Indian Heritage Centre launches first book tracing community's heritage

Titled Singapore Indian Heritage, the 556-page publication combines academic research with catalogue entries of the centre's collection of over 300 artefacts, photographs and documents.
Titled Singapore Indian Heritage, the 556-page publication combines academic research with catalogue entries of the centre's collection of over 300 artefacts, photographs and documents.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - The Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) has launched its first-ever book on Thursday (Sept 21), tracing the cultural heritage of the Indian community in Singapore and casting a spotlight on its plight during the Japanese occupation.

Titled Singapore Indian Heritage, the 556-page publication combines academic research with catalogue entries of the centre's collection of over 300 artefacts, photographs and documents.

The hardcover book, comprised of a series of essays and photos, charts the journey of Singapore's Indian community from pre-colonial times to its contributions to nation building and current day dynamics.

Edited by Associate Professor Rajesh Rai of the National University of Singapore and Professor A. Mani of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, the book was launched by Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran at the IHC in Little India.

Prof Rai said the Japanese occupation of Singapore is not often thought of in terms of the Indian community's experience.

While the Indian National Army (INA), formed by Indian nationalists in Southeast Asia, forged an alliance with the Japanese in their fight against British rule, Indians also suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the Japanese.

Often overlooked, according to Prof Rai, is the "large numbers of Indian labour involved on Japanese projects, and the POWs that did not join the INA, and their fates".

Speaking at the event, Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai, who is chairman of IHC's advisory board, said the book was a collaboration between "respected members of the academia and the centre's museum professionals".

"The IHC is invested in the long term study of Indian history and heritage in Singapore and the wider Southeast Asia region," he said.

Each chapter of the book puts a magnifying glass to a gallery of the centre and the artefacts on display, thus making it accessible and interesting to the average reader, Prof Mani told The Straits Times.

"Singapore is a child of the diaspora...this medium is a way for Singapore to acknowledge and understand this common thread of journeys that have come to make us the people that we are," said Prof Rai.

The book is available for $53.50 at Museum Label shops at the Indian Heritage Centre, Asian Civilisations Museum, National Museum of Singapore and Malay Heritage Centre.