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16 Feb 2014

Market Street (Lebuh Pasar) - Little India Penang Part 2, Penang

Penang [檳城] • 16 FEBRUARY 2014
Little India is an ethnic enclave in George Town on the Malaysian island of Penang. Penang had been one of the British-ruled Straits Settlements, along with Singapore and Malacca, and became part of the Malayan Union in 1946 and was in turn succeeded by the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and, today, Malaysia. 

Penang’s British rulers had imported Chinese and Indian immigrants and used the immigrants’ skills and labor to develop the labor-intensive economy of the Settlements and other locales in Malaya.

Other Indians came on their own to seek their fortunes in Penang’s booming economic development as a free-trade port. Penang’s Indian immigrants, mostly ethnic Tamil and Muslim, settled in an urban area known eventually as ”Little India,” named for a similar enclave in Singapore. The area is very much alive and very important in the identification of Penang’s citizens of Indian origin.

 [The REAL Kacang Putih. Seldom seen on the racks nowadays, the beans are roasted lightly without oil or salt. The flavours come from the natural characteristics of the very tiny beans.]

Not many visitors and tourists to Georgetown's famous Little India enclave know that the area's name was adopted by the local authorities only nine years ago. But whatever it is named, visitors hardly fail to sense the remarkable nostalgic charm and almost innocent simplicity of the area. And no wonder. Little India breathes a rich living history that spans over two centuries. Culture here throbs with antiquity and tradition. The area has now become a magnet for heritage enthusiasts, international conservationists, and tourists.

Little India, with its intriguing inner city surroundings that comprise a copious collection of historic attractions of the colonial era such as a 19th century fort, courthouse, church, mosques, Hindu temples, and Chinese clan enclaves, entices a great deal of fascination and interest. To the hundreds of residents and workers who play here, the area bears a simple unspoken homeliness. For the people of Little India, the charming area has always been very much a part of their lives. 

The dynamism of the different trades renders a fascinating cornucopia of living activity depicting a rich, unique Malaysian culture. Music stores blare movie songs in Hindi and Tamil next to shops bedecked with flowing silk sarees. Rows of pre-war terrace shophouses teem with seemingly everything Indian - from pottery and stainless steel cutlery to spices and sundries, from jewellery to flower garlands. 
Kacang Putih (peanuts and snacks) hawker in Little India, Georgetown.

There are barbers and astrologers, millers and grocers, money changers and fruit sellers, South Indian restaurants and herb dealers. The sheer colour, vestige and energy make the community stand in romantic defiance against the waves of industrialisation and development that have swept through most parts of Penang over the years.

One of the most imposing landmarks in the area is the 167-year-old Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Queen Street, probably better known for the scores of fluttering pigeons that flock its entrance than for the fact that it is Penang island's first Hindu temple. Tucked away at a quiet corner of Little India, the temple's ornate sculptures depicting Hindu gods and mythology, and its peculiar solitude lend it an instant, poignant air of solace.The area is also a photographer’s dream, and there are picture opportunities at every turn. 
Courtesy of : Little India 


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