Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Little India(小印度), George Town, Penang

Little India

Where is Little Inida in Penang? It is not Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling or Pitt Street, the road is more an early Penang street with various religion institution properly located by early town planner. How about the area near Masjid Kapitan Kling? It is more an Indian Muslim area include Kampong Kaka and Kampong Kolam. Then, where is Little India?

Little India is an area where the commercial and cultural activities of Hindu Indian are found. It is the area around the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple at Queen Street(吉寧街, rear portion is at Pitt Street). The temple was built in 1883. The land was granted in 1801 by the British to Betty Lingam Chetty, who was the Kapitan(Community leader) of the Tamil or South Indian.

Little India is a rectangle land area within Chulia Street(牛干冬), Pitt Street(椰腳街, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Kling ), Penang Street (唐人街) and China Street(大街), cross vertically by King Street (大伯公街), Market Street (馬吉街, Lebuh Pasar), horizontally by Queen Street ( 吉寧街) and King Street(大伯公街). It is within the heart of old George Town, within the Francis Light Grid, a rectangular area bordered by Light Street, Beach Street, Chulia Street and Pitt Street(now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling).

Map of Little India

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King Street( 大伯公街) is between Light Street and Chulia Street. It was named after King George III(1760-1820). The Chinese called it with various names,depending on location. King Street is located within the Georgetown Unesco World Heritage historic core site. It is the original grid laid out by Capt Francis Light, the founder of George Town.
(i) Kau-keng-chu-au(九間厝後): Between Light Street and Bishop Street. It literally means at the back of the 9 houses. The name is referred to 9 terrace houses,with their back to King Street and their frontage to Penang Street. Yeap Chor Ee first house is located at 4, King Street,now open as The Sire Museum Restaurant.
(ii) Kuin-tang-tua-pek-kong-kay(廣東大伯公街): From Bishop Street to China Street. This part was the heart of Cantonese community.A number of Cantonese association, clan house and temple are located here.One of them is the Cantonese Tua Peh Kong Temple.
(iii)Ku-hock-seng-kongsi-kay(舊和勝公司街): From China Street to Market street. Ho Seng Secret Society used to have its base at 53, King Street,next to Poe Choo Siah.
(iv)Kelinga- kay(吉寧仔街) : From Market Street to Chilia Street. It was inhabited by Southern Indian who were dock workers in the Penang habour. The portion is within Little India.

Noted the wording of the road signage, the Chinese wording. It is located at Kuin-tang-tua-pek-kong-kay(廣東大伯公街).

Also take note that Kelinga-kay to Chinese Hokkien also included Market Street(or Lebuh Pasar). Formerly it also include Chulia Street, east of Pitt Street.

Name sign of Queen Street

Lebuh Queen or Queen Street is located between Chulia Street and Church Street. It was named after Queen Charlotte, Consort to King George III(1761-1818). Bullock carts of the residents used to park their carts along the street. The Malay called it Gedung Rumput( litrally means grass godown). The western end were the location of Opium and Spirit Farm Office built in 1906. The Hokkien Chinese called the place chap-jee-keng-choo(十二間 )which literally means 12 houses,which were refered to the 12 houses of same height and style. It was also called ku-ho-hap-sia-kay(舊和合社街),which literally means old Ho Hup Society street.

The name signage of Little India((小印度)

China Street(大街 toa-kay), it literally means main street in Hokkien,located between Pitt Street (opposite the Goddess of Mercy Temple) and Beach Street. It is probably the main street within the original grid planned by Capt Francis Light, the founder of George Town. The Jawi writing still there.

Indian colorful saree

Indian delicacy, it is very sweet...

spices and flour...


The alley at Queen Street, on the right side of the entrance is a shop , formerly a clinic of Dr N.K.Menon J.P., I know him at the time of taking scout badge for Ambulance, he is also active in St John Ambulance. He died in 1981.

Mutton shop

The road signage of Market Street or Lebuh Pasar(吉寧仔街 ) , is located between Pitt Street and Beach Street. It was named after the Indian market , formerly at Market Street Ghaut(新萬山). Note the Tamil wording, as the signage is located within Little India.

The road signage of King Street, between Light Street and Chulia Street. Noted the Tamil wording. It is located at Kelinga- kay(吉寧仔街),within Little India.

Little India is a vibrant place; with sound, smell, taste and sight of Southern Indian culture. The sound of the Indian Hindi song, the smell of incense and spices, the colorful saree and clothing, the spicy curry and rice on banana leaf , the colorful delicacy and food.

It is a living heritage of Penang, it is heritage of South Indian culture of Penang.

And the Little India is growing.... more colorful, more lively when come the Thaipusam and Deepavali festival...

Little India is also growing in size ......

Dr N.K. Menon
Dr. N.K. Menon, born in India, he was educated at St. Xavier's Institution in Penang and had his medical training at the University of Edinburgh, University of Tubingen in Germany and Madras University Medical College. He began his private practice in Penang in 1926.

In 1931, he attracted public attention because of his strong condemnation of the exploitation of Indian labour by the European capitalists. His outspoken views came by way of a Presidential speech at the Fourth Annual Conference of Indian Associations held in Ipoh. The speech created a stir both among the Indians as well as the European business communities. This prompted The Straits Times, the most influential daily in Malaya, to criticise the speech as being contrary to the tradition of Malayan politics, which according to the newspaper, was characterized by moderation and restraint. Menon's speech and the reactions to it had the unfortunate effect of causing many frightened Indians to withdraw their support for these Annual Conferences. The conferences were no longer held thereafter, and ceased to be a platform for Malayan Indian opinion. (Arasaratnam, 1970: 97-8).

In the 1940s, Dr. Menon became actively involved in the Indian National Army (INA), an army inspired by radical Indian nationalists opposed to the moderate approach of the Indian National Congress. They teamed up with the advancing Japanese armies to expel the British from India-each for their own reasons.

Malaya was an important centre for the activities of the INA, not only because of its geographical proximity to India but also due to its large Indian community whose sympathy could be tapped for the cause. Additionally, the en masse surrender of units of the British Indian Army stationed in Malaya had the potential of being remobilised immediately for the INA cause. The INA objectives, however, were largely unfulfilled. After the war, several Malayan leaders of the INA returned to India but Menon remained in Penang until his demise in 1981.

His radical fire was not doused, however. Menon went on to stand as a candidate of the Radical Party (which he helped found), when the first elections under the Municipal Constitution were held in December 1951. His party swept in, winning six out of the nine seats (City Council, 1966:89). He served as a member of the Municipal Council until 1955. As Settlement Councillor in Penang and a member of the Settlement Executive Committee, he served the Indian community and the people of Penang with distinction. In his capacity as the Chairman of the Settlement Committee for Education, he played a notable role in serving both the English and Tamil schools in Penang State. Menon also had the distinction of becoming the President of the British Medical Association of Malaya between 1955-6. At different times he served as a President of the North Malaya Kerala Samajam and the Malaysian-German Society as well.

(Extract from Article by Professor Suresh Narayanan, USM)

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