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Singapore makes Diwali a National Festival

Arriving in Little India, the quarter patronised by Indians in Singapore, I was greeted by an endless glitter from 50,000 bulbs that lit Serangoon Road and the surrounding areas.

Added to it was the hustle and bustle of multitudes of people shopping to a cacophony of sounds, sights and smells, all of which combined to make this year’s Deepavali (Diwali) Festival memorable.

It was amazing to see life-size figures of Radha and Krishna strung on a swing mounted on a massive 6 metre tall arch, 23 metres across the street, adorned with bright lights and buntings.

There was another imposing Arch outside Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road. In between were 65 other small arches starting from Selegie Road, covering the entire length of Serangoon Road.

Traditional performers

All the arches featured traditional Indian performers dancing to the beat of Indian percussion at both ends of each arch while glowing oil lamps (symbol of prosperity) beautified the centre sections.

This year’s decoration theme was Radha and Krishna, symbolising the victory and triumphant return of Lord Krishna after vanquishing the demon king Narakasura in the battle of good over evil and light overcoming darkness.

There are also other legends that inspire this Festival, the most prominent of which is the victorious return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after 14 years of exile in the forest.

Festive Bazaars

The Festival included bright colours, bazaars and numerous cultural activities such as the Indian Heritage and Craft Exhibition, Heritage Village, Street Parade, Countdown Concert and many others.

The Festive stalls buzzed with wares such as fragrant flowers, prayer garlands, traditional oil lamps and beautiful saris with intricate brocade patterns and glittering gems. Colourful Indian outfits, costume jewellery and arts and crafts were also on sale, along with Indian delicacies.

Deepavali, an enchanting homage to the beauty and joy of life, is celebrated by Hindus primarily in India and across the globe. It is also celebrated by Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.

One People

Singapore has declared November 2, 2013 as an official public holiday to mark Diwali. The Festival has become an integral part of Singapore’s rich history and culture. It will be marked as a community event by residents, including citizens, migrants and visitors under the umbrella of ‘One People, One Singapore.’

The varieties of sweets and savouries served during Deepavali symbolise sweetness and happiness in life. These are offered first to Deities after traditional prayers and then served to members of the family and visitors.

Other attractions

Several other attractions abound in Singapore’s Little India as a part of the Deepavali festivities. These include the light-up tour for visitors, cultural programmes and concerts, attended by Indians Chinese, Malays, Eurasians and other communities, making it a truly national event.

Outside Little India would be Singapore International Deepavali Shopping Festival, a mega lifestyle exhibition with vendors selling images of Deities, textiles and garments, cosmetics, wellness and health supplements, household items, wrist watches, electronic products and so on.

Special Programme

‘Kalaa Utsavam,’ an annual Festival of Indian arts will be held at the Esplanade from November 15 to 24, at which famous Indian musicians, dancers and artistes will participate alongside Singapore Indians and non-Indians this year. Popular Indian writers such as Chetan Bhagat will also be present at the Festival.

Diaspora Convention

The South Asian Diaspora Convention, scheduled to be held on November 21 and 22, would be another major programme of the festive season. As reported in our October 15 issue, ministers, thinkers, economists, social activists and other dignitaries will participate in the two-day Convention.

Dr V Subramaniam is our Singapore Correspondent.

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