With a history that dates to the early 1800s, Little India began as a colony set up by Indians who came to Singapore as prisoners of the British Raj. On their release there were those who chose to stay back and there began this little colony called Little India. There were many others who were brought from Indian villages as indentured labourers who again chose to stay back in this new colony.
Located near the Serangoon River, Little India was the perfect location for cattle rearing and agriculture and therefore a land that initially housed Indian convicts soon became home to many who had served their time and chose to stay back in Singapore. Ethnic Indians are a small minority that constitute 6.5% (160,000) of Singapore’s total population and their language is primarily Tamil as a majority trace their origins to the eastern part of South India where Tamil is common.
A deeper connection can be seen in that it were the Indian labourers and prisoners who contributed greatly in building the colony’s hospitals, major buildings, churches and many of the features that Singapore has to this day. As the British left the Southeast Asian peninsular, the Indian community chose to imbibe their own cultural backgrounds. A stark indicator that stands to this day is the number of temples built by the community.
Another contribution to Singapore by the Indian community that is worthy of mention is that the name ‘Singapore’ was coined from the Sanskrit words ‘Singha Pura’ meaning ‘Lion City’.