11 November 2010

Happy Deepavali... to you...

The Indian holiday of Deepavali (also called Diwali) was last Friday.  In an attempt to be somewhat culturally aware of the most important annual festival for Singapore's third-largest population, I did myself a little research.  Turns out Diwali is actually a pretty complicated holiday.  I'm not going to go into great detail, but here are some fun facts I put together about this colorful, noisy, and crowded popular event.

Fun Fact No. 1: Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year and celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.  It is celebrated by lighting clay oil lamps, visiting family, making offerings, and eating special foods.

Fun Fact No. 2: Diwali decorations include dangling shiny things, mango leaves hung in doorways, aromatic garlands, and... Ganesh (obvi):

Fun Fact No. 3: Everyone buys new clothes during this time.  Too bad i have no idea how to wear this stuff without it looking like a Halloween costume (or a bizarrely inappropriate and offensive Hindu Barbie).

Fun Fact No. 4: in the days leading up to the holiday (which is actually about 5 days long), everyone goes out to party, light firecrackers, toss confetti, and generally hang out with 100,000 of their closest friends.

Fun Fact No. 5: Henna tattooing is also popular at this time.

Fun Fact No. 6: There are a lot of interesting odors in Little India during Diwali: smoke from fireworks, incense, sweet jasmine, freshly cooked curry, spicy snack crackers, discarded food offerings, and, oh yeah, thousands of sweaty people crammed like sardines into Mustafa Centre and the Festival Market.  People!  Have you never heard the term fire hazard?

Fun Fact No. 7: Little India is one of my favorite parts of Singapore.  In addition to being probably the most authentic "ethnic" district in this (mostly sterile and largely personality-free) city/island/nation, it's also the most interesting.  There are always lots of people around, moving, fetching, building, praying, eating, buying.  The word "bustling" comes to mind.  It's got dilapidated (well, dilapidated for Singapore) buildings, stray cats, random groups of men chilling on sidewalks eating lunch and listening to Hindu pop on their portable radios, about a zillion great Indian vegetarian restaurants, stores selling $3 blue jeans and sandals, crazy-looking gold jewelry, stalls selling nothing but bindis and sequins, and of course the colorful ziggurat-topped temples with their riotously writhing statues of gods, goddesses, and... cattle.  It just feels like a real place (albeit kinda surreal as well), which is pretty much awesome.

* This particular temple is actually in Chinatown, but i like this photo because it shows the cows, gods, AND a blue sky.  =)

Fun Fact No. 8: In preparation for Diwali, Hindu families spend weeks cleaning and renovating their homes.  I actually got kind of excited about this particular tradition, because I figured I could use it as an excuse to get Husband on board with a full-scale apartment master cleanse (I'm anal that way), but all I really got was him, standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding a broom and looking confused.

Husband: What's this?

Me: A broom.  Don't pretend.

Husband (still pretending): I don't understand.

Me: We need to clean all the things.

Husband (eyes widening): Clean ALL the things?


  1. Hey, I know how to use a broom! You use it to poke your wife around to do stuff for you!

  2. poking me is not going to help you clean anything, much less ALL the things...

  3. Hey, we did have some of the same photos! Too bad I didn't run into you, I might have had a better time and hung around for a little longer. I will now resume my cleaning of all the things.

  4. Great photos, by the way. I'm a big fan of doors.