PENANG / PULAU PINANG - NORTHERN REGION OF PENINSULAR MALAYSIA
PLACES OF INTEREST : Little India
 
 

LITTLE INDIA

BIG ON HISTORY & CHARM

Walking down the streets of Little India in Penang is like being in a Bollywood movie. Catchy Indian love songs blast loudly from the speakers along the streets. Handsome men with thick moustaches call out to you with a shake of their heads, hawking their wares. Lovely women with long braids and dark eyes run about in colourful sarees to do their shopping.

 
 

LEGACY OF 18TH CENTURY MALAYA

 

But far from being a location set of a Hindustani movie, Little India in Penang is very real and truly appealing. It is the legacy of an 18th century Malaya when Indian merchants and labourers - the Gujaratis, the Malayalees, the Telugus and the Punjabis - came to the island to seek fame and fortune. The merchants arrived on the island to trade spices, textiles, coconut oil and tin; the labourers came and built the first roads on the island; others worked at the waterfront hauling cargo from the sea vessels that anchored overnight. Though their initial intention was to accumulate wealth and return home, many ended up residing permanently in Penang, eventually making up a thriving Indian community on the island.

 

Those that stayed have turned the streets of Lebuh Pasar, Lebuh Penang, Lebuh Queen and Lebuh Chulia into their homes and commercial centre. Along these streets, they have a monopoly of economy - textile shops promoting the latest silks and sarees from Mysore; jewellery stores displaying glittering stones set in gold; money changing counters advertising European and Asian currencies; merchants selling prayer paraphernalia; and roadside vendors peddling steaming hot vadais, sweetmeats and fresh milk.

 
 
 

FOOD & SHOPPING IN LITTLE INDIA

 

 

Tourists who come here can purchase a few metres of Indian textile and hop over to the tailor next door for a custom-made dress. While waiting, they can browse the selection of a local jewellery shop or look out for the elderly goldsmith who still crafts jewellery using traditional tools and methods and get a ring fashioned to size within a day. Little India also boasts restaurants serving up some delicious breads like roti canai, naan and chappati. Taken with an assortment of curries and condiments, they are a breakfast favourite of many. Then there are the ?banana leaf rice? meals - fragrant, steaming hot rice served on a banana leaf (instead of plates) and eaten with chicken curry, potatoes and chutney.

 
 
 

A WINDOW TO THE PAST

 

The Kapitan Keling Mosque The Mahamariamman Temple on Queen Street
 

Besides the shopping and the food, Little India is also famous for its heritage buildings. of the 500-odd retailers within Little India, many operate from pre-war buildings with beautiful and classic architecture dating back to the early. 19th century. The centuries-old Muslim and Hindu places of worship - the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Nagore Shrine and the Mahamariamman Temple - are also in the vicinity. The Mahamariamman Temple on Queen Street built in 1 833 is the first Hindu temple on the island. Its front entrance displays magnificent carvings of Hindu gods and myths. Housed within is the statue of Lord Subramaniam, the universal granter of wishes and the deity of youth, power and virtue, embellished in gold, silver diamonds and emeralds.

 

The Kapitan Keling Mosque founded before 1800 is the largest historic mosque in town. The original building was rectangular with verandahs and a hipped roof, but its structure has since been enlarged several times. In 1 91 6, British architects re-designed the mosque with a British Moghul appearance and added the elegant minarets.

 

Little India, along with other historic areas in Penang, is a custodian of the island?s rich and charming socio-economic heritage. Recognising its importance, UNESCO added George Town to its list of World Heritage Sites on 7 July 2008. This recognition highlights the importance of such historical areas as Little India as well as other historical sites such as Lebuh Acheh Malay Mosque, Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Kling Mosque, the Goddess of Mercy Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, Khoo Kongsi, St George?s Church, Assumption Church, St Xavier?s Institution, Convent Light Street, the museum and court building, the commercial area of Beach Street, Fort Cornwallis, Esplanade, City Hall, the clan jetties and the port areas.

 
 
 
 
PLACES OF INTEREST : Little India
PENANG / PULAU PINANG - NORTHERN REGION OF PENINSULAR MALAYSIA