tHIS is our STORY (Story of Singapore’s Hindustani community)

The Hindustanis are a community who trace their roots to the present-day Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the Gangetic heartland, which was known as Hindustan in the early colonial era.  They are a small minority who have been present in Singapore since the island’s establishment as a British trading outpost in the early 19th century. From a predominantly subaltern role in the early   years, comprising dairy farmers, dhobis (washermen) and jagas (watchmen), the community has transformed into one where the younger generation is now made up mainly   of educated professionals and entrepreneurs. This mural presents the historical journey of  Singapore’s Hindustani community and their contributions to the development of Arya Samaj Singapore and the DAV Hindi School.

Spanning 36m x 8m, across two buildings located at 113 and 114 Syed Alwi Road, this mural is one of the largest in Singapore’s Little India. It takes us on a trajectory from past to present. On the left, you see illustrated the community engaged in its traditional occupations. While the early migrants were mostly men, by the second half of the 20th century women had joined them, and the mural draws attention to this. Next, while it is common knowledge that many Sikhs were employed in the army and police force, few know that the Hindustanis were the earliest sepoys (soldiers) posted by the British to Singapore.  A towering  sepoy  figure to tell this tale, concluding the story on occupational profiles by portraying a Hindustani educator seated at his desk. Bending around the wall, the roots of the community in the Gangetic heartland is told by incorporating a scene from temple life along the ghats (riverfront steps) in the ancient city of Varanasi at the banks of the river Ganga. This scene gradually juxtaposes with sights of their new home in Singapore, particularly  the neighbourhood of Little India where many of them settled. The establishment of the Arya Samaj and the centrality of the DAV Hindi School are evident in the images appearing next, pointing to the community’s sustained involvement in the shaping of these institutions. The mural ends on a celebratory note inspired by the festival calendar observed by the community. The colours   of Holi are strewn across the walls, showing today’s young Singaporean Hindustani community in all its vibrancy and solidarity, ready to achieve greater heights in the future.

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