Just around the corner on 18 & 19 October is the biggest Indian festival of the year, the ‘festival of lights’ known as Deepavali, or Diwali!
The colourful festival marking the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, places an emphasis on worshipping Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. As with many other festivals around the world, Deepavali features new colourful clothes, gifts of sweets and treats, families coming together to worship, greet and eat, fireworks and plenty of festive cheer.
Click on the gallery for our colourful tips on how to get ready to celebrate Deepavali – from what Indian outfits to buy, to everything you need to know on decorating your house, what Indian food to eat and where to see the best Deepavali lights in town!
A favourite Deepavali tradition is buying and wearing new and colourful clothes. Head over to the shops at Tekka Centre or Fab India (at Vivo city and Paragon) to buy some traditional Indian clothes- the more colourful the better! Boys typically wear a ‘Kurta pyjama’ which is a knee length tunic with drawstring pants and girls can wear the same or a ‘ghagra choli’ a long flowy skirt with a short blouse. For the girls (and yourself mama), it’s also fun to buy some colourful bangles from Little India Arcade or Mustafa.
Deepavali is an important time for Indian families to spring clean their homes, tidy up and decorate. As little kids, my mama always told us that if our house was clean and beautiful then we could be sure that Goddess Lakshmi would come and pay our home a visit on Diwali night to bless us!
Down in Little India, Jyoti flower shop has beautiful flower garlands to decorate your home or you could just head to your local florist and pick up some colourful yellow, orange and red flowers (festive Deepavali colours). While decorating, the emphasis is always placed on the entrance of the home to create a welcoming aura for family members and friends visiting and of course to draw in the Goddess.
Many families will create beautiful ‘Rangoli’ patterns at their home entrance, a colourful art piece created on the floor and made with different coloured fine powders, coloured rice or flowers. Rangoli is a great activity to do with the kids. You could even print out traditional rangoli designs from online to follow along or if you’re looking for a less messy option, have the little ones stick colourful rice directly onto rangoli pattern print outs.
‘Diyas’ or earthen lamps are the most iconic decorative item for Deepavali as it is the festival of lights (‘Deep’ means light) and during the festival period diyas are lit up and placed all around and outside the home. Nowadays many families prefer to use votives and tea lights for convenience and safety. It is fun to buy plain clay diyas and paint them—another craft idea for the kids! Rangoli supplies and diyas can be found in Little India arcade as well as on Campbell Street. Traditionally diyas are filled with ghee and a handmade cotton wick is lit …but this can get tricky with the little ones so you might want to stick to simple (even electric) tea lights from Ikea, which you can just place into the diya! Colorful light strings are also put up around and inside the home…so go ahead and light up your house this Deepavali and fill your home with a bright and warm festive glow.
A big part of Deepavali celebrations in India is fireworks and with the eco movement and emphasis to reduce noise and air pollution, this has been toned down somewhat. However children are still encouraged to light a few sparklers and have a little fun. Boxes of sparklers can be purchased at Campbell Street. Keep a close eye on this activity for safety mama!
Of course the best part of any festival is enjoying the delicious food and for many of us the chatter and giggles of family and friends cooking together in the kitchen is half the fun! Traditional Diwali fare includes lots of sweets (known as ‘mithai’), dried fruit, savory fried snacks and rich main courses that are typically vegetarian.
This is the time of year when home cooks pull out all the stops and use decadent ingredients like saffron, ghee, edible silver foil, dried fruits and full fat dairy products like cream and paneer (Indian cheese which you can buy fresh or frozen at Mustafa). Lots of wonderful traditional Indian sweets and snacks can be found at Mughal sweets in Little India as well as at Kailash Parbat restaurant. Look out for Kaju Katli (features cashews). Jalebi, Gulab Jamun and Milk Barfi.
If you’re looking to do some Indian cooking of your own in honour of Deepavali my Spicebox Kits are extremely handy featuring my cookbook ‘Cooking with Indian Spicebox’ and I would recommend looking at recipes such as Pakoras, Aloo tikki, Palak Paneer, Chana Masala and Heavenly Halva (a traditional Indian sweet made for prayers and offered to the Gods and Goddesses). A recipe for Heavenly Halwa is here. Important mama tip: Simply eliminate the red chilli powder/green chilli from any of the recipes to make your meal kid-friendly.
A trip to Little India with the kids post sunset (anytime between now and 18 October. Tip: Avoid Sundays!) to enjoy the gorgeous Deepavali lights is definitely in order plus some shopping (of sweets, diyas, decorations, sparklers, rangoli) is an excellent way to get into the festive mood. Come 18 October (a public holiday here in Singapore), put on some Bollywood music, decorate your home with the kids, invite some friends over for dinner and cook up a family-friendly Indian feast! In the evening, light the diyas (tea lights), put on your festive attire and enjoy the wonderful festival Deepavali to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Happy Deepavali!
Lead image sourced via HD Wallpapers. Kids costumes image (left), rangoli image and diyas image all sourced via Pinterest. Kids costumes image (right) sourced via Weddbook. Flower garlands image sourced via Battered Luggage. Kids sparklers image sourced via iDiva. Little India lights image sourced via YouTube.