Indian Cultural Heritage in Malaysia


As a cultural enthusiast, I find it exciting how the Indian culture is not bound by political boundaries. Malaysia is a great example. I knew vaguely about the country’s South Indian cultural connection and had a craving to know more. A visit to the beautiful country was due for sure.

The holiday season brings a lot of exciting offers for travellers, and thanks to Malaysian Airlines, my flight was smooth, budget friendly, and hassle-free. After a bit of research for easy booking hotel online I opted to stay at the wonderful One World Hotel. You can book one world hotel here

Indian Temples in Malaysia

The modern states of India and Malaysia share a long history, from old history trade and territorial relations, to the modern British imperialism. From the time of Pallava Kings, and maybe before that, there has been a steady interaction between the people of the Indian subcontinent and the Malay.

Although, there is evidence from the early centuries of people from the southern India, particularly the Tamils, migrating to the Malay peninsula, the present Indian population there is mainly made up of direct descendants of those taken as soldiers and labourers during the British rule.

Even today, the Malaysian-Indians, making more than 7% of the population, remain working class by engaging mainly in blue-collar jobs. A substantial share of professionals, especially that of doctors (almost 25 percent), is also contributed by people of Indian heritage.

Tamil Hindus make up for most of the 2 million Indians, so in areas like Selangor, or Penang, it’s not uncommon to see people dressed in sarongs, speaking both Tamil Bahasa and Malaysia fluently.

Indian Peranakans

Indian Peranakans – Image: K Nadarajan Raja via

The Malay term Peranakans loosely translates to ‘born of’. It is used to refer to peoples who are descendants of centuries-old immigrants. In addition to the Chinese Peranakans, there are the Tamil, Jawi, and Eurasian Peranakans.

Chittis, also called Tamil Peranakans, are a closely-knit community of a few thousand people. Descendants of Tamil traders that came during the 18th century, stayed back and married local women. Today, the Chittis, although still Hindus, reside mainly in the Melaka region, and demonstrate physical and cultural features of their Indochinese fore-mothers.

Jawi Peranakans, on the other hand, are descendants to Tamil-Muslim and Malay parents. The term, however, is also used to refer to those of Arab parentage. Jawi is an Arabic word used for South Asian Muslims. This shrinking elite community was once highly influential in commerce of the region during the 18th and 19th centuries.


Murugan Statue at the entrance of Batu Caves

Thaipusam festival is a true celebration of the Malaysian-Indian cultural heritage. The festivities are organized in honour of Lord Murugan (also known as Kartikeya) and take place at Batu Caves, in Selangor. Devotees congregate from throughout Malaysia. Many carry Kavadis– heavy tableaus worn around waist that are meant to serve as self-retribution of misdeeds- while others subject themselves to cheek or tongue piercings, in show of enduring devotion to God. Deepavali is also a major festival for the Malaysia-Indians and is a national holiday.

Shared history means that the countries will be forever connected by the Indian-origin diaspora and its unique culture, which is a confluence of Malaysian and Indian practices.


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