Little India is the heart of the Indian community in Singapore. The vibrant and colourful district is lined with traditional shophouses which are now shops selling Indian merchandise and Indian restaurants, and Hindu temples and mosques which pay tribute to its rich cultural heritage.
TOP 1 Explore Tekka Market
Built in 1915, Tekka Market has always been a bustling market that’s popular with residents of all ethnic groups. An unmistakable landmark in Little India, it is easily accessible via Little India MRT station. Start your journey at the wet market at the ground floor where you can find all sorts of vegetables (Indian, Chinese, Western etc), fruits, seafood, tofu, eggs, noodles, poultry, beef, pork and even fresh lamb meat which is a favourite among Indian households as they are key to a mouthwatering pot of mutton briyani. Next, head to the cooked food section where you’ll find a variety of Indian, Chinese and Malay food stalls with such a wide range of offerings that will leave you with difficulty in choosing. The upper levels of Tekka Market comprise shops that offer various retail goods and services.
Address: 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665
TOP 2 Set Foot at the Former House of Tan Teng Niah
The former house of Tan Teng Niah is an eye-catching structure in Little India that has a long history. Built in 1900, it was the house of Tan Teng Niah, a Chinese businessman who owned several sweet-making factories where sugarcane was used to make sweets. It is also the last surviving Chinese villa in Little India, the last representation of small Chinese industries that once co-existed in Little India with the Indian-dominated cattle and rattan businesses. Since it was restored and conserved in the 1980s, it has welcomed countless visitors through its doors to gaze at its beauty and gain insight into the structural details and designs of a Chinese villa of that era. The intricate designs of the house are accentuated by the bright contrasting colours, calling out to passers-by and visitors to snap more photos.
Address: 37 Kerbau Road, Singapore 219168
TOP 3 Visit Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
One of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple was built in 1881 by Bengali labourers and dedicated to Veeramakaliamman or the goddess Kali. It played an instrumental role in the lives of early Indian settlers in Singapore as many of them came to the temple to seek the goddess for help and a sense of security in a foreign land.
The temple miraculously survived the bombings during World War II, and has been rebuilt several times over the years with some extensions added. Be sure to dress modestly as you take off your shoes and step into the temple to be wowed by the intricate details and colours.
Address: 141 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218042
Opening hours: 5.30am – 9.30pm daily
TOP 4 Make a Stop at Indian Heritage Centre
The Indian Heritage Centre is a museum cum cultural centre that showcases the cultural heritage of Indian Singaporeans. Its collection of over 440 artefacts is sure to give you an insight into Indian culture and the lives of the early Indian settlers. Among the artefacts are costumes, jewellery, sculptures, wooden Chettinad doorway carvings and vintage suitcases used by the settlers. There is also a series of war-time publications dated back to the 1940s that were donated by Mr S. R. Nathan, Singapore’s 6th president.
Augmented reality can be used in its permanent galleries where visitors can use their mobile devices to find out more about the artefacts by listening to a virtual guide.
Address: 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore 209924
Tuesdays – Thursdays: 10am to 7pm
Fridays – Saturdays: 10am to 8pm
Sundays/Public Holidays*: 10am to 4pm
Closed on Mondays
*The Indian Heritage Centre is closed on Public Holidays that fall on a Monday unless otherwise stated. Last admission to the galleries is half an hour before closing.
TOP 5 Savour Authentic Indian Cuisine
A potpourri of Indian cuisines can be found in the restaurants that line the streets. Look forward to sumptuous North Indian and South Indian cuisine, and even cuisine from neighbouring Bangladesh at Desker Road. Be it vegans or meat lovers, there’s something to satisfy everyone from the fragrant whiffs of briyani, the tempting aroma from fish head curry, the crispness of the dosa (thosai) and poori, the fresh hot naans, the savoury tandoori meats, the comforting milk tea to the cool indulgence of kulfi (house-made ice cream with spices). It is a feast that’s not to be missed!
TOP 6 Pay a Visit to Abdul Gaffoor Mosque
The one-of-a-kind architecture of Abdul Gaffoor mosque is sure to catch your eye if you happen to be in the vicinity. It has a mix of South Indian, Moghul and European influences, giving rise to the unusual symmetry, Western classical motifs, and the incorporation of Moorish details. The tiny stars and moons that adorn the walls and the tip of the spires add to the intricacy of the design.
Originally built in 1859 to cater to Indian Muslim immigrants, Abdul Gaffoor Mosque still serves largely the same purpose today with madrasah classes in Tamil on top of religious classes. After a series of rebuilding, the mosque can now accommodate at least 3000 people. Like other religious premises, visitors are to dress modestly when visiting and attending classes.
Friday: 14:30 – 16:00
TOP 7 Drop By Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple was established in 1927 when a Thai monk, the Venerable Vutthisasara built a temporary structure to house a statue of Buddha that he had carried to Singapore. The temple is named after Buddha who was also known as Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama. In 1930, the present temple was built with donations from businessmen Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the duo behind the Tiger Balm ointment. A 300-tonne Buddha statue is housed within its grounds. Chains of lights were hung around the statue, hence the temple is also known as “Temple of a Thousand Lights”. The temple’s architecture has a mix of Chinese, Indian and Thai influences, giving it a one-of-a-kind design.
Address: 366 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218638
Opening hours: 8am – 4.30pm daily
TOP 8 Shop at Mustafa Centre
Mustafa Centre is a 24-hour one-stop shopping destination at Little India. It is conveniently located at one of the exits of Farrer Park MRT Station, making it highly accessible and easy to locate for tourists. Its 6-storey compound holds a vast range of products from groceries to electronics, health and beauty products and other things for your daily needs, making it vastly popular among both locals and tourists. The collection of souvenirs is also rather impressive, with Singapore-themed key chains, chocolates, Merlion figurines, Eagle Brand medicated oil, sauces and premixes. An added point is they have a money changer, so cash strapped tourists can get their currencies exchanged here.
Address: 145 Syed Alwi Road, Singapore 207704
Opening hours: 24 hours
Website : http://www.mustafa.com.sg
TOP 9 Step Into Little India Arcade
Little India Arcade is a cluster of conserved neoclassical shophouses built in 1913. It has since been refurbished and houses an array of shops and eateries selling traditional Indian snacks and merchandise along with restaurants and bookshops. This is a good place to get your hands on traditional Indian sweets and desserts, Indian jewellery and clothing. You can also get your hand painted by henna artists.
Spot the five-foot way (five-feet-wide covered pedestrian walkway) characteristic of colonial-era shophouses, as well as the vintage lamps, ventilated doors and cross-tiled windows.
Address: 48 Serangoon Road, Singapore 217959
TOP 10 Marvel at the Murals
Colourful murals are spread out across the walls of the shophouses in Little India, with some depicting scenes from the long gone days of Little India. The mural pictured above is titled ‘Traditional Trades of Little India’, where trades such as parrot astrology, garland making, selling of traditional snacks and laundry washing are showcased. Other murals include Working Class Hero, Village Curry, Cricket, Book-a-meeting and many more. Check out this list and start exploring!
Address: 8 Belilios Lane, Singapore 219955
Photo credits: Little India Directory, Flickr/Uwe Schwarzbach, Flickr/Choo Yut Shing, Around The Globe, Roots.sg, The Finder Singapore, Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, kosublog
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