5 Nov 2020 - 30 Nov 2020

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This November, LET'S LEARN ABOUT...Deepavali!


Deepavali is a festival celebrated widely by different religious groups, including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains. Known as the Festival of Lights, it usually falls in October or November. This festival marks the victory of light over darkness. Let's find out more!  




1) Deepavali is also known as Diwali.


The festival is referred to as Diwali in some parts of India and as Deepavali in others. In Singapore, Deepavali is used, and it is one of our National Holidays.


2)  Lights have a special meaning in this festival.


The lights used during this festival are not just for decoration. The word Deepavali means “row of lights”. It is believed that light represents good.

There are many stories that tell us why Deepavali is celebrated. One of them is based on the ancient Indian epic the Ramayana. When Prince Rama and his wife Sita returned to their home city of Ayodhya after defeating King Ravana, the people of Ayodhya celebrated by lighting clay oil lamps to brighten their path.

At this time of year, the Sikhs remember the release of their sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, from prison in 1619. Upon his release, the sacred Sikh Golden Temple at Amritsar, India, was brilliantly illuminated. And this tradition continues each year, commemorating the day. The event is called Bandi Chhor Divas, and is celebrated on Diwali.

Each year, Jains light lamps on Deepavali to celebrate the wisdom and knowledge of their teacher, Lord Mahavira.


3) Deepavali is a time to celebrate with family.


Celebrating this festival brings light and positivity into people's homes and lives. Homes are cleaned and decorated with lights and clay oil lamps. Those celebrating the festival wear new clothes and eat special meals with their families. Rangolis, which are patterns made with coloured rice powder or rice grains, are used to decorate the front of the house.

You may notice lots of lights coming from a neighbour’s house during this festival. The lights and lamps are said to bring prosperity in the year to come.




Lakshimi lamp


Lamp depicting Lakshmi

Southern India, 19th century




It is believed that during Deepavali, Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and beauty, will bring good fortune to all clean and brightly lit homes. Can you spot Lakshmi seated in the centre of this oil lamp? Above her is a serpent with a wide hood, and on her left and right are peacocks. If you look closely, there are four smaller figures of Lakshmi around the bowl of the lamp. This lamp can be found in our Ancient Religions Gallery.



parrot-shaped lamp


Parrot-shaped oil lamp

Northern Vietnam, 11th or 12th century





Does this lamp look like a real parrot? Lines were etched into the clay body to show feathers. Its feet are on a lotus flower pedestal; lotus has the meaning of purity in Buddhism. This style of lamp might have been used in a temple. Can you tell where the oil should be poured? You can find this little parrot in our Maritime Trade Gallery. 



Dehua oil lamp


Oil lamp with sea creatures

China, Dehua, mid-17th century


Gift of Frank and Pamela Hickley



What sea creatures can you find in the basin of this lamp? In the past, a scholar may have placed this lamp on his desk. He would fill it with oil and put a wick in the centre. When the wick was lit, the flickering light over the pool of oil would have made the crab and shrimp appear to come alive "underwater". 





Make your own oil lamp light! Fold a piece of coloured paper into a fan shape. Stick it onto cardboard or thicker paper with tape or glue. Then, use yellow or orange paper to cut a shape in the form of a shimmering flame and stick it at the top. Snap a picture of your light and tag us @ACM_SG #LearningatACM for a chance to get your photograph featured.


Oil lamp paper craft 




Learn more about Deepavali through an audio storytelling clip of an episode from the Ramayana as part of our monthly programme Saturdays @ ACM here.


Head to NHB’s one-stop heritage portal Roots.sg to read more about the lamps featured:


Lamp depicting Lakshmi

Parrot-shaped oil lamp

Oil lamp with sea creatures 



Would you like more of these resources? Come back to learn new things every month.

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Check out other videos, and download e-resources inspired by the objects in ACM’s collection.