Heavy rain fails to dampen spirits at Deepavali bazaar

5,000 turn up for televised concert, fireworks display

The Deepavali decorations in Little India. -- NP PHOTO: LATASHNI GOBI NATHAN
The Deepavali decorations in Little India. -- NP PHOTO: LATASHNI GOBI NATHAN
Shoppers at the Deepavali Bazaar in Little India on Oct 22, 2013. -- NP PHOTO: LATASHNI GOBI NATHAN
A vendor sells festive flowers at Little India in Singapore, Oct 31, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman applies henna on the hand of a customer at a Deepavali Bazaar at Little India in Singapore, Oct 31, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The crowds were out in force at the Deepavali festival village bazaar in Hastings Road and Campbell Lane in Little India on Nov 1, 2013, cramming in some last-minute shopping in preparation for the festival, which falls on Nov 2, 2013. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Sree Maha Mariamman Temple president Kalyani Ramasamy (second from right) and CEO Parvathi Annanth (right) with some of the books the temple will give out today as part of the festivities. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It rained again on Friday over Little India's annual Deepavali bazaar, but it failed to dampen the mood on what was the final day of the shopping fair.

There was barely moving room at the Festival Village, where the bazaar was held, as more than 5,000 visitors thronged Little India's streets for a televised countdown concert and fireworks display. It was a respite for stallholders after the heavy rainfall this past week saw sales dropping by up to a third when it poured.

"The bad weather means people clog up the exit to keep out of the rain, and fewer shoppers want to venture in," said Mr Thiru Dahmo, 58, owner of Jothi Music Corner, which is renting one of the bazaar's stalls. Fair weather means 60 or so customers at his shop but, on rainy days, the number falls to 40, he added.

Clothes seller Jeet Kaur, 57, whose stall is near the entrance of the Festival Village, had $1,000 worth of clothes ruined by the deluge. The colours ran and embellishments fell off due to the heavy rain and winds. "The slow-moving crowd also meant fewer sales for most of us here," she said.

Mr Rajakumar Chandra, the chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, admitted that the rain has been disruptive for most of the 35 or so businesses at the bazaar.

But he said he had hopes that the bazaar's longer operating hours over its last two days - it ends at 3am this morning - will make up for the shortfall.

As part of its celebrations, the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple at Yishun Avenue 3 will give out to devotees 1,500 Tamil and English books - from novels to non-fiction ones brought in from South India - from 10.30am to noon on Saturday, to encourage reading.

Said its chief executive and legal counsel Parvathi Annanth: "This falls in line with our hopes of building a generation of bilingual youth. And it will be a nice gift for Deepavali."

The festival of lights, initially slated for Sunday with a resulting public holiday on Monday, was switched to Saturday after an announcement by the Ministry of Manpower in April, on the advice of the Hindu Advisory Board.

Based on the Hindu almanac, most parts of India, along with other countries such as Malaysia, are celebrating Deepavali on Saturday.

Although the change came nearly seven months ago, it still inconvenienced some Hindus.

Mr A. Vikneswaran, 42, for instance, felt as if he had lost an extra day of preparation. "It would have been nice if my son and I could have spent Saturday cleaning up the house with my wife instead of leaving it all to her on Friday," said the information technology professional on Friday.

But the change did not faze sales adviser Jayanthi Sethu, 33. "It happens quite often because the date isn't set in stone. Usually, I don't make any plans until it's confirmed," she said.

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