Discovering the Old and New in Kuala Lumpur's Brickfields (Little India)
by: The Beat Asia
February 21, 2023
If ever you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, one of the districts you should not miss is Brickfields, which is also known to tourists and locals alike as Little India.
Long before the vibrant Brickfields District became popular for its trendy bars, textile shops, and jewellery boutiques, it was the home of labourers and railway workers in the 1890s, many of whom hailing from Tamil Nadu. The name Brickfields, according to information from This Kul City – a 2015 multidimensional programme by the Malaysian Heritage Trust, The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Think City – came from the brick fields and kilns that were built by the district's brick-making industry in the 1870s.
Later on, in the mid-20th century, more schools and businesses were established in the district, with Kuala Lumpur's very first petrol station built here.
Brickfields has long been the home of diverse communities, both religious and ethnic, such as the Sinhalese, Jaffna Tamil, South Indian Tamil who are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims.
Yet although Brickfields is known for its diverse architecture, from traditional shophouses and government buildings to residences and other properties, it began to transform in the 2000s when the KL Sentral urban centre was developed as "a futuristic self-contained city."
It is known as a largely Indian enclave today, comprising mainly Tamil and Sri Lankan, as per The Kul City, although there's also a significant number of Malay and Chinese communities residing therein. It has become a "microcosm of society in Kuala Lumpur and by extension, is a reflection of Malaysia's multi-ethnic social and cultural mix," according to Visit KL, the Tourism Unit of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
Brickfields' Little India was officially inaugurated on Oct. 27, 2010, by Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. During the event, the Indian prime minister said that their country would be gifting a Torana Gate to Brickfields' residents as a testament to the two countries' friendship.
Ready to Visit?
If you do decide to visit Brickfields, it's recommended to go during the mornings or evenings to avoid the sweltering heat. Trade workers are also at work at these times.
It's essential to wear sunscreen, comfortable shoes, light clothing, and to bring your own drinking water. As the district has Chinese and Hindu temples within, it is imperative that one respects the codes of conduct and dress of these places of worship. Women will be required to wear hair coverings in some places, while others would not be allowed inside if they are non-worshippers.
Some landmarks you can sight in Brickfields are The Temple of Fine Arts, the Malaysia Association for the Blind, the Young Men's Christian Association (1905), the Methodist Girls Primary School, the Buddhist Maha Vihara, the Sri Kandaswamy Temple, and the Vivekananda Ashram, among many others.
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