Best buys for Deepavali

A sea of fairy lights in Little India signals the coming of Deepavali. Three weeks before the Festival of Lights on Nov 10, bazaars and sales have begun in Serangoon Road, with stalls hawking the latest festive fashion, jewellery and gifts. Life unearths 10 places to check out for your Deepavali shopping

Deepavali Festival Village

An institution in the Deepavali celebrations in Little India, this yearly bazaar is organised by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.

There are 40 vendors peddling festival-related items - from ornamental decorations to festive cookies to religious statues.

Held in Hastings Road and Campbell Lane, the bazaar is open from 10am to 11pm daily till Nov 9.


1 APPOLLO SELLAPPAS

What: From afar, they look like colourful paintings laid out on a table. Go nearer to the stall and you will see that the wares are, in fact, rangoli (floor decorations) made of plastic and glass.

Rangoli are placed at the entrance of homes during Deepavali to serve as a warm greeting to guests. Originally, they were created by painstakingly arranging coloured rice or flour at the door. Nowadays, many prefer to buy ready-made pieces.

At Appollo Sellappas, customers can pick from more than 30 rangoli designs flown in from India and Bangladesh. Stall owner C. Sankaranathan, 43, says the bazaar attracts not just Indians,

but also tourists and Singaporeans of other races: "They learn about some of our traditions from the items sold."

His stall also sells other Deepavali-related items, including sparklers, lamps, torans (wall hangings) and decorative flowers.

Where: Stall in Campbell Lane

Price: A small rangoli starts at $18

Info: Call 6292-4646


2 DESIGN MANTHRAZ

What: Buying childrenswear that is both comely and comfortable can be a painful quest for parents. Imagine the headache involved in looking for ethnic wear for them.

The folks at clothing line Design Manthraz have been selling ethnic wear for children for more than 10 years.

Catering to newborns all the way to children aged 10, owner S. Gunasekeran (above) and his wife offer five designs for boys and five for girls using only soft materials such as cotton. The couple source for the latest trends from India each year.

For boys, they carry the usual array of kurtas (Indian loose shirt), Modi kurtas and jackets - a style popularised by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi - and wraparound dhotis (Indian sarongs).

For girls, there are traditional South Indian two-piece tops, shimmering ghagra cholis (long skirt and blouse) and saris.

Mr Gunasekeran, 50, says: "We sell childrenswear that is easy to wear and fashionable, so that the kids look as good as their parents during Deepavali."

Design Manthraz has an online store and sets up shop at the Deepavali bazaar each year.

Adult tops for both men and women are also available. The store also stocks larger sizes to cater to plus-sized clientele.

Where: Stall in Hastings Road

Price: From $10 for a girl's dress and from $20 for a boy's kurta

Info: www.facebook.com/designmanthraz



Religious items on sale at Gokulam Jewels & Crafts.

3 GOKULAM JEWELS & CRAFTS

What: Large, resplendent statues of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesh wrapped in plastic grab your attention the moment you step into Campbell Lane.

Religious statues, prayer altars and terracotta decorative figurines of Hindu gods and animals such as elephants and horses are the centrepieces here.

Co-owner G. Saraswathi, 66, says the majority of the stall's wares are sourced from her husband's hometown of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.

Besides statues, there are brightly hued lanterns, henna, lamps and bindi holders for sale.

A vendor in the bazaar for more than 20 years, Ms Saraswathi says: "We have been doing this for so long now that it will be weird not to, even though we are getting old."

Where: Stall at the entrance of Campbell Lane

Price: From $3.50 for a lamp and $29 for a small figurine of Lord Ganesh

Info: Call 6298-9184


Deepavali Mall

Run by new organiser Aim Connections this year after changing hands several times in its 25-year history, the bazaar features a mall-like layout with 120 food, clothing, jewellery, home decor and gift stalls.

It has an on-site amusement park, stage for performances and wider walkways to boot.

Located at the open field opposite Mustafa Centre in Serangoon Road, it is open daily from 10am to 10pm till Nov 10.


4 TRISHA'S CRAFT

What: Dress your outfit up with evergreen Indian jewellery in the classic styles of meenakari, polki or kundan .

Harking back to the Mughal era, meenakari is the art of enamelling on metals such as gold and silver, and drawing extravagant patterns. This is matched with either polki, which are made out of uncut diamonds, or kundan, out of glass stones, resulting in distinctive pieces.

At Trisha's Craft (left), row upon row of glittering necklaces, earrings and bracelets are laid out - sure to catch the eye of passers-by from a distance.

A staff at the stall notes that these are "all the latest trends from India" as you can see Bollywood actresses wearing them in films and television dramas.

He adds that the jewellery is handcrafted work - microgold plated and made on brass.

Where: Stall number N3, located along the middle row of stalls

Price: From $10 for a pair of earrings and $15 for a necklace



Ms Nisha Rohra is in town to set up shop on her late mother’s behalf, selling ethnic womenswear.

5 KIRAN'S TEXTILES

What: For the past five years, Indian national Kiran Rohra ran this ethnic womenswear stall at the bazaar.

Just last month, Madam Rohra died at age 53, but her daughter, Ms Nisha Rohra, is determined to keep the stall going.

Ms Rohra, 25, who travelled here from her home in Mumbai to continue the business, says: "Many customers look forward to our designs each year."

A portrait of her mother sits in a corner of the stall.

Ms Rohra designs 60 per cent of the flowy anarkali (long frock-style top) suits herself, getting inspiration from Bollywood and her home city, where the clothes are made.

The outfits she sells emphasise intricate embroidery and dramatic patterns matched with bright colours. There are more than 200 styles, as well as a small collection of voluminous lehengas (Indian skirt and top).

Where: Stall number H2, located in the middle at the leftmost row of stalls

Price: From $25 to $120 for a three-piece anarkali outfit



Hampers ranging from $5 to $300.

6 MAAZ GLOBAL TRADING

What: Working the Deepavali bazaar scene for the past five years, stall-owner Azizah (who goes by just one name), 41, noticed that no one was selling hampers, a trend she noticed at other festival marketplaces including Chinese New Year and Geylang Hari Raya bazaars.

So, this year, she and her daughter Sharifa decided to be the first to sell food hampers at the Deepavali Mall.

Ms Sharifa, 20, says: "We thought that hampers would be a good gift if you aren't sure what to get."

The mother-daughter team spent the last month sourcing for items and packing the hampers.

Their 30 types of hampers run the gamut from tiny - comprising a teddy bear keychain and sweets - to massive (with murrukku, vegetarian cookies, chocolates and a plethora of other goodies).

Healthier versions include oats and biscuits, and chocolates with less sugar.

Apart from hampers, they sell festive cookies, flowers, vases, sparklers and snacks to munch on at the bazaar, such as ice cream.

Where: Stall number T3, located near the end of the bazaar, leftmost corner

Price: $5 to $300


Others


The Fairy Necklace. PHOTO: THE SANDALWOOD ROOM

7 THE SANDALWOOD ROOM

What: Check out one-of-a-kind handcrafted gemstone pieces by Sitaram Jewels.

One of the oldest jewellers in Chennai, India, the brand name is now available here at The Sandalwood Room boutique and art gallery in Prinsep Street.

Earlier this month, the year-old boutique brought in a limited- edition Sitaram Jewels collection as part of its first anniversary celebrations. Pieces include earrings, necklaces and rings - made with gems such as coffee diamonds, orange moonstones, aquamarine and amethyst. Unlike Indian jewellery which is typically heavy and flashy, the designs are elegant and understated.

Owner Jayashree S. Mani says the collection combines traditional craft with contemporary design.

"Deepavali is about sparkle and colour and this collection is sparkle and colour with a difference," she says.

Where: 76 Prinsep Street, open 11am to 8pm (weekday) and 11am to 2pm (Saturday)

Price: From $350 to $800

Info: Call 6883-2369 or 9786-5896



PHOTO: ANJALICHOCOLAT

8 ANJALICHOCOLAT

What: The home-grown artisan chocolatier draws inspiration from classic Indian flavours, including garam masala and cardamom, to come up with a Deepavali collection. These include garam masala truffles and lemon and pistachio bonbons.

The brand is owned by Ms Anjali Gupta, 51, a Singapore-based Indian citizen. After hearing from friends that many of the sweet hampers they gave or received during Deepavali were left uneaten, she came up with recipes last year for a modern alternative to the custom of exchanging gifts during the festival.

Where: 01-15/16, 73 Loewen Road

When: Till Nov 11

Price: A box of nine pieces for $31.50, a box of 16 for $56

Info: Also available at www.anjalichocolat.com



PHOTO: SAREE SENSE

9 SAREE SENSE

What: Consider sari blouses with unusual designs, such as a Mandarin collar or kebaya neckline, from home-grown womenswear label Saree Sense.

To complement her SG50 Jubilee Collection, owner-designer Subashini Balakrishnan came up with one-of-a-kind ready-made blouses that, as she describes it, "one can't get in Little India".

Ms Balakrishnan, 32, fused Singapore's eclectic fashion with classic Indian details.

An electric blue turtleneck (right) is paired with intricate embroidery, for instance, and a flowery silver top sports a Mandarin collar and sheer back.

"The modern designs allow me to reach a younger pool of women - both Indian and non-Indian - as they can mix and match the blouses with saris that they already have," says Ms Balakrishnan.

Made in materials such as raw silk and jacquard, the blouses are fully lined and padded. They are available in UK sizes eight, 10, 12 and 14.

The blouses are selling fast - only 11 out of the 20 designs are still available online.

When: Available till Nov 10

Price: Between $60 and $80

Info: www.sareesense.com



PHOTO: CARD ATELIER

10 CARD ATELIER

What: Singapore brand Card Atelier incorporates classic festival motifs, such as lamps, elephants and peacocks, in its Deepavali cards (above) - but veers away from gaudiness.

Its seven Deepavali-themed designs feature intricate workmanship and charming illustrations, and come in colours such as orange, green and red.

Card Atelier's owner-designer Buvenasvari Pragasam, 29, has created various card structures, ranging from pop-up cards to tridiac cards which open up to reveal three levels. Ms Pragasam can also customise designs.

When: Available at cardatelier.com till Nov 5

Price: From $3.50 a card.

Early-bird discount of 10 per cent for Deepavali cards till Oct 24


More festive bazaars

ZAK SALAAM INDIA EXPO 2015

What: At the annual Deepavali marketplace, organised by Zak Trade Fair and Exhibitions, one can find the latest fashion trends from India.

Of the 150 vendors, close to 110 of them are from cities such as New Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

Apart from the wide array of clothes, jewellery and handicraft, there will also be a wedding gallery, food contest and tastings, and a cultural show.

Where: Hall 5B, Singapore Expo, 1 Expo Drive

When: Till Sunday, 10am to 9pm

Info: zaksalaamindia.com


THE FAIR

What: Founded by Ms Chumkie Banerji, 66, more than 20 years ago, this bazaar houses vendors of both European and Asian nationalities.

This year, about 40 vendors will sell artisanal items such as paintings, home decor and jewellery. For example, Scottish artist Heather Anderson will be selling bottle art and handpainted elephant sculptures, while Ms Farah Aljunied is bringing in kimono belts from Japan.

Where: Level 3 Picasso Ballroom, Pan Pacific Orchard, Singapore, 10 Claymore Road

When: Today, 10am to 6pm

Info: www.fairsandbazaars.com


UTSAV: DIWALI & KARWA CHAUTH BAZAAR

What: Happening a day before karwa chauth, the ritual in which married women fast for the longevity of their husbands, this bazaar caters specially to the women.

Besides items related to the custom, such as sweets, prayer lamps and gift platters, there will be henna artists, on-site clothing alteration services and an assortment of festival items including sparklers, dry fruit hampers and torans (door hangings).

Where: Atrium at Leisure Park Kallang, 5 Stadium Walk

When: Oct 29, 10am to 10pm

Info: www.vmall.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Best buys for Deepavali'. Print Edition | Subscribe