Heritage Trail

As far as I can recall, the first time I stepped foot in Little India was when I was a kid. My grandfather had been a taxi driver and used to bring me there often. 

I’ve been combing the streets of Little India the last 6 years snapping the everyday hustle from dusk till dawn.

In 1989, the government enacted a plan to conserve Little India, and all buildings of architectural and historical significance within the locale were retained and restored. Traditional businesses such as goldsmiths specialising in Indian jewellery, eating houses serving Indian delicacies, saree shops, and stalls selling garlands and sweets - these are all many and abound in Little India. In fact they now strive alongside newer establishments like boutique and souvenir shops. the Little India of today remains the traditional hub of the Indian community in Singapore, yet has also become a melting pot of discovery for tourists worldwide and people from all religious walks of life. For myself and like-minded shooters, this place is a photographic gem.

On a more recent note, I’d chanced upon a new heritage trail launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) right in the middle of - who knew? - Little India. As usual I did what I did and made my way on foot along every street and alley with a camera in hand. 

Come along with me:

Tekka Centre
Tekka Centre is a personal favourite. You just cannot ignore this iconic complex. Step in and you’ll find a wet market, food centre and shops. If memory serves me well, you used to find sellers peddling live animals, freshly butchered on the premises.

Well of course our standards in hygiene made striking improvements over the years and we no longer get such practices. Meats and fish are kept separate from fruits, vegetables and dry goods. We only do safe.

Tekka continues to be a landmark in not just Little India, but is a mainstay in Singapore. You’ll find me popping in every time I’m close by. The multitude of people and a peaceful ethnic congregation just draws me back time and time again.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple holds some of my fondest memories. In fact this was my favourite spot when I’d first started taking photography seriously. This is arguably Little India’s most popular Hindu temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali, a benevolent and powerful figure.

The construction of the temple was completed in 1881 by Bengali labourers but over the years, it has gone through many extensions and renovations. The gopuram (tower entrance) is decorated with multicoloured depictions of numerous Hindu deities, while the main shrine houses a jet black statue of Kali that was shipped from South India. It’s a striking building. Those who have been blessed at this temple normally have symbolic white ash on their forehead.

Little India Arcade
Little India Arcade is a popular tourist destination. Dating from 1913, it is one of the many conserved shophouses. Once here you’ll find it filled to the brim with spice shops, jewellery stores, flower vendors, and of course souvenir shops selling a selection of Indian handicrafts. In the months leading up to Deepavali, Little India Arcade joins the vendors in Campbell Lane and transforms into a bustling stretch of shops for festive shopping. You’ll definitely find the likes of myself and many others armed with cameras eager to capture the bustle of the festivities.

Abdul Gafoor Mosque
Completed in 1910, the mosque was built to replace the former Al-Abrar Mosque that had stood on its site. Abdul Gaffoor Mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1979 in recognition of its rich architectural and historical value. The mosque’s architecture is a fusion of Moorish, South Indian and Victorian architectural styles. Every Ramadan, the Jemaah of Masjid Abdul Gafoor donates food baskets to needy families.

My most memorable experience definitely had to have been my first time way back in 2010. I still remember how the mosque caretaker took care and kindness in educating me about photography within the mosque. The general rule of thumb, do not point cameras at people during prayer sessions.

What a trail.

You too can make a trip along these sights that mean much to me. Fortunately, NHB has you covered with a trail map and guides at Roots.sg

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