An Evolution of Melaka Culture

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Strategically located along the Straits of Melaka, Melaka was the epicentre of an important trading empire over 500 years, which attracted thousands of traders from all over the world.

Today, Melaka is a historic city with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. The town reflects a mixture of influences which have created a unique architecture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia. 

Back in the day, Melaka was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch as well as British and the state was influenced by their remnants of long illustrious past. The multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, different languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food and daily life.

From its historical heritage sites, declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 to its cultural richness, Melaka has definitely a lot to offer to tourists. 

 Explore Melaka as a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious city. 

Melaka’s Harmony Street

Jalan Tukang Emas is a street that connects Jalan Tokong with Jalan Tukang Besi, formed a street named Harmony Street. Here, you can find three different houses of worship coexisting in religious harmony and it has been this way not for a smattering of years or a few decades but centuries. There is a sense of real life here along Temple Street, with its places of worship and its ordinary residents going about their daily routines. There is harmony, peace and prosperity here. 

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple,one of the oldest Chinese temples in Malaysia, which was founded in the 1600s by the Chinese Kapitan Tay Kie Ki.

The temple functioned as the official administrative centre and a court of justice for the Kapitans in its early years, besides serving the community’s religious needs.

Its architecture reflects the skills of migrant builders and craftsmen from China’s southern provinces, mainly Fujian and Guandong. It is a centre for the propagation of the Three Doctrinal Systems of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

Kampung Kling Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the country, built in 1748 with a distinct Sumatran architectural style where it has unique 3-tired pyramidal roof and a 6-tired Chinese pagoda like minaret. The original wooden building was rebuilt in brick in 1872.

Inside the mosque, are inlaid glass tiles of European designs and elegant Corinthian-style columns supporting the beautiful carved wood ceiling, as well as an old and beautifully crafted wooden pulpit in the prayer hall.The minaret, pool and entrance arch were built at the same time as the main building of the mosque.

The mosque has been gazetted under the Preservation and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Enactment 1988 (Amendment 1993). The Department of Museums and Antiquities completed conservation works on the mosque in 1999.

Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple, the oldest Hindu temples in Malaysia that built in 1781. Its exterior walls are decorated with classical towers and red bull sculptures, dedicated to various of the Indian gods.

The temple is dedicated to Vinayagar or Ganesha, the elephant deity with the head of an elephant and the body of a man with four hands.The temple is also one of the few existing Chitty temples in Malaysia. 

Baba-Nyonya Community

Peranakans are Chinese descendants who arrived in Melaka and married the local Malays. The term Baba is an honorific manner of addressing a Straits-born gentleman, while the term Nyonya is used to address a Straits-born lady.

They retain many Chinese customs but also have adopted the Malay-style of dressing and traditions, resulting in a unique fusion culture on their traditional costumes, architectural designs and delicious cuisines. 

 Nyonya cuisine is a mixture of Chinese and Malay flavours, enhanced by the blend of local herbs and spices such as the lemongrass, blue ginger, turmeric, onion, chili and belacan (shrimp paste). Lets’ savour the delicious Nyonya food . 

Nyonya Kuih is an assortment of steamed, fried or baked bite-sizedsnacks and are usually made from rice or glutinous rice such as pineapple tart, onde-onde, kuih lapis, ang kukueh and more. 

Portuguese Community

During the Portuguese rule over Melaka, minority of the Portuguese descendants decided to continue to stay in Melaka and settled down in a village at the coastline of Ujong Pasir, named Portuguese Settlement.

They inherited the precious Portuguese- Eurasian cultural legacy and speak in an ancient Portuguese dialect called Cristo. Although their houses were not built in traditional Portuguese architecture, but its decorations on the houses reflects the elements of Portuguese.

The Portuguese also continue to keep their arts and culture alive, as well as the traditional or folk dances. Today, the settlement is famous for colourful and exotic cultures during its festivals and celebrations. 

Portuguese Settlement is where you will find the Portuguese descendants who has now found their passion in serving up the freshest seafood by the pier.

With a local touch of hot and spicy flavour, Melaka Portuguese cuisine is an irreplaceable food that can only be found in Melaka. This unique blend of local and Portuguese flavours will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more. 

Chitty Community 

The Chitty’s ancestors mostly originate from Coramandel Coast of South India, who settled down in Melaka during the Melaka Sultanate in the 16th century. Currently, there are about 20 families who still reside in the Chitty settlement situated at Gajah Berang.

These Tamil settlers married Malay, Chinese and Javanese women, giving birth to the hybrid community known as Indian Peranakan, or Chitty. Chitties have retained their religion and its traditional rites, even though they have accepted Malay influences in other aspects of their daily and cultural lives.

The Chitties speak Malay, but practice Hinduism of Saiva Faith and traditional Indian wedding ceremony. Their traditional dressing is similar to that worn by the Malays and the well-known Baba Peranakan. The women’s traditional costume is baju kebaya, comprising a sheer embroidered blouse and batik sarong. Chitty men wear a fusion of Malay and Indian clothes in the form of kurta, shawl and sarong, together with a headdress called talapa, which is made from batik.

Deepavali is the Chitty’s most important celebrations, which is all about the spirit of merry-making, family togetherness and purification of the soul.

Chitty cuisine reflects the assimilation of different cultures, where the dishes use a blend of Malay herbs and spices. The celebratory dish is nasi lemak and kangkung, which they serve on special and auspicious occasions. 

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