Little India: Indian and
Kelly. Rochore Eyewitness. Singapore: Landmark Books for Rochore
Citizen's Consultative Committee, 1989.
Falaq Yusuf Kagda
(Ed). Muslims in Singapore – A Shared Vision. Singapore: Times Edition Pte Ltd, 1994.
Walter, Gilbert E. Brooke, Roland St. J. Braddell
(ed). One Hundred Years of Singapore.
Singapore: Oxford University Press.
Nirru K. (ed). Arpanam: A Dedication: Facets of Singapore
Indians, Singapore: Landmark Books for the Organising Committee of a Dinner by the Indian Community,
Sharon & Nirmala Puru Shotam. Singapore’s
Little India: Past, Present and Future (2nd ed with epilogue), Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990.
Sharon & Nirmala Shotam-Gore
(ed). Serangoon Road:
A Pictoral History, Singapore: Educational Publications Bureau, 1983.
Districts: Conservation Guidelines for Little India Conservation Area. Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991.
Joan. Tidal Fortunes: A Story of Change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin. Singapore: Landmarks Books, 1990,
David Rees. The Peoples of Malaya.
Singapore: Donald. Moore, Eastern Universities
Jean Pierre. Hinduism in Singapore: A Guide to the Hindu Temples of Singapore. Singapore: Donald Moore, Asia Pacific Press, 1969.
H. F. Stories of Early Singapore. London: University of London Press, 1953.
Vineeta. Hinduism in Singapore: A Sociological and Ethnographic
Perspective. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, 1987.
Brenda S. A. & Lily Kong. Portraits of Places: History, Community and
Identity in Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, 1995.
People and Places. Singapore: Oral History Department, National
Archives of Singapore, 1990.
Dissertations on Little India at NUS (Theses)
Dhinagaran, “The Ramakrishna Mission in Singapore:
1928-1982”, Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,
National University of Singapore, 1988/89.
Kaur, “Evaluation of the Conservation Proposals of
Little India”, School of Building & Estate
Management, Faculty of Architecture & Building, National University of Singapore, 1992.
Gopal, “Kaliamman Temple Serangoon Road, Singapore:
A Study of the Economic and Social Position of a Hindu Temple”, Dept. of Social Studies, University of Malaya, 1958.
Kan Sok Cheng, “Conservation Scheme
of Little India”, School of Building & Estate
Management, Faculty of Architecture & Building, National University of Singapore, 1988.
Suresh, “Singapore Indian Association, 1923-1941”, Department of History,
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.
Chan Nam, “Hindu Temples in Singapore”, School of Architecture, Faculty of
Architecture & Building, National University of Singapore, 1983.
S., “Growth and Decay: A Study of change in two Hindu Temples in Singapore”, Dept. of Sociology, Faculty of Arts
and Social Sciences, University of Singapore, 1979.
Bharzana Begam, “The Making
of a Place: History, Community & Identity of Little India”, Dept. of Geography, Faculty of Arts
& Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 1997.
Francis, “Little India: A Study of Mutual Help & Community
Structure in Lower
Serangoon Road”, Dept. of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Singapore, 1971.
Sook Wei, “The Success of
Ethnic Trades in Conservation Area: Little India”, School of Building & Estate
Management, Faculty of Architecture & Building, National University of Singapore, 1995.
Neeta Devi Dharam P., “The Life of Rajabili Jumabhoy, a Pioneer Kutchee Khoja Immigrant in Singapore”, National University of Singapore,1996.
Vineeta, “Hinduism in Singapore: A Sociological and Ethnographic
Perspective”, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,
National University of Singapore,1987.
Changaroth Natyala, “Little
India”, School of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture & Building,
National University of Singapore, 1982.
Mohamed Baquir bin Md. Ibrahim,
“The Tamil Muslim Community in Singapore”, Department of Social Work, Faculty of
Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 1973.
Tracie Chieh Sze, “Socioscopes in a Global City: Singapore’s Little India”, Dept. of Geography,
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 1999.
Chor Siang, “A North Indian
Community in Singapore: Continuity and Change among Bihari Dairymen”, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts
and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, 1983/84.
A. Records of Ancient Links between India
between India and Singapore go back to ancient times.
In the first century A.D., Claudius Ptolemaeus, a Greek
astronomer, collected astronomical observations from the countries around the Indian Ocean in order to determine their
locations. One of these, Sabana, lay in the area of
modern Singapore. Sabana was a nominon emporion or
designated foreign trading port, part of a chain of such trading centres which linked Southeast Asia with India and the Mediterranean 2,000
years ago. The Greeks themselves never
reached Sabana. According to Ptolemy, Sabana should have lain somewhere in the vicinity of the Johor-Riau-Singapore area.
The Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, compiled around 1435, contains
information passed down from earlier times. The first section of the Malay
Annals tells the story of a great Indian ruler, Raja Shulan,
who after conquering all of India, set his sights on China. However, he only had a vague idea of where China was. The Chinese, learning of Raja Shulan's intent, and wishing to avoid conflict, employed a stratagem. They sent an old ship crewed by a group of
aged men to Singapore. Raja Shulan,
on his way to China, also stopped in Singapore.
He met the doddering Chinese sailors and asked them how much further
away China lay. The old sailors
informed Raja Shulan that China was so far away that when
they had set out, they were still young. Raja Shulan decided
to return to India.
1926 a cache of ancient gold jewellery was found on Fort Canning.
The jewellery, now in the Singapore History Museum, bears designs derived from Indian art
and mythology, which were popular in ancient Southeast Asia. Archaeological research at Fort Canning has yielded tens of thousands of ancient
artifacts. One of the most unusual of
these is a bangle made out of glass of several colours:
white, brown, yellow, and green. The
bangle was made in northwest India in the 13th century. Another sign of contact with south Asia is a copper or bronze coin, excavated at
Parliament House in 1995; the coin was minted in Sri Lanka in the late 13th century.
B. The First Indian Arrivals to Modern Singapore
The Straits Settlement, in which Singapore was one
of three ports, had formed part of
British India until 1867.
Hence, it was not difficult for Indians to migrate to Singapore. The first wave of Indians came
across the Bay of Bengal to work on sugar, spice, tapioca and coconut
plantations in Penang and Province Wellesley.
Early Settlement and Employment
When Raffles established a trading centre at Singapore, Indian pioneers settled
along the Singapore River and in Telok
Ayer. This was partly due to Raffles’ Town Plan which allotted the Indians these
areas for settlement.
In the 1820s, with the number of Indians from Madras (Chuliahs)
greatly increased in the Settlement, the Indian migrants here petitioned the
British to appoint a “captain” or headman to govern their affairs.
Figure 1Map of the Twn
area in the 1820s
Figure 2 View of Telok
Ayer from Mount Wallich
Figure 3 Indian Ligthermen
along the Singapore River
A site up the Singapore River was also allocated to these
Indians as their assigned site of residence. There were few Bengalis in the
early days, and they were mainly engaged in menial work. The Klings, South Indians, were mainly traders. Many of the
Indians were also petty shopkeepers, boatmen and servants.
Present in large numbers were also hundreds of boats
manned by Indian lightermen who plied their trade
from the coastline that stretched from Tanjong Rhu to Telok Ayer, and into the Singapore River.
Hence, historically, the first ‘Little India’ was to be found at Telok Ayer (Chinatown), where the Indians settled first along Chulia Street, then along High Street, Arab Street.
From here, the Indian population grew steadily. While there were only 2,157
Indians on the island in 1836, there were 12,973 by 1860.
Some of the earliest Indian immigrants arrived as
convicts, after Singapore was made a British penal
station in 1825. Large numbers of Indian convicts were sent to build roads,
bridges and public establishments. They were housed at the Bras Basah Road Goal from the 1840s. The less dangerous
prisoners guarded the more hardened ones, and were allowed to have families
within the goal. Naturally, over time an Indian enclave evolved around the
Figure 4 Indian dhobys
Many of the free Indians in the gaol
area became dhobys
(laundry-men). Bras Basah stream and the wide-open
field around made this area conducive for this profession, and the district
came to be called Dhoby Ghaut.
When the Indian convicts finished serving their sentences, many of them who
returned to India, found things so
uncongenial that they returned to the Straits and settled, some as shopkeepers
Multi-lingual and Religious Indian Community
all Indians are Hindus or Tamil speaking. The Indian community initially comprised
of a diverse group that spoke different tongues and attended different places
of worship. Like the Chinese, the Indians who settled along Telok Ayer Road established religious institutions there.
The Nagore Durgha and the
Al Abrar Mosque were established in the early
nineteenth century and became the main sites of Indian Muslim worship. Along
the nearby South
the Indian Hindus built Sri Mariamman Temple near to the Indian Muslim Jamae Mosque at Pagoda Street. This multi-religious constitution of
the Indian community can also be seen along the swamp environs of nineteenth
There, the Abdul Gafoor Mosque co-existed with the
other Indian temples of Serangoon Road.
it would be generally true that the Indian Muslims would have originated from North India, and the South Indians were generally
Hindus, there are exceptions. The North Indian Hindus who arrived from Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar at the beginning of the twentieth
century found their way to the cattle area of Serangoon. In the prewar years,
they worshipped at the Krishna Temple at Waterloo Street.
By the late nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic,
Methodists and Anglican Christians were also establishing churches for the
Indians of Singapore, and they were all built just at the periphery of the
Indian main enclave then, Serangoon Road.
Besides being divided along religious and origin
lines, the Indians are also divided along dialect lines. For example Tamil,
Hindi, Punjabi. In short, in attempting understand the nature of the Indian
community of Singapore, one must not simply
juxtapose them vis-à-vis other ethnic groups, namely Chinese, Malays and
others. The Indian community of Singapore has always been a microcosm
of the larger Indian population of the Indian subcontinent. It was never a
homogenous grouping. And this has important bearing in attempting to understand
the developmental processes that occurred in Little India.
D. The Little
India(s) of Singapore
Before one launches into the story of Little India,
it must be noted that the Little India of Serangoon Road was not the first
Little India, nor the only one. The pioneering Indian migrants of the early
19th century first settled along Chulia Street, then along High Street, Arab Street and finally, when there was
little more room left in these areas, they settled along Serangoon Road.
Hence, the first Indian enclaves in Singapore were all found outside the Serangoon Road area.
Early Indian migration to Singapore was largely an urban trend,
as can be seen by the Indian concentration in Tanjong
Pagar. Most of these Indians took jobs linked to the
urban economy, as labourers, stevedores, traders, shopkeepers, hawkers, shop
assistants and as clerks. At Telok Ayer, the
Indians along Chulia and Cross streets were mostly
hawkers, who sold milk from house to house with milk buckets balanced on a bar
slung across their shoulders.
There were also many Indian traders (North and South) who were tapped onto the
settlement’s entrepot trade, buying and selling spices
and commercial goods.
of the predominant nationalities in Singapore had its own name for Cross Street. The Chinese called it Kiat Leng Kia Koi
(Klingman’s Street) or Kling Street, so called because of the many Kling
(mainly boatmen) who used to live here in the 1820s. The Tamils called it Palkadei Sadakku (Street of the
Milk Shops) and the Malays have a similar name, Kampong Susu,
because of the thriving goat milk business (there were also Indian shops
selling mutton, herbs and curry).
E. The First Settlers of
Serangoon (Little India)
Chinatown and Kampong Glam, Little
India was not one of the original ethnic enclaves designated in the Raffles’
Town Plan of the 1820s. As such, the evolution of Serangoon Road into a predominantly Indian
district was a gradual one, which included push and pull motivations that
spanned over a century.
The Road and the First Indians at Serangoon
Serangoon Road was one of the earliest
roads to be built in Singapore after those in the city
centre. In 1828 a map by Lieutenant Jackson labeled Serangoon Road as a ‘road leading across
the island’. The development of this road, and also Bukit Timah
Road, was linked to the cultivation of gambier and pepper in the interior.
The need to transport these crops into town for export necessitated the
development of roads cutting across the island. By 1845, the extensive
cultivation of gambier and pepper had left great
parts of the island deforested. Hence, a great number of cultivators moved
further north, across the Straits into Johore, to
found new plantations. The produce from Johore,
however, still had to be transported to the Singapore docks to be re-exported.
Therefore, the roads in the interior had to be extended to link up with the habours and ferries in the north. In time, the Chinese
named Serangoon Road “Hou
Gang Lu” or “Ow Kung” (back of the Port Road).
Indians who ventured down Serangoon Road were pulled by economic opportunities.
Indians used to call Serangoon Road ‘Soonambu Kambam’, which literally means ‘Village of Lime’. Lime was then an important element in
the manufacture of Madras Chunam, a kind of brick
that was introduced from India. A hardened mixture of egg white, sand,
shell, lime, sugar and coconut husks would be polished with stone to a smooth
finish and was used to build houses. In the late 1820s, when the government set
up its own brick kilns and lime pits along Serangoon Road, many Indians found employment in these
kilns. The first recorded Indian brick business belonged to Naraina
Pillai, an Indian who arrived with Raffles in 1819
when the latter was on his second visit to Singapore.
After the kilns were discontinued in 1860, other trades related to the cattle industry,
became the new pulls.
Figure 5 Map of Serangoon
Besides the kilns of the
early days, Balestier’s massive sugar plantation also
attracted a great number of Indian labourers to the Serangoon area.
The early Indian settlers to this district were also attracted to the ‘sireh’, betel-leaf, that were cultivated on both sides of Serangoon Road in the 1830s. Indians have
always been known to be voracious chewers of ‘sireh’.
From the 1860s, the development of the Serangoon area was intricately linked
with the cattle and buffalo trade that flourished as a result of the abundance
of water and fodder, crucial to the trade. The buffaloes were also most crucial
means of transport for the agricultural enterprises in the interior of the
island. The fresh-water ponds (particularly on the Race Course side of the
road) and the mangrove swamps of Kampong Kapor, not
forgetting the Rochore River itself, all provided
bathing areas for water buffaloes. Perhaps what is most pertinent here is that
the Indian community was greatly involved in the cattle trade and related
industries up till the prewar years. Just as the Bras Basah
stream was ideal for the dhobies, the wetland
environment of Serangoon Road centred
the cattle business there.
Agriculture and the Early Chinese of Serangoon
Like the Indian pioneers of Serangoon Road, Chinese farmers had
already set up homes on swampy grounds of the Rochore
side of the Serangoon Road since the 1820s.
The swampy grounds of the district had not only made the area conducive for
cattle rearing, it also meant that a whole variety of agricultural enterprises
were also made possible there. There were padi fields
extending beyond the sireh fields on the west side of
Serangoon Road, and Chinese vegetable
gardens at what is now the area between Syed Alwi and Balestier roads, and Lavender Street. By the early 1840s, sugar
plantations (Balestier Plain) were added to this agricultural mix. The cutting
of Rochor Canal, completed in 1836, was
most likely motivated by the irrigation needs of Chinese immigrant farmers of
Indigenous Malays and Baweanese
the early residents of Serangoon Road were the Malay-Boyanese (Baweanese) who
established themselves in an area called Kampong Kapor.
The Baweanese were already residents of Serangoon Road when the first Indians
arrived, and many of them were employed in the construction of the Racecourse
nearby in the 1840s. Subsequently, many
of them were employed as horse trainers there. The Baweanese
were also employed as carriage and bullock-cart drivers, syces
And as the Baweanese were Muslims, Kampong Kapor easily absorbed many Indian Muslims who found their
way there. The Indian Muslims were mainly labourers at the port and in the
From the onset, the Baweanese
settled and organized themselves into pondoks (lodging houses) communities where they formed a
rudimentary social structure that ensured that their welfare was taken care of.
These pondoks usually catered to those from the same
district or village and were modeled after the pondoks
in Bawean, which covered a far greater area, while
the ones in Singapore were usually just single units.
The pondok system extended beyond providing shelter
and companionship for new Baweanese arrivals as those
already here would usually recommend their fellow villagers or kinsmen to their
By the late nineteenth century, Malay kampongs covered much of the swampland
and riverside areas stretching from lower Serangoon Road to the coast. This was
because there were opportunities here for washing and other waterside
F. The Urbanization and Commercialization of Serangoon Road, 1880s-1941
Figure 6 Serangoon Road (1900s)
Serangoon Road remained a rural outback
for most part of the nineteenth century, and this was greatly determined by its
swampy geographical terrain which made the district most ideal for the cattle
and related industries. Towards the turn of the century, both sides of Serangoon Road were lined with plantations
and villages. However, a series of events and policy changes led to a new phase
of development for Serangoon Road. By then, this hitherto
undeveloped district had become the ideal site for urbanization. Population
pressure in the other ethnic enclaves and built up areas had pushed many to
search for new areas of habitation and commerce. And Serangoon Road, situated at the periphery
of the town limits, and having had ample space and the right conditions, was
poised to pull large numbers of new migrants there.
Changing Environment and Development
Serangoon Road began as an important
artery of commerce and transport for all the plantations in the interior of the
island that were along the route to the Serangoon Harbour. In time, villages as well
as plantations sprouted in a haphazard manner all along Serangoon Road, including the stretch from
Selegie to Syed Alwi roads, the core area of present-day Little India.
Figure 7 Cattle Rearing at Serangoon
The development of Serangoon Road meant that the old had to
go, and the new introduced, and this was, at times, helped along by critical
events. On 3 April 1883, a destructive fire swept
through the village at Kampong Kapor. 110 houses were razed and that left 1020
This devastation, though horrific, presented an opportunity to rebuild one part
of Serangoon Road. However, this process took
many years to begin. The first step towards urban renewal began just after
1900, perhaps because the district was still a cattle area. The fire did not
destroy the swamp nor were the ponds affected.
The draining of the swampy areas of Kampong Kapor
began after the turn of the century and this paved the way for the construction
of new roads. These included Rowell Road, Syed Alwi
Road, Kampong Kapor Road, Lembu Road, Baboo Lane, Upper Perak
Road and the full length of Desker Road was further extended and
developed. The main motivation for this was the commercial activities related
to the cattle trade in the area (for example, slaughterhouses).
In 1911, a government Gazette
was passed to initiate the Kampong Kapor Improvement
Scheme. The proposed area for redevelopment encompassed the areas between Jalan Besar and Serangoon Road, from Dunlop to Syed Alwi roads. The scheme was
deemed necessary because ‘certain houses, courts and alleys were unfit for
human habitation, and the bad arrangement and the bad condition of the streets
and houses and groups of houses were dangerous and injurious to the health of
Clearly, the areas around Kampong Kapor had degenerated
into slump-like dwellings by the 1900s. It was thus decided to bring down the
old dwellings, re-do all the streets (some becoming through roads) and lay
drainage across the district.
This rebuilding of Kampong Kapor opened the doors for
the reconstitution of the demographics in the area. Hence, from the 1900s, the
next wave of Chinese settlement occurred within this area.
Figure 8 Plans of Shophouses along Serangoon Road
Ironically, the livestock trade of Serangoon Road, which contributed to the
rural outlook of the district, was also instrumental in forging new small
industries and business all over the Serangoon district after 1900. However, to
urbanize and introduce modern commerce into the district, the removal of the
cattle trade was inevitable. Vast swamplands had to be filled and shophouses and residences built. Cattle rearing was finally
removed from the municipality by a government gazette in 1936. The decline of
the cattle trade in the 1930s also forced some livestock entrepreneurs to
divert their properties and other investments in the Serangoon Road area to other uses.
Fortunately, the architectural styles of the cattle sheds had easily enabled
their conversion to the shophouse architecture
popular in the district at that time. Thus, as the cattle left, and people
filled their places, Serangoon Road’s development into a
commercial-residential area was greatly accelerated.
But on a lighter note, buffalo-driven carts were still a common sight along Serangoon Road even till the 1930s.
Figure 9 An European Bungalow at
Interestingly, prior to
urbanization, many European and Eurasians considered old Serangoon a suburban
area where they had numerous bungalows, scattered between the swamps, cattle
sheds and plantations. These buildings were one of the first residential
buildings erected along Serangoon Road.
The paths leading from the main Serangoon Road
to these bungalows, also known as non-through offshoot roads, formed the beginnings
of roads that exist today in Little India. These include Cuff
Road, Dunlop Street,
Norris Road, Rappa Terrace and Rowell Road.
Overpopulated Enclaves and Increased Indian Immigration
Indian migration to Singapore although slow, had increased
exponentially over the decades. The official census for 1836 noted that there
were only 2,157 Indians on the island, and this number was to increase to
12,973 by 1860.
The approximate increase in the size of the Indian community in Singapore for this period was 450
annually. By 1931, the community had grown to 51,019. The annual increase from
1860 was approximately 630. By 1941, the Indian population stood at 76,000.
That is, the rate of annual increase in the 1930s was 2,400.
The general enlargement of the Indian community
through the decades meant that it was only a matter of time before the earliest
Indian enclaves would no longer be able to accommodate further increases. The
pioneering Indian migrants of the early nineteenth century had first settled
along Chulia Street, then High Street and Arab Street.
After 1900, when there was little room left in these areas, they gravitated
towards Serangoon Road, the remaining enclave that
still had room for them.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a new
group of Indian migrants also found their way to Serangoon, attracted by the
cattle industry that was still thriving there. They were North Indian herdsmen
from the border areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. According to sources, they
were from two Bihar villages, namely Lachu Tola
and Basingha and they first settled on the left bank
of the Rochor Canal in the Kandang
Kerbau area. Together, they formed a sub-community of
Industries and Occupational Patterns
The appearance of more shophouses along Serangoon Road after 1900 also heralded the transition of Serangoon Road into a more commercialized district. This was a
gradual change, continuing into the postwar years. One significant factor for
this was the arrival of Indians who engaged in the construction industry. Once
the other ethnic enclaves became too small to accommodate them, they found
their way to Serangoon
increased concentration of Indians resulted in rising demand for retail and
service activities associated with the Indian community. The opening up of Serangoon Road to the retail business also meant the Chinese – long associated
with trade and shopkeeping - would eventually make
their presence more greatly felt. Various businesses sprouted to meet the needs
of the Indians there. Around Buffalo and Chander roads, where
most of the Indian herdsmen from Uttar Pradesh were settled, both Bengalis and
Tamil Hindus milkmen went from house to house with their goats and cow to ply
their trade, bringing their clients truly fresh milk.
Figure 10 The Indian Milkman
From this milk, the Indians made an ethnic delicacy,
was a common sight to see Indian women along Serangoon Road traveling from house to
house with thairu. By the 1930s, the main cattle rearing areas
had also extended to Dunlop Street where the cowherd,
generally from Northern India, grazed his cattle, milked them and delivered fresh
milk to the wealthy residents of the city before dawn each day, first on foot
and then later on bicycle.
Most of the Indian Muslim slaughterhouses and
tanneries were situated along the Jalan Besar-Sungei
The famous Tekka Market, erected in 1915 at the junction of Serangoon
and Bukit Timah roads,
would have been one of first centralized sites where retailers sold their
Figure 11 A Bullock Cart
Cattle produce was not the only commercial value
these animals had. They occupy a vital place in the history of transportation
in pre-war Singapore. Horses were not widely
used to transport goods, nor had motor-driven trucks made any impact till the
late 1920s. Hence, the bullock cart was the main transportation vehicle for
commerce till the inter-war years.
Chinese Industries and Symbiotic
Sprouting alongside the cow sheds, tanneries and
abattoirs were wheat-grinding sheds, sesame oil presses, rattan works, rubber
smoke-houses and pineapple factories. Although these industries seemed
unconnected, they had a symbiotic commercial relationship centred
on the buffalo and the wet environment. Producers of rattan for instance,
required abundant amounts of water that the area had.
In addition, the ready availability of buffalo transport in the area made the
area most ideal for the industry. But more importantly, the rattan by-products,
just as the dregs obtained from pineapple skins, were recycled and used as
cattle feed. Hence, nothing was wasted as everything was converted into
material of commercial value.
industry also transformed Serangoon Road in other ways. To support
the retail business, multi-level shophouses made
their appearance all over the district where ponds, bungalows and farms once
were. The Kampong Karpor Improvement Scheme, of
course, had also paved the way for change. But more pertinently, where there
were commercial opportunities, one would also find the Chinese. At the junction of Kerbau
and Race Course roads, there were 4 two-storey shophouses
which were owned by Seah Liang
Seah, the son of Seah Eu Chin, a most important Teochew merchant in the
Mr Seah got into the
pineapple preserving business at around the turn of the century. His firm, Chin
Giap, was located at Serangoon Road, presumably located at
the shophouses listed above.
Figure 12 Coolies unloading
pineapples at Serangoon
In 1901, Seah’s son, Seah Eng Keong, took over the running of this firm and their brands,
Tiger and Defiance, became highly reputable
in Europe and the Far East. During peak periods, 250
men were employed in canning.
It is clear that the new wave of Chinese migrants who settled in along Serangoon Road in the 1900s were led
there by the job opportunities arising from the creation of these industries.
G. Life and Trades along Little India
As more and
more Indians made the initial stretch of Serangoon Road their home, the
district eventually took on the semblance of a cultural enclave – the ‘Little
India’ of Singapore. Much of this creation must also be attributed to the fact
that the Indian community is a colourful one. Since
the pre-war years, the Five-foot ways of Serangoon Road have been filled with
garland-makers, parrot astrologers, goldsmiths, luggage shops, moneylenders,
silk saris, tailors, food and food-related establishments, which included spice
and provision shops, and almost everything and anything Indian.
Figure 14 Indian Retailers
however, some trades and occupations that were identified with different groups
of Indians. The South Indian Tamils were usually milkmen, labour
supply contractors, money-changers, tailors, travel agents, textile sellers or
worked in provision shops they owned. The Tamil Muslims sold mutton at Kandang Kerbau market while the
North Indians worked as watchmen for big bungalows, milkmen or bread sellers.
Some of them worked in their own provision shops or shops trading in leather
Among the most visible trades along Serangoon Road were the glittering wares
of the Indian goldsmiths. There were a lot of goldsmith shops around Buffalo Road and Kerbau Road, whose staff dressed in
traditional outfits comprising of wayshti.
Gold jewelry is very much a part of the Indian cultural ornaments, flaunted
during festive occasions. According to one account, goldsmiths had made their
appearance along Little India only after the war, but this cannot be
There were also many
fortune-tellers along Serangoon Road – palmistry, numerology,
astrology, and parrot-astrology. In parrot-astrology, a parakeet picks a card
from a stack of 27 lucky fortune cards (an Indian astrological system). Each
try cost a dollar. These parrots were trained to select fortune cards with
pictures of deities and lucky messages, and entertain customers by dancing. In
return, they were fed fruits, nuts, and chillies.
Customers consulted on matters such as marriage or money, as well as visit on occasions
In the early days, parrot astrologers also made house calls. Today, it is muhc more difficult to find one along Serangoon Road, with only a small table,
parrots, some charts and a notebook.
Figure 15 Indian Snake Charmers
Snake Charmers were also once part of the street
scene of pre-war Little India. These brave men would spread a canvas where
there were open grounds and entice the snakes to emerge from their baskets with
their musical flutes. Usually, a larger crowd would gather to watch these
performing serpents. Most of them would come from a village called Poona in Bombay. There were many other colours,
fragrances and sounds of Serangoon Road that made it Little India.
From the flower and garland stalls to the spice and textile shops of the famous
philanthropist, P Govindasamy Pillai,
Serangoon Road was, has been and still is,
the place Indians from all over Singapore come to meet their “Indian
needs”. Especially during Thaipusam, Deepavali and other prayer and festival days, Serangoon Road comes alive.
H. The Religious Dimension
religious dimension in the Little India story is a most important angle to
understanding that the main Indian enclave in Singapore was truly cosmopolitan,
multi-ethnic and religious, a microcosm of the larger migrant society.
up a place of worship was important to Indians wherever they settled. In India, every village or town had
a shrine or place of worship. The first Hindus who settled along Serangoon Road in the nineteenth century
erected small shrines along the road to worship, give thanks, and to ask for
protection and help. Among one of the
first of such shrines was what was to become the Sri Perumal Temple. Built in 1855, the land was
built was purchased by an Indian called Narasinga.
Figure 16 The Sri Perumal
the 1960s, the temple was known as the from ‘Narasinga
Perumal Kovil’. ‘Peru’ means admirable while
‘Mal’ means central, thus Perumal means ‘the
admirable one of the trinity’.
Following the Sri Perumal, two other temples were
established in the late nineteenth century, the Sri Vadapathira
Kaliamman and the Sri Veerama
Both temples began as private shrines, or temples, that were meant for
sub-groups in the larger Indian community of the district.
the choices of gods or deities the Indians chose, it was important that they
were relevant to the lives of the peoples who worshipped them. This was
extremely important as the Indians believed that the supernatural plays a major
role in their lives, and in order to ward off evil, disease, ill-fortune and
demons, there was a need for the gods to be appeased. Therefore the goddess Kaliamman, a powerful goddess and the destroyer of evil,
was appropriately chosen as the protector of the Indians in this area who would
safeguard and protect them. Hence,
the establishment of the Veerama Kaliamman Temple.
temples, however, were not merely icons of Indian architecture. They have
always been the centres of Hindu life and worship.
Indians from all over would gather at temples on Tuesdays and Fridays, the two
days of the week regarded as holy days by Hindus.
Hence, Indian shops along Serangoon Road selling garlands, flowers
and other material for Hindu worship, always bustling. On festive occasions,
like Thaipusam, throngs of people would descend on Serangoon Road to see the Thaipusam processions and ‘Chariot Runs’. The road would
also be crowded with people during Deepavali.
Figure 17 Body Piercing - Thaipusam
The most important Indian religious festival is Thaipusam. This festival derives its name from ‘Thai’, the
month of the Hindu calendar and ‘Pusam’, the name of
the full moon day in the zodiacal period. It is the festival of Subramania, youngest son of the Siva, the most powerful of
the gods of the Hindu Pantheon. Subramania, whose chariot
is the sacred peacock, is depicted with six heads and twelve arms, each
representing various divine aspects and powers. He is the wielder of the lance
of victory and has thirty-seven names. During this festival, the Sri Perumal explodes into a grand celebration. It is not only a
day of prayer and penance but also of rejoicing. There would be temple
ceremonies, devotees carrying kavadis with steel and
silver needles mortifying the flesh in fulfillment of vows, and glittering
It was only in 1912 that the first Hindu public Holiday was granted to the Indian
community by government. This was for Deepavali,
but it was not legislated as an annual affair. The first Legislated Hindu
Public Holiday came in 1914 when the Hindu community was given a say to choose
between Deepavali or Thaipusam.
In a meeting of the Hindu Association, presided by Dr Veerasamy,
who had a road in Little India named after him, it was decided that it would be
The next most important Hindu festival is Deepavali, or the Festival of Lights, which commemorates
the victory of Lord Krishna, the ninth incarnation of Maha
Vishnu, the Supreme God of the Hindus, over the demon king Narakasura.
The Hindu epic Mahabharata tells of the dramatic story that as Narakasura, after a long and fierce struggle, lay dying
after being vanquished, he asked Lord Krishna to grant him one last favour. It was because of this request that future
generations commemorate this day of battle with illuminations, costumes and
Figure 18 Hindu worshippers at the
Other than the temple visits and processions, these
Indian festivals also bring to Little India street sales of multi-coloured candies, saries, spices
and flowers. In present times, around Campbell Lane in particular, a Deepavali Festival Village is created that lasts 21
days, turning it into a street carnival. It is also here that many Indian
purchase their garlands that play an important role in the Indian way of life
as they are a symbol of prosperity.
Figure 19 Indian Performers
Around the years 1925 and
1926, Indian dances, dramas and folk performing arts were popular in Selegie and were performed free for the public. The actors
and directors came all the way from India.
The length of their performances was dependent upon their popularity. The
bigger the crowd, the longer they performed.
Dances such as ‘Silambu’, ‘Karan’,
and ‘Kalai Nigalchi’, a
combination of themed dramatic art and gestures, were the favourites.
Silambu is the name of the age old Indian (Tamil) art
of self-defence whereby a staff (long, wooden pole)
is used to defend or attack your opponents.
The Indian Muslim Mosques
A sizable number
of Indians at Serangoon Road
are Muslims, and they were among the first Indian pioneers to land. The oldest
mosque along Serangoon Road
is the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque, located in the heart of
Named after its benefactor and the builder of the present structure, Shaik Abdul Gaffoor, it was only
a wooden structure in 1859.
Figure 20 The Abdul Gaffoor Mosque
mosque was founded at a time when the Baweanese
kampongs were still dominant in Kampong Kapor. Hence,
it would have served these Boyanese as well as the
Indian Muslims in the district. The architecture of the mosque would have also
made it outstanding at a time when Kampong Kapor was
just urbanizing. However, unlike their Hindu brethren, the Indian Muslims are a
quieter and less colourful lot. The other more
prominent mosque along Serangoon Road is the Angullia
Mosque. The first trace of this mosque’s history is in an 1890 building plan. A
Bombay committee submitted the plan.
It is probable that the mosque was erected for the Muslims from Bombay by the Angullia
The Buddhist Temples
Hindus and Muslims, the Buddhist religion was a relatively late comer to Little
India. The two more popular pre-war temples for instance, are located at the Balestier
Road side of the Race
Course Road, and both were founded in the
inter-war years. This was at a time when Serangoon
Road, from the junction beyond Balestier
Road, was seeing increased Chinese migration.
The Leong San See, Dragon Mountain Temple, is one of the most
architecturally beautiful religious buildings in the district. It was founded
by Rev. Chuan Wu, who came from Fujian, in 1917. Chuan Wu had
arrived earlier in 1913, with only an urn and a statue of Kwan Yin. He had
learned the art of Chinese medication, specializing in eye treatment and
cured a number of people. In 1917, the temple was called Leong
San Lodge, and it consisted of only a few huts.
Figure 21 The Leong
The main Buddhist festival is Vesak
and it was partly through the efforts of Leong San
See that a successful appeal was made to the government in 1956 to make Vesak Day a public holiday.
Leong San See temple was also the gathering point for
a community rooted to the district, helping with welfare and betterment. In
1954, the priests of the temple saw the need for a school to provide for children
living in the surrounding attap houses.  This led to the opening of the Mee Toh School in 1955. Mee Toh means ‘Eternal
Brightness’, and it was the second Buddhist School in Singapore.
Figure 22 The Buddha Gaya
Across the road is the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. One of the more
interesting Historic Sites in the Serangoon District, the temple has attracted
visitors since it was founded in 1927 by a Thai monk named Vutthisasara.
Perhaps, the most outstanding feature of the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya is the 15-metre
high statue of Buddha that weighs 300 tonnes. The
statue is surrounded by a seemingly endless chain of lights, from which the
temple derives its name, the ‘Temple of a Thousand Lights’.
Interestingly, there are Indian monks from Sri Lanka in the temple.
The Christian Churches
Christian churches of various
denominations and ethnicity can be found in and around Little India. They add
to the multiethnic character of Serangoon Road.
The history of Christianity here follows two lines of development; when the
faith was proselytized to the Indians in the 1880s and when the improvement
schemes along Serangoon Road paved the way for the Chinese to create for
themselves a niche within the core Little India areas.
The Anglicans founded a church for their Chinese
congregation at Kampong Karpor. The present Church of
True Light building, however, was erected only in 1951.
Figure23 Kampong Karpor
The Methodists have three churches in the area;
Kampong Karpor Methodist Church (KKMC), Foochow Methodist Church (FMC) and the Hing Hua Methodist Church at Kitchener Road. FMC came into existence in
mid-December 1897 at the Christian Institute at Middle Road, and was originally known
as the Foochow Dialect Church. It is the second oldest
church in the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Singapore. FMC’s first converts were
poor rickshaw-riders or barbers. The FMC shifted to Race Course Road in 1936. The history of the
KKMC goes back to 1890, when a small group of about 20 Babas
met at Sophia Blackmore’s house at Sophia Road. By 1930, the church had
grown so large that it had to be relocated to a larger site at Kampong Karpor.
The establishment of these
churches not only brought the western faith to an Hindu-Muslim enclave, but
also entrenched a small but close knitted Chinese community there.
The Indian Christian churches, in
an ironic contrast, ended up at the
periphery of the Little India district. The Anglican Christ Church for instance, founded its own church in 1940, at
the other end of the Race Course (Farrer Park), next to the Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital.
of Our Lady of Lourdes
Catholics, meanwhile, established the Church of Our
Lady of Lourdes in 1885.
This was the first place of worship for Ceylonese Catholics in the Rochor district. Many of its parishioners came from French Pondicherry in South India.
By 1886, there were 400 Indian Catholics in the congregation, in 1892: 600.
For almost a hundred years, the Church of Our Lady
of Lourdes was meant for the Indian Catholics, regardless of where they resided.
From Singapore, the priest of the Indian
Mission also served the needs of the Indians of South Johor, Malacca and Selangor. Today, the church is still
by and large Indian. More
importantly, the story of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes is not simply about
its relationship with the Indians of Serangoon Road, but how this little church
extended the main Indian enclave across the Rochor River to Ophir Road.
The Methodist also founded their own Indian church when
William F. Oldham arrived in 1884. He had yearned to evangelize to the Indians.
In 1887, the Methodist Tamil Society was formed with Rev. CW Underwood, a Tamil preacher from Jaffna, Ceylon, as its pastor. Thus, the Tamil Methodist Church was founded. Initially, the church held
its meetings at a place along Buffalo Road, right in the heart of
Little India. Then a small chapel was built. In 1926 that a new church was
completed. Though just outside the main Little India district, it remains an
Indian church of the Little India district.
I. Little India in Transition, 1942 – 1990s
The landscape and social makeup of Little India have
been in transition since the turn of the century. The bullock that attracted
men, trade and industry to Serangoon Road since the nineteenth
century had almost disappeared from the streets by the 1930s. Besides
legislation, the deathblow to the district’s cattle trade came in the 1920s and
1930s when a worldwide foot-and-mouth disease led to the ban on importation of
cattle. In 1936, a Municipal Ordinance was passed to further check cattle activities.
The cattle trade in the area had come to a near end. As a result, more space
was freed up to turn Little India into a commercial and residential hub. This
ceaseless flow of developments, however, was diverted by a sudden turn of tide
in history that brought the Rising Sun to Little India.
Days of the Rising Sun
Serangoon Road did not escape the horrors
of war and the Occupation Years, despite the Japanese attempt to court the
Indians against their British masters. When the first bombs fell on Singapore, Serangoon Road too, became a target for
Japanese bombers that dominated the skies. On 8
December 1941, bombs fell on Short Street, Selegie Road and Albert Street and many people were killed
or injured. Several timber yards in Prinsep Street and Albert Street went up in flames.
The initial raids also damaged the houses along Kerbau Road and Buffalo Road. The peoples of Little
India could see the planes come in three, six or nine V-shaped formations to
drop their bombs. Houses near Hindoo Road were also damaged, and never
rebuilt. The Tamils living along this lane fled elsewhere or back to India and the road has since been
occupied by the other ethnic groups. In many ways, the first weeks of the
attack had already created the conditions for the inevitable changes that were
to come in the post-war years.
When the smoke cleared after the bombing in February
1942, Singapore was already Syonan-to. During the first weeks of Occupation,
many people were gathered first at the Raffles College field for one night and
then later in a big field at Race Course Road near Kandang
Kerbau Hospital. These people were kept there for
eight days and had to survive on the little rice and salt that the Japanese
gave them. On the eighth day, they were
marched all the way from Race Course Road to Tanjong Katong
Road without any lorries or supplies.
The Sook Ching had begun.
Figure 25 Entrance to New
On 18 February 1942, New
World Park was one
of the 28 sites used as a mass-screening centre during the Sook Ching operation to remove anti-Japanese
elements within the Chinese population
There were also other smaller sites of abuses. The residents of Serangoon
Road, at the junction of Syed Alwi Road,
were rounded up at the Siong Lim Saw Mill and Company
by Japanese officials. They were told to bring a few days’ supply of food and made
to sleep on wooden planks for four days and nights. The place was filthy with
people using any space available as toilets. There was only one water pipe for
a crowd of over a thousand. It was believed that the roundup was to aid the
Japanese officials in getting rid of members of the volunteer forces who had
served the British. 
During the harsh days of the Occupation, many became
destitute, and the religious institutions became home for some of them. The
state of affairs had caused much unemployment among the Indians in the colony.
Some of these found food and shelter in the temples. At the Sri Veerama Kaliamman, there were no
less than 20 vagrants sleeping at the temple each night. The merchants along Serangoon Road would occasionally donate
rice to these vagrants.
Nothing was repaired or developed during the Occupation, only government
departments were changed. Many people
died on the roadside and many were afraid to go out onto the streets because
the Japanese would pull them to work at the Siam railway lines.
Things got rough and life was tough, especially for the Chinese population in
Little India. It was a common sight to see truckloads of prisoners pass along Rochor Canal Road on their way to
concentration camps along Sime Road.
community during the Occupation years was somewhat in a paradoxical situation.
While many had suffered greatly during the Japanese sojourn, others had joined
the cause of Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army to collaborate with the
Japanese to liberate India from British Rule.
A number of Hindus had had also joined the Indian National Army and others had
left to work on the Siam-Burma railway, while others had died from poverty. 
There is no simple answer as to the Indian’s
position during the war years – collaborators or victims? A few Indian schools
were established by labour unions during those dark
years. The main purpose of these schools was to serve as propaganda instruments
for the Indian Independence Movement in Singapore.
Some time in 1943, the Mr. G. Maruthamuthu,
an earlier trustee of the Veerama Kaliamman Temple, had decided to present a
sword to General Mohan Singh, then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian National
Army. The sword, made in Singapore with a silver blade and a
gilt handle, was purchased by Mr Maruthamuthu
himself and was supposed to be presented on the last night of the Navarathri festival in the temple in October 1943. However,
General Mohan Singh was indisposed on the appointed day and sent his immediate
subordinates, five high-ranking officers of the Indian National Army, instead.
These officers, led by Colonel Loganathan, later
Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, arranged for another
presentation and also prayed to Kaliamman to help
them drive Britain out of India. Before leaving the temple,
they exhorted the worshippers to pray for their success in freeing India from British rule. The
presentation of the sword was eventually held in front of the City Council
buildings by Mr Maruthamuthu
before a large gathering of Indians and detachments of the Indian National
The Post-war Years
The war came to an end in 1945
and life resumed for the people of Little India. But by then, things had
changed. The urbanization of the district continued, but it was no longer
driven by immigration, but by the need to repair the war damage. Post-war
development was also set against the backdrop of political changes in the
motherland of the community: India.
The War had fundamentally changed the socio-economic
landscape of Little India. At the outbreak of war, many of the shop owners sold
their businesses to their hired hands before they fled the island. Those who survived
subsequently moved up the social ladder in the post-war era. In this instance, a greatly many more rags to
riches stories were added to the history of Serangoon Road.
However, not all the old patriarchs disappeared. P Govindasamy
Pillai (PGP), an acknowledged leader of the Hindu
community before the 1940s, had five sari shops before World War II. PGP left
for India in December 1941, handing
his business deals to a relative. He returned after the war to continue his
business in Serangoon Road. While other new
proprietors were just starting to make headway with their businesses in the
1960s, PGP was already moving ahead by renovating his existing stores, which were
among the earliest sari shops in Serangoon Road. 
The Hindu temples of Serangoon Road benefited in turn from PGP’s generosity.
Figure 26 PGP with his wife at the
The Sri Perumal Temple, which was renovated in
1966, was still without a gopuram. In 1975 P Govindasamy Pillai donated a gopuram to the temple. Earlier in 1965, PGP financed the
construction of the Kalyana Mandabam (PGP
Wedding Hall) at the Perumal. Inche
Yusof Bin Ishak, the Yang Di Pertuan Negara, officially opened it. It was also used
by several associations, including the Asian Women Welfare Association, which
started off there. In those days, all Hindu marriages took place there and it
was also used for lectures and speeches.
At the Sri Veerama Kaliamman,
the temple rebuilding project in 1976 was also under the patronage of the P Govindasamy Pillai.
Figure 27 The Gandhi Memorial
Perhaps what is pertinent in recognizing the
post-war contributions of PGP and others is that the institutions that
constituted the ornate and symbolic beauty of Serangoon Road, the Hindu Temples, were
mostly beautified in the post-war era with the help of these philanthropists. They
truly construct the Little India that was to become a tourist attraction. There
were still many pockets of Little India left in ruins after the war. The site
on which the Gandhi Memorial was built, for instance, was a bombed out site. It
might have remained so for a long time if not for the construction of the
Besides bricks and granite, PGP and the other
pioneers like Rajabali Jumabhoy,
were also concerned with the building of a more stable Indian community in
Little India. In 1950-51, an opportunity arose to bring together the Indians of
Little India, as well as those throughout the island, with the arrival of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawahalal Nehru. He laid the foundation stone for the
Gandhi Memorial at Race Course Lane. It cost $17,000 to build,
of which, the entire amount was raised by the Indian community of Singapore, with PGP, Jumabhoy and V Packirisamy being the major contributors.
of Little India
In the 1960s and 1970s, when numerous Indians moved
into HDB and other housing estates, Little India became primarily a commercial
district, catering to the needs of Indians throughout the island. Slum
clearance of the area began in the 1970s. but before this could sweep away the shophouses, there was a change of heart. On 7 July 1989, Little India was gazetted a conservation
area. Thus, although the migrant municipal labourers may be gone, and their
past dwellings left dilapidated, occupied by non-Indians or converted into shophouses, the concentration of cultural activities can
still be found there. Perhaps, this has a lot to do with the fact that the
temples remained. Since 1989, Little India has been officially recognized as
the hub of Indian community life in Singapore.
For more than a century, the story of Serangoon Road's Little India revolved
around a four-legged animal that the Hindus revered as sacred. Others, who
conducted business, found the animal essential for transport, or as the source
of their business ventures. But these animals would not have been there if the
geography did not support their needs. Evidently, the interaction of the
environment and potential commercial opportunities created a pull that led many
Indian migrants to settle and work there. It was also during this period of
great pull by Serangoon Road that there was a great
push. That is, the other Indian enclaves which were left with little spare space.
Only the ethnic enclave at Serangoon Road had room enough to absorb
the increase soon after the turn of the century. Hence, a sizeable Indian
community became rooted along Serangoon Road, and with them, came a
whole host of industries that supported the Indian community's cultural life.
An accelerated settlement in the district necessitated
urban improvement and housing schemes, and this led to the clearance of the
swamp environs of Serangoon. Following this cattle rearing soon disappeared
from the Serangoon scene. However, the concentration of Indian commerce,
religious sites and residences in the district had already ensured that Serangoon Road would remain Indian. Yet,
this overtly Indian enclave has always been cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and
religious, just like Chinatown and Kampong Glam. Though Little India was
not officially designated an ethnic quarter till recent times, when efforts in
conservation and tourism purposes made it so, it has always been the communal
heartbeat of the Indian community.
information in this section was provided by Dr John Miksic
Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Landmark
Books and Preservation of Monuments Board), 1996, pp.123-24.
Yvonne Quahe, We
Remember – Cameos of Pioneer Life (Landmark Books Pte
Ltd, 1986), p.12.
Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke, Roland St. J. Braddell
(ed), One Hundred Years of Singapore, Vol
Singapore: Oxford University Press,
 150th Anniversary of the Founding of Singapore,
M.B.R.A.S Reprints 1973, p.122.
 Gopal Das, “The Kaliamman Temple Serangoon Road, Singapore: A Study of the
Economic and Social Position of a Hindu Temple”, Dept. of Social Studies,
University of Malaya, 1958, p.17.
 Yeo Chor Siang,
“A North Indian Community in Singapore:
Continuity and Change among Bihari Dairymen”, Department
of Sociology, National University of Singapore, 1983/84, p.7.
The congregation of the Indian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was founded
in 1886 at Ophir Road,
on the Rochore
River, opposite Kampong Karpor. The Methodist had their Indian congregation formed
at about the same time, but only moved to Short Street,
near Selegie Road,
in the 1920s. The Anglican Christ’s Church, having originated from St. Peter’s
Church at Stamford Road in
the prewar years, found its way to Kampong Java, at a site next to the Race
Course, some time before the war broke out.
Das, “The Kaliamman
In many of the oral archival accounts of Indian interviewees, deposited at the
National Archives of Singapore, the area around Tanjong
Pagar was considered the real “Little India”.
 Tanjong Pagar, Singapore’s Cradle of Development (Singapore: Tanjong Pagar Constit.,
Ray Tyres, Singapore, Then and Now, Edition 2 ( Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), p.16.
was constructed entirely of 2-storey buildings and was called Kling
Street, after the derogatory term for imported
South Indian convicts. The North Indian term for the Kalinda Kingdom
is Chulia and this name prevailed. See Edwards,
Norman and Peter Keys, A Guide to
Buildings, Streets and Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988),
Gambier was grown together with pepper as they had formed a symbiotic agricultural
relationship in the old days. Gambier leaves
had to be boiled to extract the residue which were dried and exported. Hence, the needs to
locate such plantations where timber are in abundance to fuel the boilers. The
waste extracts of this process, the boiled leaves, would then be wasted, unless
they could be recycled for another function, like becoming manure for pepper
 Das, “The Kaliamman
Temple”, p.19; Tyres, Singapore,
Buckley, Anecdotal, p.484.
 Das, “The Kaliamman
 Siddique, Little
 Chopard, Rochore, pp.13-14.
 Siddique, Little
India, pp.33-34; Siddique, Serangoon Road,
pp.18 and 36.
Samuel Dhoraisingam, Singapore’s Heritage through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore:
Elixir Consultancy Services, 1992) p. 198; Historic
Districts in the Central Area: A Manual for Little India Conservation Area
(Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1988), p.14; Little India: Historic
District (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1995), p.15.
 Siddique Serangoon Road, p.74; Tanjong Pagar, Singapore’s Cradle of Development (Singapore:
Landmark Books, 1989), p.79; Edwards, Guide,
 Tanjong Pagar, p.25.
Edwards, The Singapore House and Residential Life, 1819-1939, p.56.
 Street Names of Singapore,p.37;Straits Settlements Legislative Council Proceedings,1883,pp.210-11.
 A Manual for Little India Conservation Area,
Improvement Trust Files, 1911/475. Clearly, the Muslim composition of Kampong Kapor had remained after the 1883 fire. Furthermore, the
rebuilding of the village seems equally haphazard, if not worse.
The stretch of Serangoon Road
between Dunlop Street and Rochor Canal Road was widened
in 1913, presumably as part of the Kampong Kapor
Improvement Scheme that started in the same period. See Minutes of Proceedings of the Municipal Council, 1913, p.80.
 Siddique, Little
India, pp.60 and 76; Edwards, Guide,
p.111. Despite the urban development of Serangoon Road
in the prewar years, the district was still rather underdeveloped when compared
to the other ethnic districts and town centre.
 Siddique, Little
 Tanjong Pagar, p.73.
This increase in the Indian population in Singapore
may not solely be due to increased migration. A more settled community
constituted of more families, which would have created a natural momentum for
growth by means of birth.
The first Indian enclaves in Singapore
were all found outside the Serangoon Road
area.In many of the oral archival accounts of Indian
interviewees, deposited at the National Archives of Singapore, the area around Tanjong Pagar was considered the
real “Little India”.
Das, “The Kaliamman
Oral Interview, National Archives, A000081/28 Kannusamy.
Interestingly, Tamil men were also seen going from door to door selling ring
flowers. These ring flowers were a common sight seen on the hair-buns of Indian
women. The small flowers were sold for two cents each while the big ones were
sold for fifty cents each.
Norman Edwards, The Singapore House and Residential Life 1819-1939, p.59.
 Siddique, Little
India, pp.35 and 45.
BP 1898/354, CBS 338.
Song Ong Siang, One
Hundred Years’ of the Chinese in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University
Press, 1984), p.429.
 Siddique, Serangoon Road,
Oral Interview, National Archives, A000081/28 Kannusamy;
A000588/13, Natesan Palanivelu.
Oral Interview, National Archives, A00896/4, Subbiah Bullikutte Naidu and A01170/3, Boopalan Subramaniam.
Oral Interview, National Archives, A000081/28 Kannusamy.
 Vanishing Trades – A Catalogue of Oral
History Interviews, Documentation Unit, Singapore:
Oral History Department, 1992, pp.60-64.
Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore:
Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, 1996, p.123; http://www.heb.gov.sg/perumaltemple; Edwin Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Preservation of
Monuments Board, 1990), p.76; Jean Pierre Mialaret,
Hinduism in Singapore: A Guide to the
Hindu Temples of Singapore (Singapore: D. Moore for Asia Pacific Press,
1969), p.59; Straits Times 10/1/82
 Liu, Granite, p.123-24; Lee, Historic Building, p.76; Mialaret, Hinduism, p.60
One source states that the Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple
was first established around 1870 by the Hindus living in the neighbourhood. It
is the third Kali temple in Singapore.
See Kwang Chan Nam, “Hindu Temples in Singapore”, School of Architecture, National
University of Singapore, 1983, p.72; National
Archives, Oral Interview, A01306/33, Sarma Sambasiva; Mialaret, Hinduism, p.42; CBS 84, BP 260B, 1936); The Sri Veerama
Kaliamman, the more well-known of the two Kaliamman temples, was built by Bengali labourers in 1881. See http://littleindia.com.sg/stb/; Mialaret, Hinduism,
However, certain sources have indicated that the Veerama
Kaliamman began in 1835 as a simple shrine. See Dhoraisingam, p.217; Das, The Kaliamman Temple, p.42.
 Das, The Kaliamman
 Siddique, Serangoon
Road, p.92; The Straits Times Annual,
1969, S. Durai Raja Singam,
‘Day of Penance’.
 SFP, 8 Nov 1912, p.12.
 Malay Tribune, 27 Jan 1914, p.4.
 Ray Tyers, Singapore Then and Now. Edition 1,
Volume 2 ( Singapore: University
Education Press 1976), p.356.
Oral Interview, National Archives,
A00896/7 Subbiah Bullikutte
Naidu; A001300, Chandrakasan
 Siddique, Serangoon Road, pp.49-50.
1890/65, CBS 331.
The Angullias had another mosque at Angullia Park.
This was built in 1933, and it was called the Angullia
Mosque. See BP 1933/12, CBS 96. Till
1935, the mosque at Serangoon Road
was not overtly given any name, neither Bombay
nor Angullia. BP
1935/404, CBS 84. By 1954, the Serangoon mosque was also labeled the Angullia Mosque on a map in the 1954 edition of the
Singapore Street Directory and Guide. See Street
Directory‘54, map 3.
Evelyn Lip, Chinese Temples in Singapore, pp.46-48 and 101; Evelyn Lip, Chinese Temples & Deities,
(Singapore: Times Books International, 1986), pp.63-68; Dhoraisingam, Heritage, p.192.
 Vesak Day celebrates the day of the Full Moon, on which
Prince Siddhartha was born.
pp.46-48, 101; Lip, Deities, pp.63-68; Dhoraisingam, Heritage, p.192.
 Mee Toh School Newsletter April
2000; Mee Toh School
Newsletter April 2000; Mee Toh
School Magazine 2000, 2000, p.20; Lip,
 Mee Toh School
Magazine 2000, pp.20-21.
Edwards, A Guide, p.;
Centennial Celebrations – 100th Anniversary Magazine, p.19.
 FMC Centennial, p.32.
The Indian Catholic congregation had actually began in 1859. It was then based
at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. In 1867, when the Church
of Sts Peter and Paul at Queen
Street was founded for the Asiatic Catholics, the
Indian congregation moved there. It was only in the 1880s that the Indian
congregation was constituted as a Church in its own right.
Walter Makepeace, One Hundred Years of Singapore, Vol 2
(Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), p.249; Dhoraisingam,
Heritage, p.204; Marjorie Doggett, Characters of Light (Singapore: Times
Books International, 1985).
Makepeace, One Hundred Years, p.249; Compte Reudu,
Bishop’s Annual Report in Clement Liew’s Missionary
Journal I, 1994 1886; Clement Liew, “From Mission to Church”, NUS Hist
Dept Honours Dissertation, 1993, p.58.
 Dhoraisingam, Heritage, p.204; Compte Reudu,
Kelly Chopard, Rochore Eyewitness (Singapore: Landmark Books for Rochore
Citizen's Consultative Committee, 1989), pp.27-28.
Interview, National Archives, A000248/10, Chan Cheng Yean.
Oral Interview, National Archives, A00470/5, Tay Meng
Hock; Historic Districts in the Central Area:
A Manual for Little India Conservation Area, Urban Redevelopment Authority
1988, pp.12-14; Siddique, Little India, p.59.
 Das, Kaliamman Temple, p.30
 Chopard, Rochore, pp.24-26
In an account of the war years this author has come across in his youth,
Brother William of the La Salle Brothers in Singapore
recalled how the Chandra Bose had people going all over Singapore
to locate every Indian to give them bananas and other food items. Bro. William,
of cause, was not spared internment at Bahau in 1943
when his turn came.
 Das, Kaliamman Temple, pp.27-28; Doraisingham, Heritage, p.217.
Theodore R. Doraisamy (ed), 150 Years of Education in Singapore, Teachers’ Training
College 1969, p.118; Doraisingham, Heritage, p179.
 Das, Kaliamman Temple,
p.29. A Japanese sword was found by the PUB to be their possession in the
1980s. No one knew then, the origins of that sword. Could this be the INA
sword? After all, the Sri Veerama Kaliamman
was the temple of the municipal workers, that is, those working for the
government services department. Till recent times, that job belonged to the
 Siddique, Little
and Times”, TCS video cassette DS599.51 Tck.H; Doraisingham,Heritage, p.207; ST 9/8/92)
 Jumabhoy had also fled to India
when war came. There, he was the main person who fought for the cause of the
evacuees from Singapore
to India during
WWII. In India,
during the occupation years, he was a member of the Repatriation Committee
in Bombay. (Who 1948, p296) He returned, like PGP,
still with his wealth intact.
 R Jumabhoy, Multiracial Singapore, 1970, pp.267-68.