A mirror of the Streets of South Asia
Are you looking for saree or costume jewellery with semi-precious gems? Do you want to buy spices for your curries? Then head on to Little India when you are in George Town, Penang. It is the centre of Georgetown’s Indian culture and offers a different kind of shopping experience. There are some real treasure troves of all things Indian, and it is also a great place to pick up knick-knacks and souvenirs to take home.
Little India in George Town, Penang is an ethnic Indian enclave. It is bordered by four streets, Lebuh Pasir, Lebuh King, Lebuh China and Lebuh Penang, but it can also be extended to the Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Church Street as there are many Indian businesses there.
This thriving community is a living heritage of the South Indian culture. Stepping in Little India brings you away over half a continent to the streets of South Asia.
As you walk into the street of Lebu Pasar, you will notice the change in the ambiance, with colourful clothing, the smell of the sandalwood scents and spices coming from the vendors selling curries. You will also hear the sound of the latest Bollywood hits from vendors selling DVDs and movies. Little India has that special atmosphere that makes for a perfect subject in documentaries and films.
Penang has a long-established Tamil population tracing back to the 18th century. In the days of settlement under the administration of Sir Francis Light, Indian immigrant settlers took up a variety of roles as ‘boatmen’, agricultural labourers, money lenders and spice traders.
Most of the buildings in Little India are pre-war shop houses. Notable buildings here include the Menara Sentral which housed the Penang Sentral College. Main tourist attractions include the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The oldest Hindu temple in Penang, Sri Mariamman Temple was constructed in 1833 though it took 100 years and many extensive renovations before it acquired its current form. It features 38 statues including the goddess Mariamman in different incarnations, and a statue of Lord Subramaniam embellished with diamonds, gold and emeralds.
Most of the Indian religious festivals take place in this temple like the Navratri festival or The Nine Night Festival, Chithra Pournami and Thaipusam.
Little India is the place to shop for just about anything that has the substance of India – from saree, traditional costumes, silk and cotton, spices, costume jewellery and precious gold, they are all here. Bollywood movies and latest hits are available in the many music and video stores. You can also buy fresh garlands, colourful flowers as offerings to the Gods at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple or in private altars, even for ladies’ own ornaments.
If you are craving Indian food, this is the place to go. Different types of curries and scent of coconut oil and spices will entice you to indulge in the tandooris and beriyanis.
At the corner of Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh King, an excellent stall sells piping hot and aromatically-spiced samosa, pakora, bhajji and vadai fried in front of you.
A number of Indian sweet shops sell Indian sweets and other delicacies to satisfy your sweet tooth. Thali Sweets Café also offers vegetarian meals.
Another famous restaurant, Sri Ananda Bahwan, have 2 branches along Lebuh Penang. Lot 66 is for vegetarians who love paneer-based curries and vegetables and Lot 55 is for meat-lovers who enjoy tandoori-cooked chicken and lamb dishes.
Restoran Liyaqat Ali located at 98 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, next to Kapitan Keling Mosque, serves a filling dish of nasi kandar.
Little India is one of the most-loved venues of photographers and film-makers because of the colourful sceneries and interesting subjects.
Take a tour at the oldest Hindu kovil at the corner of Queen Street and Chulia Street, the Sri Mariamman Temple. The temple is open in the mornings and evenings and is closed between 12pm and 4pm.
Enjoy the ‘Street of Harmony’, a walking tour of Penang’s 4 different communities which includes a walk along Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling to see the impressive Kapitan Keling Mosque. The mosque was built by the Tamil community in honour of Caudin Mydin Merican, the Captain of the South Indians at the time.
Indian fashion, food, music, movies, temples and souvenirs
Location: George Town, Penang
Address: Lebuh Cecil, 10300 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm
Tel. No: +604 2620202
- Rapid Penang buses CAT , 11, 101,201, 203, 206, 301, 302, 303
- By Car
- from George Town city centre – 1 minute
- from Batu Feringghi – 27 minutes
- from the Penang Bridge – 18 minutes
- from the Penang International Airport – 27 minutes