Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Celebrating Deepavali

In uniquely Singapore, there are three important celebrations in a calendar year that relate to the three major ethnic groups.  Typically, when we refer to Chinese New Year, the Chinese will come to mind; Hari Raya Puasa, the Malays and Deepavali, the Indians.  Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated by the Hindus and Sikhs.  

The meanings of Deepavali or Diwali, its symbols and rituals and the reasons for celebration are innumerable.  Deepavali celebrates Lord Rama’s glorious and long awaited return to his Kingdom of Ayodhya after his fourteen long years of exile in the forests.  It commemorates Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakaasura who had kidnapped and terrorised the gopis of Vrindavan.  When the evil Narak was finally killed by Bhagwan Krishna and Satyabhaama, he begged for mercy; thus upon his entreaties, it was declared that this day of his death would be celebrated with great joy and festivity.  It is also celebrated as the day of Bhagwan Vishnu who married Maha Lakshmi.

Deepavali is also associated with the legend of the fall of Bali – a demon king who was conquered by Lord Vishnu who appeared in the form of a dwarf before the demon.  When Lord Vishnu re-appeared in his original form, he placed one foot on the Earth, another on the Heavens and the third on the head of the evil Bali.    

“Deep” means light and “avali” mean a row and together, it means a row of lights.  While it is a one day public holiday in Singapore, it is actually observed and celebrated over five days.  The history of Deepavali has its root that relates to the legends from the Puranas (holy Hindu scriptures).  Central to the theme, it evolves around the classic truth, the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness.  The lighting of oil lamps symbolises gratitude to the Gods for the happiness, health, wealth and knowledge bestowed upon the people.            

During the festive period, the main road along Little India in Serangoon is tastefully decked up in colourful decoration befitting the rich Indian culture.  Street bazaars are also set up along with many exciting fringe activities to welcome throngs of visitors including curious tourists.  The electrifying atmosphere at Little India is densely filled with holiday mood among shoppers.     

Special delicacies are prepared during Deepavali celebration which symbolises sweetness and happiness.  These delicacies are also offered to deities for blessings.  Deepavali is the time where family members and friends rejoice together and enjoy the many delicacies prepared for the special occasion.      

Perhaps one of the best descriptions for Deepavali is made by Times of India Editorial which says, “Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple – and some not so simple – joys of life.”  

Wishing all Hindus & Sikhs a Happy Deepavali!

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