4 Nov 2021 - 7 Nov 2021

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Deepavali is one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar and is celebrated by Hindus across the Indian subcontinent and around the world. It is also known as Diwali and is observed by Jains and Sikhs as well. The festival is celebrated on the 13th day of the waning moon of the month of Aippasi (also called Ashvin) in the Hindu calendar, which occurs between mid-October and mid-November in the Gregorian calendar. While there are numerous regional variations in the celebration of Deepavali and various traditions associated with it, the festival mainly celebrates the triumph of good over evil, symbolised as the victory of light over dark.

Learn more about this holiday through these objects in ACM’s collection.

  

  • Object 1 – Cosmic Narayana as the Infant Krishna

     

    1994-05383_N(20170824)

    Cosmic Narayana as the Infant Krishna

    Southern India, Karnataka, 15th century (Vijayanagara period)

    Bronze                                                             

    1994-05383

     

    This figurine is a representation of a Hindu story in which the sage Markandeya sees a vision of the infant Krishna floating on the cosmic ocean on a banyan leaf. (The leaf from this sculpture has been lost.) Krishna sucks his toes (a very infant-like activity), while an image of Brahma, the creator of the present era of humankind, emerges from his navel on a lotus plant. The Cosmic Narayana in the title describes the Supreme Being of Hinduism, who takes many forms, including that of Krishna.

    For some Hindu communities, Deepavali is celebrated to mark Krishna’s defeat of the demon Narakasura. This day is also known as Naraka Chaturdashi (in Sanskrit, "Chaturdashi" means the 14th day of the month). While the legend of Narakasura has been retold with regional and historical variations in various Hindu texts, a popular version goes that Narakasura was blessed with invincibility, but – consumed with his great power – he conquered heaven and earth, oppressing all humankind, and was unstoppable by even the devas (celestial beings who control the cosmos). Following the kidnapping of 16,000 women, the devas appealed to Krishna, who promised his help. An epic battle between Krishna, accompanied by his wife Satyabhama, and Narakasura ensued, ending with Krishna’s triumph, and the freeing of the worlds. The celebration of Deepavali is thus to memorialise this victory, as a thanksgiving for freedom from captivity and oppression.

    Find this object in the Ancient Religions Gallery on Level 2. Click here to learn more about the Ancient Religions Gallery.

     
  • Object 2 – Deepalakshmi  


    1994-05384_01_N(20170822)

    Deepalakshmi

    Southern India, 16th century (Vijayanagar period)

    Bronze

    1994-05384

     

    The figurine of a woman holding a lamp is representative of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, who is venerated during Deepavali. The figure is richly attired and stands in the tribhanga (triple bent) pose. Her elaborately styled hair is ornamented with jewels, as are her neck, arms, waist, and ankles.

    The term “Deepalakshmi” is derived from the words "deepa" (lamp) and "Lakshmi". She is a symbol of good luck and prosperity, as she casts her divine light to dispel darkness. The lighting of lamps is an important part of Deepavali celebrations. The name of the festival means “row of lights”, in reference to this tradition.

    Lighting lamps is an important part of the Diwali festival (as they call it) for Jains and Sikhs as well. For Jains, Diwali marks the day that Mahavira, the 24th and last Jina (spiritual guide), attained release from the cycle of birth and death (moksha). For Sikhs, Diwali is celebrated to mark the day that the 6th Sikh Guru, Hargobind, was released from Gwalior prison by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.

     
  • Object 3 – Sari


     2017-00562 

    Sari

    India, Tamil Nadu, late 19th or early 20th century

    Silk, zari (gold-wrapped thread)

    2017-00562, Gift of Mr and Mrs Lee Kip Lee

     

    This finely woven silk sari is a typical weave from the southern Indian region of Tamil Nadu. Called Koorainadu saris (sometimes corrupted in English to "Konrad"), they often feature checked or striped patterns with wide borders at each end. These would be worn for celebratory events, such as Deepavali, or for weddings. The tradition of wearing Koorainadu saris has been carried on by the Indian community in Singapore, many of whose families come from Tamil Nadu. All communities that celebrate Deepavali mark the occasion by dressing up in new clothes and visiting temples, family, and friends.

    A sari is a length of unstitched cloth worn by women across the Indian Subcontinent and among the Indian diaspora (Indians settled in other countries). They vary in length, style, pattern, and colour, and women drape them in various ways over their body. South India, especially Tamil Nadu, is a major producer of mulberry silk, which is woven into saris that are prized for their beauty and finesse.