Biggest-ever Deepavali light-up an effort worth trumpeting

This year's Deepavali light-up features elephants, chosen by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association as the animals are closely linked with the theme of the royalty of India.
This year's Deepavali light-up features elephants, chosen by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association as the animals are closely linked with the theme of the royalty of India.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Every year, the people behind Little India's Deepavali celebrations challenge themselves to create a display even better than the one before.

The question this time was: How to top the peacocks that wowed everyone last year? The answer, apparently, was to bring on the elephants, for the biggest-ever light-up.

The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (Lisha) chairman, Mr Rajakumar Chandra, told The Straits Times how the gentle giants were closely linked with this year's theme of the royalty of India.

"We had not done something with elephants for years," he said.

Mr Rajakumar said the committee behind the light-up wanted decorations that matched the scale and beauty of the peacocks that stood at the entrance to Serangoon Road for last year's Deepavali.

And elephants, so deeply intertwined with Indian culture and royalty, were the perfect choice.

With that decided in February, the committee then called a tender and awarded it to design and contracting firm P'art 1 Design.

People lit lamps to usher in Deepavali in Little India yesterday evening at a celebratory event called
Bright start to Deepavali: People lit lamps to usher in Deepavali in Little India yesterday evening at a celebratory event called "Let's Light Up Little India", organised by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association. Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, celebrates the victory of light over darkness. Hindus commemorate this day by combining traditional beliefs and practices with the spirit of reverence, togetherness and celebration. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mock-ups were made, and after the approval was given in mid-June, the work of creating and installing the decorations began.

  • • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wishes all Indians who celebrate the festival a Happy Deepavali.

    • The Straits Times wishes readers who celebrate the festival a Happy Deepavali.

Recalling the discussions with the design and contracting firm, Mr Rajakumar said there was a learning curve for all involved.

For instance, the elephants in the original design were based on African elephants. The firm had to change and make the elephants' ears smaller, to more closely resemble their Indian cousins.

Ms Priscil Poh, director of P'art 1 Design, which has worked with Lisha three times on the Deepavali lights, said the most challenging part was setting up decorations that could withstand the weather - no mean feat as 1.5 million light emitting diodes were used in the display.

The elements take such a toll on the decorations that those which are not given away to be reused by other groups eventually have to be thrown away.

Mr Rajakumar said that after three or four months, lighting and circuitry problems would start to crop up and, with high storage costs, it is unfeasible to keep and recycle all of the decorations for future events.

Not being able to recycle some decorations is not the only issue Lisha has to consider. The colour of the lighting is another.

Mr Rajakumar said the volume of green lights in this year's display had to be reduced from about 12 per cent to 1 per cent when the design was being assessed by the authorities. The Land Transport Authority told him that the green lights could confuse motoristsas they were too similar to traffic lights.

Mr Rajakumar also said that the 12m-tall elephants near Tekka Centre were supposed to be adorned with white flowers.

"But then, we noticed that white flowers after some time change colour due to pollution and dirt," he said with a laugh. "We really didn't want the white elephants to change into grey elephants. So, that is why we changed the colour of the flowers to blue and purple."

Mr B. Mathan Prasad, 26, a teacher in a private centre, said the lights, which came on last month, are spectacular. "This year, Lisha has chosen elephants, which are sacred to Hindus, and they have been portrayed majestically at the entrance of Little India. I am very glad that Lisha has made this effort in its Deepavali light-up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Biggest-ever Deepavali light-up an effort worth trumpeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe