The Festival of Lights

It’s Deepavali (also known as Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.  If you read Wikipedia and try to figure out what Hindu gods are associated with Deepavali, you’ll mostly end up feeling confused (it’s celebrated to honor Lord Rama and Sita’s return after he defeated the demon Ravana, though for some people it celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and other people make offerings to Ganesha, or Saraswati … you can see that this is not straightforward).  Just focus on the lights, and you’ll be fine.

If we were some place in rural India, there might be lights in the windows of every home, and people might be floating candles down rivers.  But we’re in Singapore, so it’s harder to see what an authentic Deepavali festival might look like.  Pretty much everyone goes down to see the lights in Little India, which run down the streets like this:

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Since this is a festival, there’s a big emphasis on food — people line up for sweets — and on traditional flower garlands.  But mostly, people appear to line up to shop (or, in my case, they get trapped in the festival tent where everyone else is shopping):

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It was fantastically crowded and hot.  What were people shopping for?  Arm bangles and fake gold jewelry and incense burners.  And lots and lots of what I only know as baby fireworks (sparklers and such — the only fun things you can buy in the States for the 4th of July if you grow up in Connecticut, where real fireworks are illegal, until your dad discovers that dry ice and a soda bottle will make a pretty darned satisfying explosion).

There also appeared to be brisk sales of what I’ll call “things that dangle from the ceiling.”  I don’t know what dangly things have to do with a light festival, but they were everywhere I looked (and they sometimes hit me in the face).  There were lots of dangly beads, which reminded me of New Orleans, and fake flower garlands. There were dangly umbrella-elephant things…

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… and dangly bells …

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… and this scary dangly chicken …

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I did find a “cultural stage” where there was some lackluster singing going on, but mostly what I found were lots of people.  It was quite the scene.

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