Singapore, Sep 20: A two-month-long celebration of Diwali and other Hindu festivals started early in Singapore with a dazzling array of colourful lights and carnival settings of some 700 small and medium enterprises in Little India here, a precinct of buzzing Indian-origin businesses.
Singapore's Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say last night officiated the light-up of over 30,000 metres of LED lights, banners, flag posts, tentage camps and a festival village along the thoroughfare of Serangoon Road and its vicinity for the celebration.
"We expect two million visitors during the two-month (festival) to Little India," said Rajakumar Chandra, chairman of Little India Shopkeepers & Heritage Association, which is organising the events along with the Singapore Tourism Board.
Some 800,000 Indians in Singapore, comprising over 400,000 second and third generation Singaporeans, will throng Little India over the next two months for shopping and celebrate the festivals, he said.
Diwali, or Deepavali, is part of STB's annual tourism promotion activities which also includes large-scale celebrations of Christmas along the Orchard Road, Chinese New Year in China Town, and Eid or Hari Raya in the Geylang precinct of the mostly Malay community.
This year, the two-month-long festival has been made part of Singapore's ongoing celebration of its 50 years of independence, SG50. Last year, the Diwali carnival was visited by 1.6 million people, 30 per cent of whom were tourists.
"Visits to Little India is a must for Indians in Singapore. It is a one-stop shopping precinct for all their requirements," Chandra said.
Musical and dance shows by artists from India and local talents will lead performances on weekends along with fashion shows and exhibition of Indian pottery-making.
The celebration will also include Navaratri festival and fire-walking (Theemidhi), that is annually held by south Indian Hindus in temples in Malaysia and Singapore.
The carnival and festivities will be held from September 19 to November 22, about a week after Diwali. Chandra said for tourists in Singapore, Little India is among the prominent attractions, and many of them make several visits to understand India's culture, ambiance and a wide range of Indian products, he said.
Chandra said he has not seen such a large concentration of Indian businesses in any part of the world outside India.
"We are the most like India itself," underlined Chandra, who runs shops in the precinct that sell Indian-origin goods. He pointed out that the riots by some 300 South Asian workers here on December 8, 2013 has long been forgotten as a one-off incident.
It was Singapore's worst street violence in 40 years and was sparked by a fatal accident of an Indian. Singapore has since enforced a number of rules and regulations to control rowdy elements.
Chandra said Little India has become a better place since the riot. "It is a lifestyle hub for Indians in Singapore."