Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka: Indian Babas and Nonyas--Chitty Melaka

Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka: Indian Babas and Nonyas--Chitty Melaka

Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka: Indian Babas and Nonyas--Chitty Melaka

Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka: Indian Babas and Nonyas--Chitty Melaka


This book offers a glimpse into an almost unknown but distinct community in Singapore and Malaysia: the Peranakan Indians. Overshadowed by the larger, more widespread and more influential Peranakan Chinese, this tightly knit community likewise dates back to early colonial merchants who intermingled with and married local Malays in Malacca. Most Peranakan Indians are Saivite Hindus, speak a version of Malay amongst themselves, and have a cuisine influenced by all three major cultures of Malaysia and Singapore (Malay, Indian, Chinese). Bringing together original interviews and archival material, this accessible book documents the all-but-forgotten history, customs, religion and culture of the Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Malacca.


There is in our midst a fascinating and unique minority community whose numbers have diminished with each passing year. They are the Peranakan Indians/Indian Babas and Nonyas who have hitherto been known among local Indians as the [Chitty Melaka] community. In so many ways they reflect our Peranakan Chinese or the Chinese Babas and Nonyas. This absorbing book by Samuel S. Dhoraisingam covers much of the origins, history and culture of the Peranakan Indians or the Chitty Melaka.

The Chitty Melaka Peranakan Indians trace their ancestry to several centuries before the arrival of the British in Malaya. They are the real descendants of the ancient enterprising South Indian merchants, in particular the Tamils, who came and settled in the Malay Archipelago during the Melaka Sultanate. They married indigenous Malay and Javanese women and their offspring spoke the lingua franca, [Malay], without forsaking their Saivite Hindu faith and the customs, festivals and traditions of their forefathers in India.

Though a small community today, the majority of the Chitty Melaka in Malaysia today lives in Gajah Berang, Melaka, which has been their abode from past years. The Hindu temple in that area is still run by the community. It was from there that they migrated to Singapore during the later part of the 19 century, when Melaka and Singapore were part of the Straits Settlements. As far as is known, members of the Chitty Melaka community were economically active and made valuable contributions as members of the public service here and in Malacca. Under the British Administration they served as teachers and clerks in the civil service, and in the police and the security services. Over the years more and more of the young have been inter-marrying with other communities, such that many of their present-day families are not entirely ethnically Chitty Melaka. Where they are, they are but few and far between. What the future holds for this minority in Singapore and even in Melaka, where a larger Chitty Melaka community still exists, is difficult to predict.

Like the Peranakan Chinese, the Chitty Melaka culture is truly indigenous. Singapore's Chitty Melaka community may be small today. Many a local-born Indian Singaporean can trace his or her ancestry to their Chitty Melaka origins. Several members of that community were also prominent in the . . .

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