Little India is a district that you should not miss if you are traveling to Singapore. It is a place that draws attention because of its colourful shophouses and its relaxed atmosphere. Here you can pay a visit to one of the last remaining goldsmiths exercising his craft in Singapore, eat delicious vegetarian Indian food and shop for cotton dresses, Sarees and floral arrangements.
A little bit of history
Between 1840 and 1890 the cattle trade became very popular. Important characters were Mr. I.L Belilios, cattle dealer, and Mr. Desker who owned the largest slaughterhouse and butchery here (two streets are named after them). Mr. I.L Belilios was born in Calcutta and employed Indian people almost exclusively.
In the early 1900s the drainage of swamps and the rinderpest disease, which prohibited the importation of livestock, eliminated the livestock trade and created space for the construction of housing and commerce.
Shophouses were built between 1840 and 1960 and were first built to accommodate the cattle and horses in the stable on the first floor while the owners lived on the second floor.
The facades of the shophouses are very different, according to the period when they were constructed. Some are in the Art Deco style and have colorful tiles, French windows, ornaments in the form of flowers and Conrintio columns . The colors vary from indigo blue to pastel shades.
The “Five Footways” (Five feet Footways) are covered walkways that run along the front of the lines of shophouses and give shade to pedestrians. Shop owners take advantage of this space to display their merchandise and entice buyers.
One of the criteria for the preservation of shophouses is that it is permitted to have a shop or a restaurant on the first floor and that the trade has to be related to the ethnic identity of the place, such as jewellery or the commerce of Sarees and fabrics. Western fast food businesses are not allowed.
The diversity of Little India
If you visit Little India, you can visit temples, Hindu or Chinese, visit mosques, shop at the Mustafa store which is open 24 hours per day or try on a Saree in one of the little shops of Little India Arcade.
The Indian district is a very picturesque place and it will take you at least half a day to visit it.
Source: Singapore’s Little India, past, present and future. Little India, Historic district.
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