as a gesture of blessing before giving them out to family members. In return, younger family members show respect by prostrating themselves before their elders. Hindus typically pay respects to their ancestors or loved ones at home or at the cemetery because they believe that the souls of the departed will return to earth during this period.

Food is also an important part of Deepavali, and South Indians like to start their meals on Deepavali with something sweet to signify a good beginning. Popular food served during Deepavali include mithai (traditional Indian sweets), adhirasam (a doughnut-like snack made with rice flour and jaggery, deep-fried in oil), murukku (a savoury, crunchy snack) and vadaj (a savoury fritter).

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