Rich Indian culture in the heart of Singapore
Little India, as the name suggests, is a town in central Singapore which encompasses the rich and diverse culture of the Indian community in Singapore.
It was originally a town where Tamil immigrants reside in olden days Singapore, much like the Chinese at Chinatown, and the Malays and Arabs at Kampong Glam.
To explore the wonders of the rich Indian culture , my friends and I went on a cultural expedition to Little India!I have been there on several occasions, but what makes this trip even exciting is the racial makeup of our team! We have Chinese, Malay and even a Finnish friend that day!
Wanna know more about our multi-ethnic team’s cultural adventure? Come on a tour with us here!
Highlights of Little India Tour
When we set off to explore Little India, we didn’t draw out an itinerary to follow, or bring a map to guide us.
Instead, we jot down the list of attractions and activities which we ‘must see’, and there we go! We didn’t have any time limit to complete this tour too.
And we had lots of fun walking all over Little India! I would suggest you to just simply tour like us! Here are the places in Little India we’ve walked.
We gathered at Little India MRT station before we began our trip. Our tour started at Buffalo Road, which is just a short distance after we exited the MRT station.
The road gets its name from the cattle slaughterhouses that were once here. Back in the 1970s, the streets were filled with vendors selling almost everything.
Of course, we can’t find any one of those now. But what we found were colorful decorations which were put up to prepare for Deepavali festival,indian restaurants serving delicious Indian cuisine, and shop houses, which just like the olden days vendors, sell almost anything!
We visited the shop houses, which sell items like jasmine garlands, loose flowers, mini oil lamps, which are used by Hindu devotees during their prayers. What’s famous there were also their sari shops.
A sari is a strip of unstitched cloth of average length of 5.5 metres, with many ways to tying and wearing around the body. If you like, you can ask the shop owner share with you different types of sari, and how to wear it!
The Tekka Market is just opposite the Buffalo Road. It is one of the largest, and cheapest wet market in Singapore!
If you’re there early in the morning, you will find Singaporeans shopping for the freshest fish, meat, poultry, seafood, as well as fruits and vegetables.
As we know India is known for its spices, you can also find shops selling all kinds of spices and herbs, which Singaporeans love to use for their own cooking.
One the other side of the market, there’s a hawker centre selling a variety of Singapore food, including Indian, Chinese and Malay food! Are you hungrrrryyyy?
On the second level of the market, you will find many boutiques selling Indian clothes and costume. Some are really beautiful!
We had some cold drinks at the hawker center just to chill ourselves on a hot weather day. We left the market through the hawker centre, and found ourselves at Serangoon Road!
Little India Arcade – Get Henna Art!
Little India Arcade is our first stop along Serangoon Road, the main road stretch of road which boasts all the main attractions of Little India!
Enter the Arcade, we saw various shops selling traditional products from India! It is at this place, that we decided to try the popular Indian art –Henna.
Personally, I have seen Henna art drawn on hands and arms of my Malay and Indian friends before, especially during wedding and festive seasons. But I have never had one myself before! Furthermore, my Finnish friend is curious about it too!
So we decided to get a henna art each from an artist in the Arcade. There are numerous designs to choose from, and a drawing costs from $4 to $12, depending on the complexity of the design.
A Henna art took about 10 minutes to 20 minutes (depending on the complexity of the design), and it will stay on you for about a week. Some may call it a ‘painless’ tattoo.
While some of my friends got the traditional flower designs, I got ‘Tweety Bird’ design, while my Finnish friend got a ‘Cobra’! Isn’t that cool? 🙂
I would definitely encourage you to get a Henna drawn, on any part of your body. You can also find out more about Henna here! There’s also anIndian Cultural Corner within the Arcade. Do visit for an introduction of Little India!
Moving on, we arrived at Campbell Lane, which is named after Sir Colin Campbell, a senior administration in the colonial government.
As we walked in the lane from Serangoon Road, we are amazed by the vegetable stalls along the roadside. You can almost find any type of fruits and vegetables there! How about a new place to do your grocery shopping?
Along this street, you will find many Indian handicraft shops selling statutes and images of Hindu gods and goddesses. You’ll also find stalls selling fresh flowers and colorful garlands made of jasmine and other kinds of flowers.
The garlands symbolize prosperity, and are usually bought by devotees for offerings at temples, or used to honor guests at ceremonies or weddings.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
As you see there, we’re now in one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which is built in 1855 by Bengali laborers. The name “Veeramakaliamman” means “Kali the Courageous”. Kali is a Hindu goddess.
Devotees or visitors are required to leave their footwear outside before entering the temple. As we entered, there were many devotees in the temple, and some rituals were going on in the temple’s main shrine where Kali is situated.
There are really many statues of Hindu gods and goddess in the temple, each with their own story and behind it.
The temple has been through a major haul in 1983. During the reconstruction period, the workmen discovered ancient pieces of statues, which are made locally in the 19th century. Thereafter, most figurines are imported from India.
Do pay a visit to Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple when you’re touring Little India, as it’s there where you’ll be exposed to the rich Indian culture and Hindu religion.
If you want to learn more, visit during festivals, such as the Thaipusam in January/February or Deepavali in October/November.
Tan Teng Niah Residence
This brilliant multi-coloured building, located at Belilios Road, is the only surviving Chinese villa in Little India.
This was where Tan Teng Niah, a prominent Chinese businessman who ran a confectionary and other smaller businesses in Serangoon Road, stayed in with his wife during the 1900s.
The family has long moved out and the villa now being leased for commercial purposes. As you can see, there’s yoga therapy centre within!
Next to the house, there’s also an outdoor indian restaurant serving some indian cuisine. Not bad for a meal beside an iconic building.
The picture just above is taken when we brought our Macau friends to Tan Teng Niah residence. Glad that they like it!
While this house might not fall into the ‘Indian cultural tour’ category, what’s unique about it, is that you can hardly find such houses in Singapore! It is certainly an attraction by its own!
Another attraction you must visit is the Mustafa Centre – a place you can shop literally the whole day! It opens 24 hours daily!
This is not just any shopping centre in Singapore. Whenever I step in, it just makes me feel that I’m gonna do all my shopping there.
Seriously, I don’t think I’m going elsewhere to shop, unless I really can’t find what I want. Lots of shoppers, locals and tourists packed the shopping centres everyday.
Find out more about Mustafa centre here!
Taste Indian Food
The next most important activity in Little India, after visiting all the cultural and historical sites, is to taste Indian food! The restaurants along the streets of Little India do offer some of the best Indian cuisine one could crave for.
Of course, that’s what we did during our cultural expedition! We certainly didn’t walk for two hours straight, and we don’t expect you to do so. But do stop by any restaurant along the way to try out some of the best Indian food in Singapore!
And remember, when you have your Indian food, eat them with your fingers! Another totally new experience, but it does taste different!
On top of the dishes you see in our plates, there are also Indian pastries which are just as tasty and delicious, and there are so many kinds to choose from!
Now, take a closer look. Feeling hungry?
We also tried some Indian candies which we bought at the Little India Arcade. That was my first time tasting the Indian cookies, same as all my other friends. We have mixed expressions and feedbacks about the candies.
Is it tasty? I would say it depends your taste buds!
Look at my friends’ expressions, and they do says a lot about the candies!
This Little India Cultural Expedition trip was definitely a fulfilled and enriching trip for all of us. One of my friends even made a short clip to sum up the best highlights of our trip!
How to get to Little India?
Hail a taxi or take the MRT to Little India station!
Look out for Exit E, where upon exiting, you will see Buffalo Road and Tekka Market a short distance from you.
For specific directions, click here!
Yay or Nay?
Why you might love Little India:
- A truly rich Indian cultural tour
- Best place to taste Indian cuisine
- Best place to shop inexpensively
- Our foreign friends love it!
Why you might not love Little India:
- Can be very crowded, especially weekends
- Roads/alleys can be dirty
- May not like the food
- You have to walk a lot
- Cultural shock
What Say You?
We have brought many of our foreign friends to Little India when they visit Singapore, and the cultural tour always fascinate them. What about you?
Share with us your cultural experiences below!
Return from Little India to Singapore Culture
Return to Travel Yourself Today Home