Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is one of the most important events on the Singapore public calendar. It is a public holiday and a major religious and cultural festival for our local Hindu community, and also significant for Sikhs and Jains.
Usually taking place in early November, Singaporeans can look forward to a brilliant display of lights and other decorations along major thoroughfares in Singapore, along with the lovingly-decorated homes of Singaporeans who commemorate the occasion.
To learn more about the famed festival of lights, I spoke to Ruthirapathy Parthasarathy, general manager of the Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant. He is also a prominent member of LISHA, the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, which seeks to preserve the heritage and culture of Little India, while also contributing to its development.
Helping to run a restaurant chain famous for its delectable fish head curries, under the stewardship of Mr C Sankaranathan, Ruthirapathy is a busy man. But the gregarious 52-year-old, a veteran of three decades in the retail business, generously cleared some space in his schedule to tell me all about Deepavali and his love for the holiday’s traditions.
Could you briefly describe the significance of Deepavali, and explain what happens on the day?
Deepavali is the Festival of Lights, and represents the victory of good over evil. It is a religious festival and event, and celebrated on Nov. 4 this year, and when we believe good triumphs over evil. In a way, it’s like bringing light into our homes. So we will light up small lamps all over the house on the eve of the festival.
Most people will be vegetarians on the day itself. In the morning, they will apply oil to their hair before visiting the temple. Then, they will visit relatives, usually starting with their parents or grandparents first. Later, they will visit friends, or welcome them to their homes. Of course, it might be a challenge this year.