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Little India

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\ Signboard at entrance to Little IndiaSignboard at entrance to Little India (25 July, 2012)

Little India is an enclave within the inner quarters of George Town, Penang. As with other Little Indias elsewhere, the Little India of George Town is lined with shops managed by the Indian Community. It's a place to enjoy a kaleidoscope of colours and sounds, with goods from India spilling to the sidewalks, the smell of various spices in the air and Indian music blaring from loud speakers.

The area known as Little India is bordered by Beach Street, China Street, Pitt Street and Chulia Street.

Little India, George Town, PenangLittle India, George Town, Penang (23 April 2009)

The Little India settlement - though it only came to be known by that name in the later part of the 20th century - dates from the time Captain Francis Light established George Town on the then Prince of Wales Island. It holds the distinction of being the oldest continuous Indian settlement in the Malay archipelago. Apart from the Indian enclave in Bangkok, no other city in the Far East has an older Indian community than George Town.

The Indian settlement began along the waterfront across from Beach Street. In its earliest incarnation, much of Beach Street south of Church Street was predominantly Indian in character. As soon as the mangrove along the coast were cleared, steps were built from the shore at Beach Street towards water's edge. These stone steps, or ghauts, were were used by the Indian coolies to bring goods from arriving ships. Roads were laid across Beach Street from these ghauts, among them Church Street, China Street, Market Street and Chulia Street.

Anglo-Indian architecture of Little IndiaAnglo-Indian architecture of Little India (23 April 2009)

The heart of the Indian settlement of George Town centred on Market Street. This was where a wet market developed, probably the first wet market in the colony. Stalls were erected on both sides of Market Street, as well as along Penang Street and Che Em Lane, which in the early days was where the poultry sellers stationed themselves.

Between 1786 and 1860, the Indian settlement of George Town grew beyond its present limits, to as far west as present-day Transfer Road. During this period, Chulia Street was the main artery through the enlarged Indian settlement. At the far end another Indian market was established. Called Chowrasta, meaning "cross roads", it was initially an open-air market that has since evolved with time. In its heyday, which was the first quarter of the 19th century, the settlement was a cosmopolitan mix comprising various communities including the Tamils, Indian Muslims, Bengalis, Malabaris, Biharis and more, each carving out an enclave for themselves.

Shops in Little IndiaShops in Little India (23 April 2009)

By the second half of the 19th century, the Indian settlement of George Town began to shrink. As their numbers dwindled, their land was taken over by successive waves of Chinese migration. These newcomers, or sinkheh, were mostly Cantonese, Hakkas and even some Japanese. Many arrived as penniless Gastarbeiter (foreign workers). They took over areas along Chulia Street previous occupied by the Indians, away from the more affluent Hokkien enclave of Armenian Street which is closer to shore.

Between 1860 and 1900, many of the kampung houses and Anglo-Indian bungalows along Chulia Street made way for brick shophouses. This coincided with a wave of prosperity and economic boom brought about by tin wealth of Larut. Today the only Anglo-Indian bungalow left standing in the area is Yeng Keng Hotel.

As George Town became more homogenously Chinese, the Indian appearance faded away, leaving little but the name of streets and villages, such as Chulia Street, Sri Bahari Road and Kampung Malabar. Today, the Indian settlement of George Town has been reduced to the original and oldest section, the one along Market Street. Here, we find the Indian character in full force. With Little India squarely within the core zone of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is unlikely to change any time soon.

Street in Little IndiaStreet in Little India (23 April 2009)

How to go to Little India

From the Weld Quay Ferry & Bus Terminal, use the pedestrian bridge to cross Weld Quay. Then continue west on China Street Ghaut until Beach Street. Cross Beach Street, then head south till junction with Market Street. You can say that Little India starts from there. The Penang Hop-On Hop-Off Tourist Bus also stops at Little India.

Hotels in Little India

Places to eat in Little India

Places of Worship in Little India

Organisations in Little India

Market Street, Little IndiaMarket Street, in the heart of Little India (11 February, 2013)

Business in Little India with Individual Listing

Business in Little India with Group Listing

B. Mathavon Stores is an Indian sundry shop established in 1978. It sells things that the local Indian community uses. Of the same proprietor is Mathavan Music Corner, a shop selling CDs, VCDs and DVDs of mainly Indian music and movies. Both are located along King Street, between China Street and Market Street.

B. Mathavon Stores
68, 70 & 72 King Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 264 5521

B. Mathavon Stores and Mathavan Music Corner, Little India, George Town, PenangB. Mathavon Stores and Mathavan Music Corner, Little India, George Town, Penang (15 September, 2012)

Chandra's Fashion is an Indian tailor in Little India. It also holds tailoring classes for India-style dresses.

Chandra's Fashion
58 King Street
10200 George Town, Penang

Chandra's Fashion, King Street, Little IndiaChandra's Fashion, King Street, Little India (15 September, 2012)

Sri Ganga Fancy Store is a merchant in Little India. It sells all sorts of goods serving primarily the Indian community. It's main store is in Penang Street, while there is a branch on King Street.

Sri Ganga Fancy Store
35 Penang Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 2637

Sri Ganga Fancy Store, Penang Street, Little IndiaSri Ganga Fancy Store branch on King Street, Little India (15 September, 2012)

Lehsyni Textiles is a shop selling textiles and clothes, serving mostly the Indian community.

Lehsyni Textiles
96-D King Street
George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 2678

Divine Home is a furniture shop in Little India. It specialises in Hindu religious furniture.

Divine Home
96-E King Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: 016 210 4101

Divine Home and Lehsyni Textiles, two shops in Little India, George TownDivine Home and Lehsyni Textiles, two shops in Little India, George Town (15 September, 2012)

Queen's Beauty Palace & Tailoring is a shop providing beauty treatment that caters to the Indian community. Services include facials, henna treatment, hair cut, manicure herbail hair oil massage and make up. The shop also provides tailoring and bridal make up.

Queen's Beauty Palace & Tailoring
102 King Street
10200 George Town, Penang

Queen's Beauty Palace & Tailoring, King Street, Little India, George TownQueen's Beauty Palace & Tailoring, King Street, Little India, George Town (15 September, 2012)

Bombay Textiles
95 Chulia Street
10200 George Town, Penang

Bombay Textiles, Chulia Street, George TownBombay Textiles, Chulia Street, George Town (15 September, 2012)

Vipin Carpets
107 Chulia Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 0153

Medina Store is a retailer and wholesaler of sarees and fabrics from India. It is located next to Vipin Carpets.
109 Chulia Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 6863

Fazal Mohammed Brothers
111 Chulia Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 2029

Vipin Carpets, Medina Store and Fazal Mohammed Brothers (15 September 2012)

There are a number of Indian barbers operating in Little India. Among them include New Light Hair Dressing Salon, at the junction of Market and Queen Streets and a nameless salon at the junction of Pitt and Chulia Streets.

The Indian Barber at the junction of Pitt and Chulia Streets (15 September 2012)

Along Pitt Street, on the western fringe of Little India is another nameless Indian barber shop, a short distance from the back entrance of the Arulmigu Maha Mariamman Temple.

Pitt Street Indian Barber (15 September 2012)

Money changers also operate along Pitt Street. Traditionally they cater to the Indian community who go back and forth between Malaya and India, but today they serve all tourists and locals needing to prepare money for their trips.

Best Mart Forex
53 Pitt Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 2149

Best Mart Forex, a money changer along Pitt Street, George Town (15 September 2012)

International Mega Forex Pitt Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 1526, 04 262 0792

International Mega Forex, Pitt Street, George Town (15 September 2012)

M Mohamed Kassim Forex
47-49 Pitt Street
10200 George Town, Penang
Phone: +60 4 261 0242

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