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Singapore’s Little India | A Cross-Cultural Patronage

Singapore Little India
Singapore Little India

Facts about Singapore Little India:

  • Little India’s area was gazetted for conservation on July 7, 1989.
  • Indians make up more than 8.8% of Singapore’s population.
  • Singapore Indians are linguistically and religiously diverse.
  • Indians are Singapore’s third largest ethnic group.

Little India is maintained by the Indian people who continue to express their cultural heritage throughout the streets, restaurants and shops located along the Serangoon River and because foreign visitors, along with Singapore residents, appreciate what they have to offer.  If you want to travel through Singapore and have never visited the country of India, Singapore’s Little India can be a great way to “feed two birds with one slice of bread!”  Little India was considered Singapore’s third most popular free-access tourist attraction in 2004 and it continues to be very popular to this day!

The streets make it easy to get around.

Since the area where Little India now stands was first settled by Europeans in the 1820’s, the streets continue to have English names.  Some examples are Buffalo Road, Race Course Road, and Campbell Lane. You won’t have to worry about getting lost in translation and there are trishaws (pedicabs) available to explore the streets of Little India too!

Where would you like to stay?

For those travelers who enjoy backpacking, Little India is a major part of Singapore’s backpacker district!  Singapore’s Little India offers many hostels and other cheap places to lay one’s head.  When picking an affordable hotel, however, remember that the price most likely reflects the quality of service.  It might be best to be picky (as some cater to the red-light district).  You might also be interested in finding a host family through the Singapore Tourism Board.

When would you like to visit?

Sunday evenings might be a great time to visit Singapore’s Little India, but be prepared for the crowds!  About a half-million workers might show up to enjoy their day off among the stalls of Indian goods, or between Mustafa Centre and Sim Lim Square (two giant shopping centers in the area).  Visitors can get their spices or flour milled every day at the different machines in Little India shops, but if they had to choose a few days during the year to visit, it would not be surprising if they picked the celebrations of Thaipusam or Deepavali to show up.

Some of the largest Thaipusam celebrations take place in Singapore.

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that is held during the last week of January or the beginning of February in honor of their faith.  Followers reveal their devotion by making and fulfilling vows; they might carry pots of milk on their heads or kavadi on their shoulders with hooks piercing their skin.  The Thaipusam Singapore procession begins at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road, which intersects Little India, travels through Selegie Road and ends at the Sri Thadayuthapani Temple on Tank Road.  Although kavadi are burdens of religious worship carried out by devotees of Indian background, it is now being practiced by people of Chinese descent as well.

Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, marks the homecoming of goodwill.

Also a Hindu celebration, Deepavali is considered one public holiday in Singapore and it is officially falls during the months of October or November.  But in Little India it lasts for the traditional five days and is known to light up the streets!  Calling it the Festival of Lights is appropriate since Deepavali in Sanskrit mean ‘rows of lights’.  Many of the legends behind this holiday reveal common themes of good conquering evil and in that sense, Deepavali is a time when people should put bad things behind them.

Little India Arcade

Don’t confuse Little India Arcade for anything more than a great shopping bazaar; Little India Arcade is not an establishment for kids to go and play mechanical and electronic games!  Built in 1913, Little India Arcade continues to offer the paan wallah (betel nut seller), and beautiful jasmine, ixora, or orchid flower garlands whose smells will surely attract you.  Little India Arcade sells many different items (such as saris, bangles, shawls, etc.), while offering many air-conditioned restaurants.  You can take a break and taste Bangladeshi food or try traditional meals cooked in the styles of Northern and Southern India.  Street peddling is a traditional practice in Little India, so you might also enjoy an astrological reading, having your fortune told, or other transient services along the way.

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