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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Little India: Indian Heritage Centre (IHC)

Hello readers, last month I was invited to the newly opened Indian Heritage Centre  (IHC) by Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (website) and it was definitely an eye opener.


Embodying IHC's vision of being a destination of historical and cultural significance for its visitors and the community, the four storey building is truly an iconic and unique structure that blends both traditional Indian as well as modern architectural elements. 


Photo Credit: Urbnarc


Photo Credit: Urbanarchnow

When you walk pass Campbell Lane, you will definitely not miss this striking building with a facade that is inspired by the "Baoli" (Indian Stepwell). It seeks to promote an appreciation of Indian culture, and especially so with the use of a translucent shimmering facade, which makes IHC look like a jewel in the day and a colorful glowing lantern in the night.

The S$21 million Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) is said to be the first museum in Southeast Asia which focuses on the heritage and contributions of the Indian Community in Singapore.

The galleries in the IHC revolve around the history of how the Indian community arrived and eventually settled down in this part of the world, with various exhibits showcasing their origins and migration, as well as the pioneering Indians in the Straits Settlements and their subsequent social and political awakening. The post-war contributions of Indians to the rise of modern Singapore, complete with artefacts are also on display.

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Explore IHC’s Permanent Collection on Levels 3 and 4 of the Centre
The IHC’s permanent gallery storyline revolves around five themes  arranged chronologically to span the time period 1st century CE to the 21st century. The themes present, through artefact and interactive displays, the long history of interactions between South and Southeast Asia as well as the experiences of South Asians in Southeast Asia (especially Malaya); Singapore in particular. 



Without further ado, let's go...

We first got to watch a 10 minute conceptual film in English which provides a quick chronological overview of the Indian community's heritage in Singapore, Malaya and Southeast Asia. Arranged in five vignette that invite you to reflect on the five themes of the Indian Heritage Centre's permanent galleries, each of the themes is introduced by a host character to narrate historical events and happenings.

This conceptual film is a collage of archival photos, sounds and film edited together with music and dance to lend authenticity and creative edge. Inspired by traditional Indian theater format of story telling a Sutradhara (storyteller), this film movers from visual to performance with the support of an evocative musical score. 


This film will provide an overview of the various themes dealt with in the galleries starting with the exploration of contact with Southeast Asia through trade and religion to arrival of merchants and communities in Malaya since the 15th century to European colonization during the 18th and 19th centuries, 20th century will focus on the contributions of early pioneers and institutions while the last theme reflects on the significance of on-going individual contribution to various sectors since Singapore's independence. 

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Theme 1: Early Contact: Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia
1st century CE – 19th century

This first gallery illustrates interactions between South and Southeast Asia in pre-colonial and colonial periods to set the stage to visually illustrate how South Asians have long and uninterrupted relations in the region through trade, religion and other diplomatic means. It serves as a preamble to the Singapore experience of Indian migrants, establishing their long and uninterrupted association in the broader context of Southeast Asia. Exchanges between the regions in terms of religion and trade are explored in this gallery. One such instance is the constant juxtaposition of South and Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist icons, Ramayana and Mahabharata related performing arts material as well as Islamic and Christian materials bringing to the fore their respective and perhaps mutually inspired stylistic repertoires.



Chariot Finial with Garuda
12th Century, Angkor Wat Period
Copper Alloy
Cambodia

This decorative element would have been used on a Khmer chariot as a symbol of power and strength, perhaps designed for a royal palanquin or chariot. It depicts a fierce-looking Garuda (mythical bird), raising his powerful chest in a stance meant to intimidate, atop a multi-headed naga (serpent) who looks poised to attack. Cast by the lost-wax process, the finely delineated features and graceful lines are remarkable. Remains of gliding are present throughout, suggesting that it decorated a royal vehicle. Nags are multi-headed cobras that are commonly depicted in Khmer art. The mythical creatures are closely associated with water and life, thus playing an important role in the Khmer iconographic tradition.




Vishnu Riding on his Mount Garuda, flanked by Lakshmi and Saraswati
11th Century, Pala Period
Bronze with Silver Inlay
Bihar, India

This tabloid bronze of Vishnu seated like a warrior astride the back of Garuda flanked by goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati was made for veneration. The Pala (Sanskrit for protector) dynasty reigned in Eastern India from the 8th-12th centuries and ruled over present day states of Bihar and West Bengal as well as Bangladesh. The Pala Kings were staunch patrons of Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Pala empire had considerable artistic exchanges with its Southeast Asian counterparts and its influence could still be detected in Srivijaya sculptures and the art forms of Nepal, Burma and Thailand.




Standing Shiva and Parvati
12th-13th Century, Chola Period
Bronze 
Tamil Nadu, India

These bronze figures of the divine couple, Shiva and Parvati, embody grace and classicism reminiscent of Indian classical dance. Such images were produced using the lost-wax process, in the district of Thanjavur, the capital of the Chola Kings who ruled over parts of South India between 10th-13th centuries. These bronze deity images were produced by strict adherence to the Shilpa Shastra or sculptor's manuals. Such bronzes were produced for worship during temple festivals; they were decorated, venerated and carried through the streets of the town. In Singapore, during major South Indian temple festivals, such bronze deities are carried in chariot processions along the main streets.






Jeremiah makes his appearance on my blog again! 



A Chettinad Doorway
Late 19th Century
Mahua Wood
Chettinad, Tamil Nadu, South India

This intricately carved entrance doorway, with its jambs and lintel panels consisting of about 5,000 minute carvings, is an example of South Indian domestic architecture during the late 19th- early 20th centuries. It represents the bespoke architectural and woodcarving traditions of Chettinad, home to the Nattukottai Nagarthar Chettiar community of financiers and traders.

The Chettiars often built palatial mansions in their ancestral villages commensurate with their wealth and social standing. The entrances to these mansions would feature massive carved timber doors with pillars and ceilings made from Burmese and Indian teak wood. 

The central panels of such doorwats usually feature Hindu deities such as Shiva-Parvati, Subrahmanya, Ganesha, Lakshmi-Vishnu as well as doorkeepers, garland bearers, warriors and auspicious animals and birds. The style and iconography of these doorways are inspired by the Nayaka architecture of Tamil Nadu.

These doorways play an important role in Indian domestic architecture and serves to separate the sacred personal world from the outside world. The elaborate carvings of mythic motifs also invoke the power of the divine and offer protection for the owner and his/her family.





Hindu Deity, Aravan
Early 20th century
Polychrome paint, Wood
Singapore
Collection of the National Museum of Singapore

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Theme 2: Roots and Routes: Origins and Migration
19th century – 21st century


Indians in Singapore and Southeast Asia trace their origins to numerous waves of migration – Pre-colonial, colonial and Post-colonial. A complex history of migration has produced a vibrant and dynamic community, made distinct by their ability to adapt and integrate with local cultures. The Roots section of this gallery highlights their rites of passage, attire, language, religious affiliations and festivals. The Routes section revisits the gruelling journeys undertaken by migrants from their villages or cities to port towns, journey by ship to Singapore. Through a large interactive map, this gallery also draws attention to the diverse places of origin of Singapore’s Indian community, past and present.








Interactive map of the Indian sub-continent: 
Trace your roots and know more about the place where your ancestors were from


In Singapore, Indians settled in many parts of the city although core areas of concentration, closely associated with the occupations and trades of these new migrants, could be discerned. The earliest of such areas existed prior to the 1830s in the Chulia Kampong (now Chulia Street) and Market Street areas where early Indian traders and money lenders operated.

Other areas included port and railway settlements in Tanjong Pagar, ship builders in North Bridge Road, textile merchants in High Street and Arab Street, the Naval Base employees in Sembawang, and residents, traders and itinerants in the Serangoon Road area (known as Little India since the 1980s),

On South Bridge Road, Telok Ayer Street and Serangoon Road, existing religious monuments also serve as physical reminders of early Indian settlement in these areas. Pal Kambam, Chunnambu Kambam, Kampong Bahru, Kampong Rotan and Chongpang village were multi-ethnic kampongs (Malay: Village or settlement) with Indian inhabitants among others.









This is an elegant mosque facade from the Multan region, consisting of a central portal entirely covered with over one hundred tiles, flanked on either side by two smaller arched entrances. It is a monumental example of Kashikari (tile work) employed in the Multan region. The entire color scheme plays on variations of underglaze cobalt and turquoise blue on white slip reflecting Persian influence. The colors are also thought to have symbolic significance to enhance the primary concepts of Sufi Islam, that of oneness in the universe, purity and equality.








Activities for visitors (Children) are available

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Theme 3: Pioneers: Early Indians in Singapore and Malaya

19th century – mid -20th century (Pre – WWII)



The establishment of the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore (1786-1824) was followed by a steady influx of Indians from the subcontinent - from mainly Madrs and Calcutta. Among the early Indians were Sangara Chetty, Naraina Pillay, Mohamed Hassan and Mohamed Lebar who were appointed as counsels to manage the Indians by William Farquahar in 1822. Since then, Indians arrived in diverse capacities, either under the auspices of the colonial government or otherwise and settled in Singapore and Malaya. This gallery revisits the activities of early Indians in diverse fields, it also emphasizes the chronology and role of early institutions established by the community.

pioneers.jpg








Photo Credit: Indian Heritage Centre


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Theme 4: Social and Political Awakening of Indians in Singapore and Malaya
Mid 20th century


In the first half of the 20th century, communities from the Indian Subcontinent continued their strong political, sentimental and economic ties with their home-country. Anti-colonialism resonated in the region. This gallery reflects on the impact of nationalist and sub-ethnic nationalist movements on the Indian community in the region; their response to such dissemination through print and broadcast media; their interactions with visiting leaders; and their participation in the Indian National Army. Furthermore, this gallery also brings to the fore reformist activities and the revitalization of Tamil language and identity by leaders of the community such as Thamizhavel G.Sarangapany.



Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore
Bronze
India
Gift of Government of India, on the occasion of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary celebration at ISEAS, Singapore, 5 May 2011




Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was the preeminent leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit: "high-souled", "venerable")—applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa,—is now used worldwide. He is also called Bapu (Gujarati: endearment for "father","papa") in India.












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Theme 5: Making of the Nation: Contributions of Indians in Singapore
Late 1950s – 1980s


This gallery showcases the post war contributions of Indians to the making of Singapore as a modern nation. Evocative of the curatorial experience in documenting these contributions, this section is organised like a scrap book allowing visitors to engage with artefacts, audio and video interviews, photo albums and other ephemera from the personal collections of such pioneers.







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Thank you Roy of MCCY for the invite and Indian Heritage Centre for the hospitality.






OPENING HOURS & ADMISSION

INDIAN HERITAGE CENTRE

Address: 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore 209924
Tel: 6291 1633
Opening Hours:
Tuesdays – Thursdays: 10.00am to 7.00pm,
Fridays – Saturdays: 10.00am to 8.00pm,
Sundays/Public Holidays*: 10.00am to 4.00pm,
Closed on Mondays
*The Indian Heritage Centre is closed on Public Holidays that fall on a Monday unless otherwise stated.

Last admission to the galleries is one hour before closing.
Admission:
Free Admission to all from 8 May to 31 May 2015
Free admission for all Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs), and visitors aged 6 years and below.
Overseas Visitors
Adults:
S$4.00
Senior above 60 years old:
S$2.00
Students:
S$2.00

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By Bus
Bus Stop (#07031) at Serangoon Road, Infront of Tekka Market (opp The Verge)
23, 64, 65, 66, 67, 131, 139, 147, 857
Bus Stop (#07539) at Sungei Road after Serangoon Road (In front of The Verge)
48, 56, 57, 131, 166, 170, 640, 960, 980

By MRT
Little India MRT Station, Exit E

By Taxi/Car
Entrance to the building is located on Campbell Lane. The nearest drop- off points are located at the Verge Taxi Stand and Clive Street.
Parking facilities are located at the parking lots available on Upper Dickson road, The Verge, Tekka Market basement and street lots.

Wheelchair Access
Wheelchair Access ramps are located at the front of the building on Campbell lane and on the side of the building next to Clive Street.
Access to the galleries is available via elevator located on Level 1 lobby, next to the Visitor Services counter.
Bathrooms for wheelchair access are located on Levels 2, 3 and 4.























Street scene



Wall mural at Little India, near to the MRT Station

Thank you Jeremiah for taking some of the photos and allowing it to be used on my blog, ladies and gentlemen, do check out his Instagram account and check out his feeds if you haven't already done so.