The Hindu Festival of Light, Deepavali (Diwali) is celebrated every October at Hindu homes and temples worldwide. Many of the towns and cities in Malaysia have their own Little India, catering to the resident Indian population. Little India in Kuala Lumpur is located in Brickfields (yes, bricks were made there, long ago) within walking distance of KL Sentral railway station.
Little India – let’s walk!
A good place to start a walk in this part of town, is Jalan Berhala, perhaps after a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. Or perhaps a quick drink – a mug of teh tarik (‘pulled tea’) or teh halia (ginger tea). This writer recently joined a group of like-minded people to walk the area, finishing up at the Deepavali night market.
Our walk took in Jalan Berhala, with stops at:
- Sri Sakthi Vinayagar Temple – You are welcome to go up to this Hindu temple, but please be respectful and don’t touch the idols. Take your shoes off, you can leave them at the bottom of the steps.
- Look for the ‘Datuk shrines’. These are small shrines usually built, used and maintained by Chinese residents to honour the local spirits.
- Maha Vihara Buddhist temple – This is a Buddhist temple, with a reclining Buddha in the main temple and two smaller worshiping locations to the side. There is a golden seated Buddha in the domed pagoda and two others in the covered prayer area outside.
- The Catholic Church Of Our Lady Of Fatima is on your right as you go along Jln Sultan Abdul Samad heading towards Jln Tun Sambanthan. The statue of the Virgin Mary stands in a small lighted grotto just behind the fence. Locals had placed a flower garland over the fence the evening we walked by.
Other places to see
Apart from these, there are lots of other interesting buildings in the area. This is one of the older parts of the city, so the area developed with a good mix of the various communities. You can visit a number of other houses of worship including the Sri Kandaswamy Temple, which, like the Maha Vihara Buddhist temple has links to the Ceylonese community.
Visit the Three Teachings Chinese Temple along Jalan Thambillay, but during the day, as it’s closed in the evenings. There’s also the nearby Madrasatul Gouthiyyah, a small mosque (a surau) along Jln Sultan Abdul Samad. These two are easily found if you are on the KL Monorail. Look down and to the left as you approach KL Sentral to get your bearings.
Little India during Deepavali
Jln Tun Sambanthan is the heart of Little India in Kuala Lumpur. The serious Deepavali shopping takes place in the evening, when families come out for dinner and shopping.
- Dinner is easy to find. There’s a wide range of Indian food available, served with rice or different types of bread. Look for Indian style noodles, or rojak for something different. Wash the food down with a hot glass of teh tarik (literally, ‘pulled’ tea) It’s cooled by pouring the tea rapidly from one mug to another – an artform in the hands of a skilled ‘puller’.
- Everyone needs new clothes for the festival. There’s a wide range on offer, in styles from all over India. Pick up a kurta, or a Punjabi suit. For saris, visit one of the shops behind the many stalls as they have a wide range.
- Snacks are available everywhere, many stalls offer free tasting. Sweets, drinks and the many types of biscuits popular with all Malaysians. Buy a small packet of milk candy, but beware, it’s delicious, but really sweet! Indian ‘munchies’ are also popular. Muruku, crispy fried savoury snacks. There are many varieties, some spicy, some mixed with dried peas or peanuts. All are very more-ish – once you start eating, you cannot stop.
- Decorations are important. Lights for one – Deepavali is the ‘Festival of Lights’. Many homes display simple oil lamps, but light strings are also popular. As always, beautiful garlands are available, particularly the colourful non floral variety.
- Personal adornment – jewellery stores, both gold and costume pieces are popular. Take your pick of the many, inexpensive henna artists to decorate your hands. You can have single or multicolour, simple or complex. The paste take a while to dry, worth it for the more lasting results.
So let’s go for a walk…
Not only are the normal shops full of special festival items, many temporary stalls operate along the footpaths. But Little India is busy year round. The specials stalls may not be present, but there’s enough to keep even the most picky visitor busy looking, eating or trying clothes.