Singapore Little India District
Little India is like a slice of the Calcutta of old; with Serangoon Road at the heart of the action. Bollywood music, the smell of exotic spices and frenzied trading characterise an area that is home to Singapore’s many immigrant Indian and Bangladeshi workers.
Unlike many other areas of Singapore, Little India was not planned as a community by the colonial authorities in the same way as Kampong Glam or Chinatown. It actually came into being because immigrants to India were drawn to business developments in the area. In the late 1920s, the government established a brick kiln and lime pits that attracted Indian workers.
Many Indians came to Singapore to find a better life; other they were sent to the island as prisoners by the British colonial rulers of India. These labourers helped the development of the city’s infrastructure; especially through the construction of a great deal of the most famous buildings including St. Andrew’s Cathedral and many Hindu temples. An enlightened penal project permitted convicts to study a trade of their choice in the evenings and many chose to stay in Singapore and contribute to its development after completing their prison terms.
Other Indian traders, teachers, and labourers came to seek their fortune and Sir Stamford Raffles accommodated this influx with an area of land north of the British colonial district. Little India encompasses most of Serangoon Road and the district is bounded by Sungei Road/Rochor Canal Road to the south and Lavender Street and Perumal Road to the north.
Attractions in this area include Tekka Market, one of the city’s largest markets; the Little India Arcade, a cluster of art deco-style shophouses built in 1913 that houses stores selling Indian candies, saris, and incense; the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque; Farrer Park, site of Singapore’s original racecourse; the charming Leong San Temple; the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, more commonly referred to as the “Temple of 1,000 Lights”; the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple; and the famed Mustafa’s Centre, up Syed Alwi Road, a multi-storey emporium of inexpensive goods.