Museums in Singapore – Indian Heritage Centre and Asian Civilizations Museum

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Singapore is home to some wonderful museums which reflect the history and culture of the Little Red Dot! One of the recent additions to this list is the Indian Heritage Centre in the heart of Little India which was constructed at a cost of over $21 million. The unassuming glass facade that you see on the outside when lit up in the evening showcases one of the largest murals in Singapore – draw on the outside of the 4 storied building which shows the culture of India.

Indian Heritage Centre is a tribute to Indians in Singapore – both Past & Present. Many misconceptions are there about Indians in Singapore, that they are primarily South Indian and even more specifically from Tamil Nadu. But nothing can be farther from the truth. Yes the early pioneers were South Indian Tamils but there were also a lot of Parsees and Sikhs who had ventured to the promising shores of Singapore.

We started our guided tour with an audio visual presentation of Indians in Singapore from the past to present. It was a wonderfully created video which talked about the early Indians coming to Singapore in early 1900s when Britishers were ruling it as their colony. There was also information about how Indians were in fore front of the Second World War when Singapore was under attack from Japan. Some of the most eminent Indian Singaporeans were shown like Govindaswamy Pillai and Navroji Mistri.

Most of the artifacts displayed here have either been acquired from other museums or from houses of Indians who have been staying in Singapore for many decades. The museum showcases right from 19th century till 21st century when Singapore was for a short period a part of Malaysia before it got independence in 1965.

I loved the augmented reality apps and virtual reality features built into the Museum. Using a mobile app or hand held apps available at the museum, we can get to see more features of an exhibit rather than having a physical guide always present with us. There is an interactive digital map where you can see from where Indians came to Singapore in the early 1900s. I was proud to see my hometown Vijayawada present in the list too!

As it was a crowd sourced project, there was lot of detailed information about Indian pioneers in Singapore which would have been tough to acquire otherwise. I loved the way Technology was used to project the rich culture of Indian origin citizens in Singapore. Indian Heritage Centre is open all days except Mondays. Singaporeans can walk in free and tourists can pay as low as 2 to 4 Singaporean dollars to have a great experience. Group bookings available here.

Another very interesting museum in Singapore is the Asian Civilizations Museum which has been consistently ranked among the top 10 museums in Asia. The museum is on river front and you can walk to it from many other attractions nearby. When we went there, there was some construction happening but what was interesting was the temporary exhibition called “Treasures from Asia’s Oldest Museum” which displayed Buddhist art from the Indian Museum, Kolkata.

The exhibition presented the evolution of Buddhism through the art of India by tracing the Jataka stories (past life stories of the Buddha), scenes from the life of the Buddha, and symbols used to represent Buddhist concepts.

Representations of bodhisattvas and the Buddha were on display. The exhibition featured striking sculptures from the Pala and Gandhara cultures.

One of the interesting aspects I liked at Asian Civilizations Museum was that they wanted to make it interesting for children. So they had created a treasure hunt like Amazing race for them. There was a crossword they had to fill by finding different items in different sculptures like Ganesha’s missing rat, Dragon robe, Burial pottery, etc. I liked the fact that this increased bonding between parents and children as they tried to crack the clues of the treasure hunt together.

The children’s activity and children’s section ensured that children had a good time exploring culture along with having fun. Parents were also able to relax in this environment and study their favorite sculptures peacefully.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is open daily from 10am – 7pm, and 10am – 9pm on Fridays. ACM Empress Place is a 5-minute walk from the Raffles Place MRT station.

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