Little India, Penang

Covering an area around Queen Street, Chulia Street and Market Street, Little India (Tamil: குட்டி இந்தியா) in the city of George Town in Malaysia, is an ethnic Indian enclave. The oldest Hindu temple in Penang, Sri Mahamariamman Temple is located here.[1] This area bears many similarities to market streets in Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi. Its location at the centre of Penang Heritage Zone and nearby Penang's main finance centre, Beach Street make it one of the most famous and notable shopping spot in Penang among local and tourist. Little India is also famous for Malaysian Indian cuisine. It also serves as main commercial and cultural activities of Penang Indians. The place becomes more lively during festival times like Deepavali, Christmas and Thaipusam.

Little India
Other transcription(s)
 • Tamilலிட்டில் இந்தியா
 • Chinese小印度
Little India, Penang is located in central George Town, Penang
Little India, Penang
Location within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site (purple)
Coordinates: 5°25′04″N 100°20′19″E / 5.417742°N 100.338556°E / 5.417742; 100.338556Coordinates: 5°25′04″N 100°20′19″E / 5.417742°N 100.338556°E / 5.417742; 100.338556
Country Malaysia
State Penang
CityGeorge Town
 • Local governmentPenang Island City Council
Time zoneUTC+8 (MST)
Postal code
Area code(s)+604


The Penang's Little India located in the heart of Georgetown, the capital of Penang. It is in the centre of Penang Heritage Zone. Penang's Little India covered by 3 streets, which is:

A board in Beach Street that showing direction to Little India

But the Little India also can be expanded to Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling and Church Street due to large number of Indian business over there.

Street view of Little India with Menara Sentral (Sentral Tower) as the background


During the early days of the settlement, Chulia Street was allotted to the Indian immigrants as their enclave.[2] However, over the years, the Chinese immigrant settler community grew in size, resulting in Little India being cocooned in the centre of the ever-growing Chinese community and bordering what is today referred to as Chinatown.[citation needed] The Indian immigrant settlers took up a variety of roles in the settlement, as agricultural labourers, money lenders and spice traders.[citation needed] This meticulously regimented network was among the earliest parts of George Town planned under the administration of Sir Francis Light, the English founder of Penang.[citation needed]

Early historyEdit

The area is hence now referred to as the "Francis Light Grid" - a rectangular network bordered by Leith Street, Beach Street, Chulia Street and Pitt Street (now Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling). Streets within the grid were pertinently named to reflect the period during which they were built. Names such as Market Street, King Street, Queen Street and Penang Street -all now form the heart of Little India - are still used today. Stevedores from south India lived along parts of King Street which the Tamils call "Padavukara Tharuva" or "the Street of Boatmen". Market Street, which now forms the heart of the Indian enclave, was called "Kadai Teru" or "Street of Shops". The British called it "Chola Place" or "Little Madras". Several other Indian communities, mainly merchants and traders, also arrived in large numbers over the years. These included the Gujaratis, Punjabis, Malayalees and Telugus. Many of these were traders who set up their businesses within the grid, contributing to the area's throbbing cultural milieu. It was in fact very common until only a few years ago, for folks to live on the top floor of their shophouses while operating their businesses on the ground floor. Also situated in Little India is Penang’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, which was built in 1833. However, it was only in 1933 that the temple acquired its present form after undergoing extensive renovations. The temple features the Hindu goddess Mariamman in her various incarnations. Among the priceless possessions of this ornate building is a statue of Lord Subramaniam richly decorated with gold, silver, diamonds and emeralds.[citation needed]


B.Mathavan Store at the Little India
One of the Video centre in Little India which sell DVD's and CD's of new Tamil Movie and Songs

The Little India is also main business district in Georgetown, Penang. Various Indian related business can be found here. Although, majority of business here were owned by the Indian there also small number of Chinese owned shop. There are many Indian fashion store (Mainly in Market Street), they sell mostly saree, silk and cotton, almost anything that has the essence of India. Traditional costumes, spices, precious gold and costume jewelry which use semi-precious gems are widely sales by the most of the shops. There also large number of restaurant and cafe which sales Indian culinary and western foods. There are also music video stores with the latest Bollywood movies and songs.[3] A significant number of hotel, mainly budget hotels also can be founds.


The Mahamariamman Temple back entrance in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Pitt Street)
Menara Sentral
Menara Sentral
The street view of Little India
The Disted Space at Little India which serve as Hostel for Disted College

Majority of building in this area were pre world war shop buildings. There also large number of Indian and Chinese influence buildings around the Little India. Notable skyscraper in Little India were the Sentral Building (Menara Sentral) which home the Penang Sentral College. The most famous architecture in Little India are :

Related events and festivalsEdit

Religious FestivalEdit

The religious festival mostly take place in Sri Mahamariamman Temple


The most auspicious event for the temple is the Navratri festival (The Nine Night Festival). The festival begins with the lion flag raising ceremony and ends with a procession where the panchaloka deity of Mahamariamman is paraded in a decorated wooden chariot through the streets of Little India. (Navarathri is nine nights vegetarian festival). According to the Hindu Puranas (holy books), the festival is held to commemorate the victory of Goddess Parasakthi over the demon king Mahishasuran. It was stated that the evil king ill-treated the people that they turned to the goddess, who is the consort of Lord Shiva, to save them. Goddess Parasakthi fought a battle for nine days and ultimately destroyed him on the 10th day, which is known as Vijayadashami. Various Indian organisations and communities would sponsor the prayers for each nights. On the Final tenth day of the celebration, Vijayadashami is celebrated by Hindu Mahajana Sangam. The sangam organised the chariot procession for many years from Queen Street, Sri Mahamariamman Temple to Dhoby Ghaut in Air Itam. The festival celebration is concluded after shooting of arrows from the chariot in the evening in the Dhoby Ghaut. The chariot returns to the temple at about midnight the same day. Since the late 1970s, the organisation of the chariot procession had been taken over from the sangam by the Temple committee and the Hindu Endowments Board. The chariot procession is now confined to fort Cornwallis area in the Esplanade. However, the sangam still continues to celebrate the annual Navarathiri festival’s final tenth day Vijayadashami Ubayam every year without fail.

Chithra Pournami (Chitraparuvam)Edit

The Hindu Mahajana Sangam, with notable among the festivals, the annual Chitraparuvam Festival which is celebrated in the Tamil month of Chithirai (April/May) every year, is organised with a chariot procession of the panchaloka deity of Lord Subramaniyaswami from Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman Temple. It is the day of the first full moon of the first Tamil month. In early years, the festival starts with special pooja and ubayam for the Hindu Mahajana Sangam “Koota Kadai” in Queen Street Mahamariamman Temple, the chariot procession commences in the early morning 7.00 am and reached Waterfall Dewan Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhiji Ashram) in the afternoon, the deity then carried and placed in the ashram until the return journey of the chariot to Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman temple in the evening of the same day. Since the early 1970s this festival is celebrated for three days. The deity of Lord Subramaiyaswami is brought in procession from the Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman temple passing through many street and roads before reaching the Waterfall Arulmigu Sri Ganesha temple. The deity is carried up to the Hilltop Arulmigu Sri Balathadayuthapani Temple. On the second day is the Chitraparuvam Festival where the deity is taken in procession around the hilltop temple compound in the evening. On the third day evening, the deity is carried down and placed on the chariot procession journey back to the Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman temple. In 1990, the Hindu Mahajana Sangam imported a new chariot from India, for the annual Chitraparuvam Festival celebration to replace the old chariot which was found to be not road worthy and in a decaying condition. On the first day, the chariot passes through Queen Street, Chulia Street, Chulia Street Ghaut, Victoria Street, Prangin Road Ghaut, C. Y. Choy Road, Magazine Road, Dato Keramat Road, Western Road and Waterfall Road before reaching the Ganesar Temple. The chariot stops at Kamatchi Amman Temple, Sivan Temple and Muneeswarar Temple along the way. Then the Lord Subramaniyaswami is carried up to the Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple at the hilltop. On the return journey, the Lord Subramaniyaswami is carried down and the chariot passes through Waterfall Road, Gottlieb Road, Tunku Abdul Rahman Road, Macalister Road, Anson Road, Burma Road, Transfer Road, Sri Bahari Road, Penang Road, Kimberley Street, Carnarvon Street, Chulia Street, Pitt Street, Church Street, Queen Street, China Street, King Street, Light Street, Penang Street, Chulia Street, King Street, China Street, Beach Street, Mrket Street and Queen Street before reaching the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The chariot stops at Balathandayuthapani Temple, Meenatchi Sundaraeswarar Temple, ISKCON Centre, Muneeswarar Temple and Kunj Bihari Temple along the way.


Celebrated on the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). Although it is celebrated in the Waterfall Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Hilltop temple, Sri Mahamriamman temple is not left behind as there are religious activities associated with this festival. The Hindu Mahajana Sangam members carry a traditional kavadi weighing approximately 80 kilos known as Atta Kavadi since 1926 from Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman temple in the evening to Dewan Mahatma Gandhi in the Thannirmalai Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple compound with traditional Nadhaswaram accompanying the Atta Kavadi. A late night dinner is served in the Dewan Mahatma Gandhi after the arrival of the Atta Kavadi. In the early years the arrival of the Atta Kavadi signifies the conclusion of the annual Thaipusam festival celebration for the day and devotees are not expected to carry any kavadi after the Atta Kavadi reaches the Waterfall temple compound. The Penang Nattukottai Chettiar community hold prayers in this temple prior to the Thaipusam festival. This function is called the Kuthirai Vahanam (Horse Car) held on in the Tamil month of Markazhi (December/January). The prayers would start 10 days earlier where there would be ubayams on these days. On the tenth day, the decorated panchaloka deity of the Mahamariamman which carries a Vel would be placed on the Horse Car. The procession begins from Queen Street at the evening, displaying the Vel passing through various streets and roads and end up at Queen Street Sri Mahamariamman temple around mid-night.

Non-Religious FestivalEdit

There are various non-religious festival take place in Little India and most of the festival are mainly to promote Penang tourism. The 2014 Penang International Tamil Conference opening ceremony were held in Little India.


Sentral College Penang located in the Little India Zone. The hostel of Penang Disted College, Disted Space also located in the zone. Meanwhile, SEGi College Penang located at Greenhall, which is just a walking distance from Little India.

Further readingEdit

  • Ooi Cheng Ghee. Portraits of Penang: Little India. George Town, Penang: Areca Books. (2011). ISBN 978-967-57190-5-9

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^,%20penang.html[dead link]
  3. ^[dead link]