17 October 2009
Diwali or Dīpāvali (Sanskrit: a row of lamps) is a significant festival in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and an official holiday in India. Adherents of these religions celebrate Diwali as the Festival of Lights. They light diyas – cotton string wicks inserted in small clay pots filled with oil – to signify victory of good over the evil within an individual.
In Hinduism, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dĭpa), thus its name: dīpāwali. In South India, it marks the victory of Krishna over Narakasura. Over time, this word transformed into Diwali in Hindi and Dipawali in Nepali, but still retained its original form in South and East Indian Languages. In Dravidian languages it is called as Deepavali and the same is used in Malaysia and Singapore.
Diwali has been significant in Sikhism since the illumination of the town of Amritsar commemorating the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji (1595-1644), the sixth Guru of Sikhism, who was imprisoned along with 52 other Hindu kings at Fort Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir. After freeing the other prisoners, he went to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in the holy city of Amritsar, where he was welcomed happily by the people who lit candles and divas to greet the Guru. Because of this, Sikhs often refer to Diwali also as Bandi Chhorh Divas - “the day of release of detainees.”
In India and Nepal, Diwali is now considered to be a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians and Nepalese regardless of faith.
On the day of Diwali / Deepavali, many wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks. Some North Indian business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
Mr Whattaworld would like to greet all his Hindu friends a Happy Deepavali (or Diwali) – the festival of lights this year falls on a Saturday so there will be no holiday from work here in Singapore. However, for us in the company, there will be an additional off in lieu credit which will accrue into our leave balance. This could only mean more holidays for me…
27 September 2009
Each year here in Singapore, the cultural enclaves of Kampong Glam, Chinatown and Little India come alive in a festive mood to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and Deepavali. Along with it are various performances, bright lights, street bazaars, free walking tours and culinary delights.
The Singapore Tourism Board has been promoting the One City Three Festival Event for the past two years already. This festival aimed to showcase the unique heritage of this small nation to both tourist and foreigners (such as me) who are living in Singapore.
As mentioned, free-guided walking tours in the three ethnic precincts have been prepared for everyone interested. This 45 minute tour is available daily from 18 Sep – 11 Oct (except 19 Sep and 3 Oct). All you have to do is show up and register at the meeting place 10 minutes before the tour starts.
5:00pm 6:00pm 6:30pm 7:00pm
Meeting place: Malay Heritage Center
4:30pm 5:00pm 6:30pm 7:00pm 7:30pm 8:00pm
Meeting point: Chinatown Heritage Center
6:00pm 6:30pm 7:00pm 7:30pm
Meeting point: The Verge (formerly Tekka Mall)
If you are not available on the various schedules above, you can be able to do some exploration at your own pace by downloading the self-guided walking map HERE.
If walking in not your cup of tea, the breezy open-top light-up bus ride is available for you to enjoy the festive lights and sounds in three places mentioned above. This hour long bus tour is available at just 5 SGD. Just like the walking tour above, this is available also from 18 Sep – 11 Oct (except 19 Sep and 3 Oct). The bus departs half-hourly at the Chinatown Heritage Center beginning from 7:30pm until 10:00pm.
I recommend these festive deals to all those tourists who will be coming over to Singapore and even those working here. It is fun, and most of all it doesn’t cost too much. Definitely in the next few week, I will be donning my tourist hat and will be taking advantage of these offers while they are still available.