Little India

Little India is an ethnic neighbourhood found in Singapore that has Tamil cultural elements and aspects of other cultures. It is an ethnic enclave containing a large population of Indian people within a society where the majority of people are not South Asians, yet has a high concentration of South Asian shops and restaurants. It is an area reported to have developed around a former settlement for Tamil convicts. Its location used to be just marshland and grazing fields for raising cattle, and trade in livestock was once prominent in the area. Now it is a bustling hive of activities of sights, sounds and intriguing aromas that permeates every nook and corner of the area. A rainbow of colours greets you as you wind your way through the streets.
This neighbourhood has the patronage of people of all races who wish to eat or buy something specific to Tamil culture, such as curry or saris (Tamil clothing). One of the more prominent examples of cross-cultural patronage besides those regarding food is that many Chinese parents go to shops in Little India to grind rice to make congee for infants. Here, where the locals shop, you can buy almost anything that’s Indian, from handicrafts and Kashmir silk to peacock feathers and intricately woven flower garlands. Glittering silk-threaded saris, brassware and Indian-designed jewellery are particularly good buys. Check out the spice mills for ready-made packets of spices for fish, meat or vegetable curries that can be easily packed into a suitcase. You’ll be charmed by jewellers selling silver amulets, bridal ornaments as well as inexpensive, colourful bangles, anklets and other adornments. Or let a parakeet tell your fortune; and for the ladies, you may want to try out the delicately henna-painted motifs on your hand.
The historical value of Little India lies not only in the rich variety of designs of the respective buildings, but also in the urban texture, the streetscapes, side roads, backlanes and open spaces. The historic fabric of the late 19th and early 20th century is thus still intact. Around Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Serangoon Road is festively decorated (with lights, of course!) and open-air markets are set up to sell Deepavali goodies. The exact date is set by the lunar calendar, but it usually takes places in October/November and is a public holiday. Near the beginning of Deepavali, the fire walking festival of Thimithi is held, where many male devotees will walk across a platform of burning coal. Though the actual fire walking takes place at the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown, the procession starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and makes its way to Chinatown early in the morning.
The most extreme thing to do in Little India is to join the festival of Thaipusam, held yearly during the full moon in the lunar month of Thai (usually January/February). Male devotees attach ornate shrines to their flesh with piercing hooks known as kavadi and walk across town in a day-long procession. Female devotees would usually just carry a pot of milk on their heads and join the procession. The procession starts from Si Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and proceeds to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road.

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