SINGAPORE - The Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre in Telok Ayer on Tuesday launched a new gallery that focuses on the history of the Indian-Muslim diaspora here. Featuring storyboards and a multimedia display, visitors will learn about various aspects of the community's history, such as how Indian-Muslim merchants sailed from port to port to trade items such as betel and gold.
Here are five other things to know about the centre.
1. The Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre is an institution with more than 180 years of history. The centre is located at the site of the Nagore Dargah shrine, which was built between 1828 and 1830 by early immigrants from South India.
Early Indian-Muslim settlers often visited the place of worship to thank its saint Shahul Hameed, a South Indian holy man who helped to spread Islam to India, for granting them safe passage to Singapore.
2. The Nagore Dargah is a two-storey peach-and-white limestone building in Telok Ayer Street. It is a replica of a shrine in Tamil Nadu, India, that houses the remains of Shahul Hameed. The centre's facade, which includes a 14-tiered niche square minaret (which means beacon in Arabic) topped by an onion-shaped dome, has architecture similar to other Indian-Muslim institutions in Singapore.
These include the Jamae Mosque on South Bridge Road and the Al Abrar Mosque on Telok Ayer Street.
3. The shrine was gazetted as a national monument in 1974. In 2013, it underwent a year-long upgrading process, which included the restoration of its disintegrating wall paint. The centre re-opened to visitors on Nov 30 last year. It had received $47,700 from the National Heritage Board's National Monuments Fund to defray the restoration cost.
4. When the centre opened in 2011, it had a dining area set up by Halal food chain operator Banquet, featuring one stall that sold a variety of Indian Muslim foods like prata, murtabak and briyani. The idea of a commercial dining area initially caused discomfort among the community, but the issue was resolved.
The committee went to India to consult the Nagore Dargah management, which gave its blessing for the dining area as the building is a memorial to the saint, not his burial site. However, it later shut in 2012.
5. The newest gallery that was launched on Tuesday comprises storyboards and a multimedia exhibit featuring pioneers of the Indian-Muslim community.
However, the centre is looking to include more interactive elements to it, including exhibits with touch screens and QR codes.
This would help in reaching out to the younger generation who is more tech-savvy, said Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre's secretary Naseer Ghani. It is appealing to authorities, including the National Heritage Board, for funding to do so.