Little India Walking Tour, Route 1

Start your journey 1 at Little India MRT Station (NE7 on the purple North-East Line). Take Exit C (Bukit Timah Road).

Tekka Market 
Walking right, along the path skirting a row of shops, you’ll reach the redeveloped Tekka Market.  Bamboo clumps once grew in abundance here. Locals, especially those living in the Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats above the centre, flock to this wet market for their daily needs, including fresh vegetables and meats, and often visit the hawker centre for a local meal.

The market also marks a strong Chinese presence in the area, typical of Singapore’s multi-cultural population. Look around, and if you’re lucky, the Chinese fortune teller who sits along the walkway of Block 663 will be there.

Serangoon Road
One of Singapore’s oldest roads was built to cut across the island. It takes its name from a stork that lived on the muddy banks of the river – the Marabou Stork, called rangon by the local Malay villagers. Today, the area is home to a busy stretch of shops.

Ellison Building
As you stand a the corner of Bukit Timah Road and Serangoon Road, look across Rochor Canal, look for Ellison Building on the opposite corner. An architectural gem built in 1924, it is widely believed that British governors of Singapore once watched Sundays races at the race course from the semi-circular domes on either end. You may notice that the building bears a prominent Star of David. There is, however, no evidence that its original owner, I. Ellison, was Jewish.

Buffalo Road
Walk down Buffalo Road which was once lined with many buffalo pens. In days of old, many snake charmers, fortune tellers, astrologers, palmists, numerologists, even parrot-astrologers plied their trade here. And during religious festivals, people would seek them out, hoping to discover what the future held.

Race Course Road
Look for Race Course Road, which was named after Singapore’s first exclusive race course which in 1843, stood nearby. Today, everyone’s welcome at the host of restaurants along the road, which offer every conceivable Indian specialty. It is the ideal place for the gastronomically curious. Try some of the Indian restaurants @

  1. Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant at No. 56 for an appetizing meal served on a banana leaf.
  2. Muthu’s Curry for the local favourite, fish head curry, located at No. 76 along this same street.

Little India’s Arts Belt
This is where you can learn more about the area’s culture and traditions.

  1. No. 3 to 33 are examples of Art Deco-style shophouses – look up at the second floor.
  2. No.23 - For a fun souvenir, have your photograph taken in traditional Indian costume here.
  3. No. 47 - Discover the Islamic-influenced performing arts of Gamelan, silat and Angklung.
  4. No. 53 - Specialises in brassware, while statuary and other crafts can be found at No. 55.
  5. At No. 57 is a classic Indian framer; peek at the many iconic Hindu emblems on display. Even the walkway hasn’t been neglected; see how very decorative the floor tiles are. Spend some time exploring the ethnic stores; then stroll past the beauty parlours, jewellery and silk stores here to reach Serangoon Road once more.

House of Tan Teng Niah
At No. 37 on Kerbau Road sits the House of Tan Teng Niah, one of Little India’s last surviving Chinese villas. Admire its gorgeous architecture, the pintu pagar or intricately carved swinging door, second storey overhangs and ornate staircase.

If you are hungry and keen to try some Indian delicacies like appom or thosai, try Ananda Bhavan at No. 58 Serangoon Road.

Little India Arcade
Here you’ll find an ideal snapshot of the area’s culture and traditions. At unit #01-18, discover a world of exquisitely hand embroidered clothes and sari fabric with intricate threadwork and pattern at Handlooms. You might even want to try one on! Later, browse through handicrafts, trinkets, lampshade, peacock feathers, shawls, bangles, ayurvedic herbs, incense - all of which make great souvenirs!

Campbell Lane
Leave the Little Arcade’s side entrance on Campbell Lane . This road is a hive of activity during Hindu festivals like Deepavali, when a lively bazaar spirit fills the air. That’s when vendors offer traditional handcrafts and garments, jewellery, carpets, food, spices and flower garlands. Also on sale are finely crafted gold altars and figures of Hindu deities at Gokulam. At other times, things here are more tranquil, with old-style provision shops that seem untouched by time, wood carving furniture stores and a Homeopathic Centre at No. 46 Heading towards Madras Street. You’ll notice that No. 39 is a fine example of the first transitional shophouse style.

One of the oldest surviving traditional trades, Flower Garland shops still operate on Campbell Lane. Here, men and women thread resplendent garlands or jothi of jasmine, marigolds and roses, symbolising purity, peace and love respectively. Placed on statues of deities as prayer offerings, they’re also used to garland important guests during functions, as a symbol of respect. Indian women often thread pretty flowers into their hair as a form of adornment.

Dunlop Street
Next head to Dunlop Street via Madras Street. As you walk along, admire the various shophouses’ styles on the street; No. 127 and 159 are examples of early shophouse style. Spend some time browsing among its mix of provision and textile shops.

Masjid Abdul Gafoor 
You’ll soon reach the entrance of the Masjid Abdul Gafoor. At the entrance of this mosque is a sundial. The only one in the Islamic world, its design of a sunburst with 25 rays decorated with Arabic calligraphy denotes the names of 25 chosen Prophets. Completed in 1907, the masjid or mosque boasts a unique blend of Moorish-Islamic and South Indian architectural styles. You’re invited to enter the grounds, but please follow the practice of removing your shoes.

The Church Of True Light
Next, head to this church on Perak Road. Completed in 1952 and deemed a full-fledged Anglican Church in 1963, its architecture is relatively modest, with a strong Chinese influence. Early worshippers here were mainly trishaw riders who lived and worked in the area. The church also provided them free medical care and a kindergarten. Today, services are held in English, Mandarin and Tamil, to cater to its many multi-lingual worshippers.

Upper Dickson Road
Here you can view some interesting details of the area, including Peranakan shophouse, which marry a unique blend of Straits-born Chinese and Malay influence. Also located on this street at No. 330 to 332 is Komalas, Little India’s first Indian fast food restaurant. And usually, sitting on the right corner, you’ll see an Indian fortune teller with her small green bird.

Serangoon Road
As you stand on Serangoon Road, you’ll see a large number of ‘yellow gold’ jewellery stores. For sale inside are earring that screw on counter-clockwise, pieces recreated from ancient patterns, and the Noavarethinam, a ring encrusted with nine different gems. Representing the nine planets in our solar system, the ring is mainly worn by men, supposedly to counteract the influence of these planets.

In earlier times, you would have seen pawnshops near these goldsmiths. Ironic at first, until you realise that the older generation of Indians frequently ‘invested’ in gold during good times and pawned their jewellery to raise funds during bad times. The use of gold as an ‘informal currency’ was also practiced by the older Chinese.

Cuff Road
For a flash-back to times past, turn the corner into Cuff Road. Just steps away, at No. 2, is one of Singapore’s last Traditional Spice Grinders. The belief was that spices should only be grounded during the day to impart their full flavour to meat and vegetables. Today, fewer families practice this; many buy their spices ready-ground. Convenient, but a shame, as the heady aromas emanating testify. The store opens from 9am to 6.30pm, and is closed on Mondays.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Now cross Serangoon Road over to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. This temple was built as early as 1855 and newer extensions were added in 1908. Dedicated to Kali, the Goddess of Power and ferocious incarnation of Lord Siva’s wife, this Hindu temple is believed to be the first one of its kind in Singapore to venerate her.

Many temple devotees use the aluminum enclosures located near the doors to break coconuts, symbolic of revealing their pure and kind inner-selves. You may also notice that in counter-clockwise fashion, they encircle the temple halls an odd number of times for good luck.

Devotees entering the temple ring the many bells on its door, hoping to have their requests granted. Inside, the ceiling is rimmed with statues of Hindu gods. And of course, at this temple’s main shrine is a jet black statue of Kali, flanked by her sons Ganesha and Murugan. The many-armed Kali carries many weapons too. Namely, weapons of destruction. Ganesha, the elephant god, is the Remover of Obstacles, while Murugan, often depicted riding a peacock, has his birthday marked by the festival of Thaipusam. At other shrines, elephants flank the staircase, while the steps are covered by intricately-worked silver.

Veeramakaliamman means ‘Kali - the Courageous’. And during World War II, the temple courageously offered refuge to many.

Tuesdays and Fridays are the holy days when the temple is abuzz with religious fervour; a sight to behold. You’re welcome to visit then, or at any other time (the temple is closed 12.30pm to 4pm daily) but please enter barefoot.

Congratulations. You have completed Route 1.

Game for Route 2?
Written by:
Editorial Team