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Indian Diaspora in Malaysia

Malaysian Indians account 7.3% of the total population of Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Temple Malaysia , Wikimedia Commons

By Akanksha Sharma

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia, cleaved into two lands by the South China Sea. One part is located on a peninsula of Asian mainland which flaunts bustling cities, colonial architecture, tea- plantations and islands. Another part is located on the northern third island of Borneo which comprises of wild jungles orangutans, granite peaks and remote tribes.

India Malaysia locator. Wikimedia Commons
India Malaysia locator. Wikimedia Commons

Indian migration towards Malaysia

  • First Wave: Indians firstly arrived at Malaysia during the pre-colonial period, when Rajaraja Chola launched an attack via naval expedition conquering several Malay kingdoms.
  • Second Wave: In the second half 19th century, mainly Tamil and Telugu Indians were brought to Malaysia to work as laborers on plantation, ports, railway lines and ports.
  • Third Wave: After the 1990s, many Indians migrated to work as professionals mainly in IT sector and unskilled labor. There are also foreign spouses from the Indian subcontinent who married local Indians.

Today, Indian community consists of mostly Tamils (80%), followed by Keralites, Andhrites, Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis and Gujaratis. Malaysian Indians account 7.3% of the total population of Malaysia. A major portion of Indian community is engaged in rubber and palm plantation and a smaller section works in services like railways, police and food business.

Malaysian India Congress is the largest and oldest Indian political party in Malaysia. According to, at present, it has got 14 seats in Malaysian parliament which include one Cabinet Post, two Deputy Minister’s post and two Parliamentary secretary’s post.

Related Article: Ramli Ibrahim: A Malaysian steeped in Indian classical dances

Indian community has contributed enormously towards Malaysian cuisine

  • Indian Muslim restaurants and stalls are referred to as ‘Mamak’. The word ‘Mamak’ is a Tamil term for maternal uncle or ‘Maa-ma’. These restaurants are popular for dishes like Roti Canai (flattened bread) , Nasi kendar (steamed rice) and Posembur (Malaysian Salad).

    Roti Canai , Wikimedia Commons
  • Indian cuisine in Malaysia is mostly based on South Indian cuisine. Dishes like Idli, Vada and Dosa are very common for breakfast.
  • Snacks like Murrukku and Banana chips are made to mark on Deepavali.
  • Sweets like pasayum, halva and ghee balls are also very popular.

 Indian Malaysian Festivals

  • Thaipusam– the biggest Hindu festival is celebrated every year. It falls in the Tamil month of Thai ( January-February). It is devoted to Lord ‘Murugan’ and ‘Kartikeya’, the son of Shiva and Paravati. The celebration takes place on a huge scale at the Batu Caves. Devotees carry Kavadi , a wooden arc , as an act of atonement on this festival.
Devotes celebrating Thaipusam at Batu Caves, Malaysia. Wikimedia Commons
  • The popular Hindu festival ‘Festival of Lights’ – Deepavali is also celebrated by Hindu communities.
  • Pongal the Harvest festival is celebrated among Tamils and Onam is most popular among  the Malayalee community.
  • Other festivals like Makar Sankranti and Lohri are also celebrated.
  • Indian Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

Akanksha is a student of journalism in New Delhi. Twitter @Akanksha4117




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Malaysian Rapper’s Dog Video Sparks Claim of Insulting Islam

"I am not afraid because I believe Malaysia has justice,"

Wee Meng Chee, left, a Malaysian rapper popularly known as Namewee, is escorted by plainclothes policemen on his arrival at the magistrate court in Penang, Malaysia. VOA

Malaysian police said a popular ethnic Chinese rapper has been detained over complaints that his latest music video featuring dancers wearing dog masks and performing “obscene” moves insulted Islam and could hurt racial harmony.

It was the second time in two years that Wee Meng Chee, popularly known as Namewee, has been investigated over his music videos.

Police said in a statement that Wee was detained Thursday after they received four public complaints that his video marking the Chinese year of the dog had “insulted Islam and could negatively impact racial unity and harmony.”

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In the video entitled “Like a Dog,” Wee sits on a chair in a public square in the government administrative capital of Putrajaya with dancers wearing dog masks around him. Several of them mimic the “doggy-style” sex move. A green domed building in the background led some people to speculate it was filmed in front of a mosque, leading to criticism, but Wee later said it was the prime minister’s office.

The song includes the sounds of dog barks from various countries. In an apparent reference to government corruption, Wee sings that dogs in Malaysia go “mari mari, wang wang,” which in the Malay language means “come come, money money.”

Dogs are considered unclean by Muslims, who account for 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people. Pixabay


Several ministers have called for Wee to be arrested. He has defended the video as a form of entertainment and said he has no intention of disrespecting any race or religion.

Earlier Thursday, Wee posted a picture on Facebook of himself at the federal police headquarters as he was wanted by police for questioning.

“I am not afraid because I believe Malaysia has justice,” he said.

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Previous controversies

In 2016, he was detained after enraged Malay Islamic activists lodged complaints that a video titled “Oh My God,” which was filmed in front of various places of worship and used the word “Allah,” which means God in the Malay language, was rude and disrespectful to Islam. He was not charged.

In one of his earliest videos, he mocked the national anthem and was criticized for racial slurs. He also produced a movie that was banned by the government in 2014 for portraying national agencies in a negative way.

Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, where the ethnic Malay majority has generally lived peacefully with large Chinese and Indian minorities since racial riots in 1969 left at least 200 people dead. (VOA)