A Visit to Singapore’s Little India

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

I had the chance to visit Singapore’s Little India this weekend. I love how Little India is just bustling with excitement and activity. The vibrantly coloured temples, together with the unmistakeable scent of exotic spices stimulate the senses, are truly an incredible experience.

In order to make the most out of my time in Little India, I set out to accomplish two main things: firstly, to take in the sights, sounds and scents of the district by walking through the famous historical five-foot walkways and secondly, to visit and appreciate one of the local Hindu temples.

I started my journey at Serangoon Road, the main thoroughfare of Little India, taking my time to wander through the little streets.  There are so many meandering walkways and streets that one could venture off into. Along the streets there are many little stalls selling floral garlands. These garlands,  which are used as a form of offering and adornment for the Hindu deities, are truly beautiful – handmade and created with fresh brightly coloured flowers.

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

Colourful garland stalls can be found all over Little India

I also enjoyed admiring the colourful animated altars that sat prominently on street corners and outside of Hindu-owned shops.

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

The Hindu god Ganesha is one of the more popular gods that can be seen in little altars around Little India

After taking my time exploring the effervescent streets of Little India, I decided to spend the next part of my afternoon in one of Singapore’s most famous Hindu temples, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Located along Serangoon Road, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore, built by Indian immigrants who came to work and live here in Singapore in the 1800s. The choice of deity, Sri Veeramakaliamman as the chief deity is also significant.  In the pioneer days, Indian immigrants experienced many hardships and obstacles.  Sri Veeramakaliamman is seen as a goddess who destroys evil and therefore worshiped for her power to help them overcome their struggles and challenges.

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Visiting the temple was really an eye-opener. Life-like deities filled the temple with dedicated devotees paying homage to them. There was a distinct smell of incense in the air as the priests lit bowls of fire and incense to honour the gods and goddesses.

Little India has since become one of my favourite places to recommend to visitors. Its distinct character so far removed from the skyscrapers that fill the Marina Bay skyline and the air-conditioned malls of Orchard Road. It is a place where time has learnt to stay still, and, hopefully, for many years to come.

Little India is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist to organise tours and transport for you. They can be reached at +65 6591 5034/35 / pa.singapore@capellahotels.com.

 

Capella Singapore’s Insider’s Guide To Singapore

kampong_glam_s1

Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked.  However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid.  It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.

The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side.  Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore.  As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.

temple1s

The two gods of death, 黑白無常 (Heibai Wuchang) work together to bring people to the afterlife. Legend has it that they are easily distracted by cigarettes and alcohol which is why believers leave cigarettes by their altar!

After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents.  The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths.  Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people.  But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India!  I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.

Lunch was the next stop.  I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch.  The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house.   Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore.  The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones.  This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.  I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.

kampong_glam_s1

(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began.   One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura AromaticsMinyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources.  The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me.   Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.

kampong_glam_s2

(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore.  It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.  

This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.