Stupendous Little India Ramadan bazaar
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 10 Aug 2012
Back in 1908 when Kuala Lumpur’s first large mosque, Masjid Jamek, was being built at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers, the area around Masjid India was still covered by bushes, shrubs and trees.
In historical records, Masjid India is the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur. It was built in 1863 (Muslim calendar 1280).
About 82 years ago, the Masjid India environs was described as a “tract of wasteland”. The mosque was one of the two found in Kampung Rawa then (now Ampang Street and Malacca Street).
Masjid India’s humble beginnings were made possible by the contributions of the Indian-Muslim traders who lived and conducted their businesses in and around Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman).
As the population of the Indian-Muslims grew, the mosque underwent several physical transformations. These were carried out in 1900, 1939 and 1952.
In 1962, a blueprint was drawn to transform Masjid India into a three-storey building. This became a reality in 1964. Another big renovation took place in 1999.
Three years later in 2002, Masjid India was given yet another facelift.
It is during the month of Ramadan that this place reaches its commercial zenith with the appearance of more than 450 stalls doing brisk business in Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman and other side-roads.
The vibrant colours of the festive occasion are never more apparent than the present when Hari Raya Aidilfitri is only about a week away.
This part of the city centre has long been dubbed Little India but during Ramadan, it is more like “Big India”.
Stalls along Jalan TAR, Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman (stretching all the way to Jalan Dang Wangi), Jalan Bunus, Jalan Medan Bunus, Jalan Melayu and Jalan Munshi Abdullah display their Raya products in the brightest colours of the rainbow.
Business begins to pick up from about 2pm and goes on till late in the night. The food stalls, clothing booths, buka puasa dishes and flower tents all combine to make Little India one of the biggest and longest Ramadan bazaars in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
There are two City Hall Enforcement Control stations located in Jalan Bunus which operate round the clock. This is to ensure that there is some semblance of law and order among the stall operators.
Last year, DBKL received complaints over the distribution of permits for Ramadan stalls because the number of applications exceeded 17,000.
Some traders had lodged complaints with the authorities that some individuals had submitted more than 10 applications under their names.
The buka puasa selections at this stall are many and inviting.
Ramadan bazaar traders were asked to pay a deposit of RM300 if they were successful in their applications.
In 2011, there were 485 lots allotted for Jalan Masjid India and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
There was also a ruling with regard to food and goods. Transactions of dry goods are allowed to be carried out from 11am to 11pm. The sale of cooked food is permitted only from 2pm to 8pm.
The food centres are strategically located at various sites in Masjid India to cater to the Muslims who congregate every evening at these places when it is time to break the fast.
Masjid India has been around for more than 150 years. The number of local and foreign visitors to this area has been increasing annually. But weeks before Hari Raya, the Ramadan bazaar which has come to represent the colourful personality of the Indian- Muslim neighbourhood holds sway.
In past years, I have visited this area during the Ramadan month because there are some Middle Eastern dates that are not available elsewhere.
Since I have a particular fondness for certain dates, it was only natural that I gravitated towards Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman where the date vendors have set up shop.
Delicious Indian snacks like vadai, putu mayam (string hoppers), muruku, samosa and fresh cow’s milk infused with jelly are sold by roadside vendors. These culinary items are utterly inviting if you happen to be more than a wee bit hungry.
The most common and hugely popular Raya choices are the various selections of baju Melayu for men and the baju kurung and kebaya for women.
The selections are simply mind-boggling especially for non-Muslims who are not accustomed to seeing so many different designs and myriad shades of tropical hues.
Of course in this gigantic melting pot of ethnic influences are the Indian shops along the main roads which exhibit and advertise their sarees, salwars (loose-fitting tunics which reach to the knee) and lengas (long shirts).
Jewellery shops in Masjid India are all dazzling and perhaps even a bit bewitching in the eyes of the ladies. There are shops that have gold selections that would make a Maharajah green with envy.
Since my wallet is thinner than those of most visitors to this place, I made a fly-past over these gem outlets with nary a second glance.
Just in case you are a foreign visitor to Malaysia, in particular to Masjid India and you have more than a handful of Euros, there are quite a number of money changer outlets in the vicinity which are most willing to help you get good exchange rates.
I have emerged quite satisfied on previous occasions when I went hunting for “healthy” foreign exchange rates.
The Masjid India Ramadan Festival, as it is sometimes called, is a good place to begin with if a person wants to learn more about ethnic choices with regard to culinary preferences and decorative selections.
Even if you don’t buy anything, the roti bom and teh tarik at some shops here are worth the trip.