The Sunday Times says

Singaporean core of Little India

The former house of Tan Teng Niah along Kerbau Road is one of the historical landmarks along the Little India Heritage Trail.
The former house of Tan Teng Niah along Kerbau Road is one of the historical landmarks along the Little India Heritage Trail. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The Little India Heritage Trail, the newest such route created by the National Heritage Board (NHB), features more than 40 sites with 18 markers. Spread across 4km, it seeks to keep in contemporary view the history of a precinct that is more than 200 years old.

The NHB's carefully planned thematic routes capture various dimensions of Little India. Thus, "Serangoon in the 1900s" revisits the lives of early settlers in the area. "Walk of Faiths" features various places of worship and provides insights into how religion moulded the temporal lives of communities. "Shop Till You Drop" in a sense concludes the survey of history and religion by taking visitors on a tour of shopping opportunities without which no visit to Little India can be complete. Technology has been co-opted into the task of bringing the past into the present. Bluetooth beacons installed on heritage markers, working through visitors' mobile devices, will enable them to explore the stories told by the markers.

The obvious audience of the trail is tourists, who will gain from understanding the cultural role that Little India plays in the greater life of Singapore. However, Singaporeans, too, would stand to benefit from following the trail, which retraces one of the essential pathways into their common history. Little India says a lot about India, but it speaks more about Singapore. Little India reveals, in concrete and convincing detail, how ethnic precincts in Singapore embody traces of the national whole. Temples, mosques and churches included on the trail reflect the multi-religious provenance of this city-state. The site of the former Hong Wen School proves that Little India was culturally capacious enough to make space for a Chinese educational institution. And Kandang Kerbau Hospital received people from all walks of life, who together helped to build a multiracial nation. Little India is a great microcosm of a greater Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 05, 2017, with the headline 'Singaporean core of Little India'. Print Edition | Subscribe