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8.0% of the Malaysian population (2010)
|Regions with significant populations|
|West coast of Peninsular Malaysia|
|Related ethnic groups|
Malaysian Indians are Malaysians of Indian origin. Many are descendants from those who migrated from India during the British colonization of Malaya. Prior to this, Indians have been present in the Malayan archipelago at least since the period of the influential Tamil Chola dynasty of the 11th century. Today, they form the third largest ethnic group in Malaysia after the Chinese and the Malays
Malaysia is home to one of the largest populations of Overseas Indians, constituting about 8% of the Malaysian population. They also make up a disproportionately large percentage of the Malaysian professional workforce per capita, particularly in the field of medicine.
The Arab and Indian traders had traveled this region including the southern tip of South East Asia the peninsula with maritime trade, the Sailendra kings of Java originating from Kalinga were able to take control of the Peninsular and part of southern Siam. The kings welcomed Buddhist missionaries from India, accepting their teaching of the Mahayana sect, which spread through their territories. However, central and northeastern Thailand continued to adhere to the Hinayana teachings of the Theravada sect, which had been introduced by missionaries sent by the emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Another theory of the introduction of Buddhism after Indian arrived in the peninsula is that after Kalinga conquered lower Burma in the 8th century their influence gradually spread down the peninsula. The ancient Indian Kalinga was located in southeastern India occupying modern day Orissa and northern Andhra Pradesh. In the 7th century an Indonesian kingdom was named Kalingga after the aforementioned Kalinga in India. Chinese sources mention this kingdom (Holing) as a center for Buddhist scholars around 604 before it was overshadowed by the Sanjaya or Mataram Kingdom. The most famous Kalingga ruler is Ratu Sima.
There is evidence of the existence of Indianized kingdoms such as Gangga Negara, Old Kedah, Srivijaya since approximately 1700 years ago. Early contact between the kingdoms of Tamilakkam and the Malay peninsula had been very close during the regimes of the Pallava dynasty (from the 4th to the 9th century CE) and Chola dynasty (from the 9th to the 13th century CE). The trade relations the Tamil merchants had with the ports of Malaya led to the emergence of Indianized kingdoms like Kadaram (Old Kedah) and Langkasugam. Furthermore, Chola king Rajendra Chola I sent an expedition to Kadaram (Srivijaya) during the 11th century conquering that country on behalf of one of its rulers who sought his protection and to have established him on the throne. The Cholas had a powerful merchant and naval fleet in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Three kinds of craft are distinguished by the author of the Periplus – light coasting boats for local traffic, larger vessels of a more complicated structure and greater carrying capacity, and lastly the big ocean-going vessels that made the voyages to Malaya, Sumatra, and the Ganges.
Inscriptions and place names 
A good number of Tamil inscriptions as well as Hindu and Buddhist icons emanating from South India have been found in Southeast Asia (and even in parts of south China). On the Malay Peninsula, inscriptions have been found at Takuapa, not far from the Vishnuite statues of Khao Phra Narai in Southern Thailand. It is a short inscription indicating that an artificial lake named Avani-naranam was dug by nangur-Udaiyan which is the name of an individual who possessed a military fief at Nangur, being famous for his abilities as a warrior, and that the lake was placed under the protection of the members of the Manikkiramam (which according to K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, was a merchant guild) living in the military camp.
An inscription dated 779 AD has been found in Ligor, Malay Peninsula. This refers to the trade relationship between the Tamil country and Malaya. In ancient Kedah there is an inscription found by Dr. Quaritch Wales. It is an inscribed stone bar, rectangular in shape, bears the ye-dharmma formula[nb 1] in South Indian characters of the 4th century AD, thus proclaiming the Buddhist character of the shrine near the find-spot (site I) of which only the basement survives. The inscriptions are on three faces in Pallava Grantha script. The Ruler Raja Ganga fled from his empire into the forests with his queen and an infant heir. Raja Ganga left traces of hideout on a nearby hill in form of artifacts on stones.
All these inscriptions, both Tamil and Sanskrit ones, relate to the activities of the people and rulers of the Tamil country of South India. The Tamil inscriptions are at least four centuries posterior to the Sanskrit inscriptions, from which the early Tamils themselves were patronizers of the Sanskrit language.
The Cherok Tokun Ancient Inscriptions were first documented by Colonel James Low, a British army officer, in 1845. In his log, Low recorded his disappointment of not finding a more spectacular ruin, expecting to find an ancient temple ruin. He documented what he made out to be "a group of seven inscriptions". The inscriptions were believed to be in pre-Pallava script and written in Sanskrit. They were attributed to the ancient Kingdom of Kadaaram, which flourished in northern Malaysia in the 5th to 6th centuries. However, according to J Laidlay, who translated the text in 1848, the inscription was in fact written in Pali - another ancient language of the Indian subcontinent.
Tamil words in Malay 
A very essential cultural element needed to carry out commercial transactions is a common language understood by all parties involved in early trade. Historians such as J.V. Sebastian, K.T. Thirunavukkarasu, and A.W. Hamilton record that Tamil was the common language of commerce in Malaysia and Indonesia during historical times. The maritime Tamil significance in Sumatran and Malay Peninsula trading continued for centuries and borrowings into Malay from Tamil increased between the 15th and 19th centuries due to their commercial activities. In the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company was obliged to use Tamil as part of its correspondence. In Malacca and other seaports up to the 19th century, Malay terminology pertaining to book-keeping and accountancy was still largely Tamil.
Borrowings from Tamil include such everyday words as:.
Indian migration 
The overwhelming majority of migrants from India were ethnic Tamil and from the British Madras Presidency. In 1947 they represented approximately 85 per cent of the total Indian population in Malaya and Singapore.
Large scale migration 
British acquisition of Penang, Melaka,and Singapore - the Straits Settlements from 1786 to 1824 started a steady inflow of Indian labour. This consisted of traders, policemen, plantation labourers and colonial soldiers (see sepoys). Apart from this there was also substantial migration of Indians to work in the British colonial government, due to their general good command of the English language.
The Indian population in pre-independence Malaya and Singapore] was predominantly adult males who were single with family back in India and Sri Lanka. Hence the population fluctuated frequently with the immigration and exodus of people. As early as 1901 the Indian population in the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States was approximately 120,000. By 1931 there were 640,000 Indians in Malaya and Singapore and interestingly they even outnumbered the native Malays in the state of Selangor that year.
However during World War II many Indian men and women left for Burma as part of the Indian National Army with thousands thought to have perished. As a result the population in 1957 had only increased to 820,000. While immigration was a major factor for the increase in population until independence, the population growth began falling after that as white collar classes in the civil service and plantations left as British institutions and companies left the country as well as the May 13 riots. Since then, lower birth rates, emigration of and emigration to countries like Singapore, Australia, UK, etc. in search of better educational and economic opportunities meant that Indians continue to see their share of Malaysia's population decline just as the case with the Chinese. Today, Malaysian Indians account for approximately 7 per cent of the total population of Malaysia (approx. 2 million) and 9 per cent in Singapore (450,000). There has also been a significant influx of Indian nationals into Singapore and Malaysia in recent years to work in construction, engineering, restaurants, IT and finance with many taking up permanent residence in Singapore where they account for nearly a quarter of the Singapore population.
Geographic distribution 
The close correspondence between the ethnic and occupational divisions of the South Asian community was inevitably reflected in the community's geographical distribution in Malaya. The South Indian Tamils were the majority throughout the country, on the rubber estates and railways, though a significant proportion found employment on the docks in Penang and Singapore. The Malayali were located predominantly in Penang, Lower Perak, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, parts of Negeri Sembilan,and Johor where they were usually in the estates or in the civil service in the earlier days. The Telugus were concentrated in lower Perak, northern Selangor, Negeri sembilan, Kulim and Sg Petani in Kedah and Pahang. While the business communities, the Gujaratis, Sindhis, Chettiars, and Tamil Muslims, were concentrated in the urban areas, principally Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, and Singapore. The Ceylon Tamils were also mainly an urban community, though some were found in rural areas working as staff on the estates as well being well known in dominating the railways. In Sabah and Sarawak, the Indian population is concentrated around the major cities and towns in both states, with representations from the Tamil Muslims, Punjabis, Malayali, Sindhis, Ceylonese, South Indian Tamils and other Indian ethnic groups, taking up careers in the private and government sectors or running businesses.
|FT Kuala Lumpur||10.3|
Source: National Census 2010, Department of Statistics Malaysia.
- Population estimates are rounded to the nearest hundred.
Overall statistics of Malaysian Indians 
Indians constitute 15.5 percent of Malaysian professionals. This includes doctors (28.4%), lawyers (26.8%), dentists (21%), veterinary surgeons (28.5%), engineers (6.4%), accountants (5.8%), surveyors (3.0%) and architects (1.5%). Furthermore, Malaysian Indians make up 38% of the Malaysian medical workforce.
Contribution to nation building 
Indians have contributed significantly to the building of Malaysia since the 19th century. The Indian workforce was instrumental in the clearing of land for infrastructure, established rubber plantations, built the roads, set up transmission lines as well as managed early Malayan railways, ports and airports. Indian doctors, chemists and veterinarians formed the bulk of medical personnel in Malaysia - their contributions still persist to present day. Indian civil servants formed the core of the civil service both pre- and post-independence. Indian teachers who were particularly fluent in the English language formed the backbone of Malaysian education, particularly in missionary schools. Indians also pioneered private education in Malaysia.
The economic state of Indian Malaysians is stratified and the distribution of wealth is uneven. However, while many Indians are part of the Malaysian working class, there also exists a large group who consist of Malaysia's educated middle class and professionals and are part of Malaysia's upper middle class.
Indians are well represented in Malaysian medical and legal fraternities. Indians also form a large portion of English language teachers in Malaysia. Law and medicine have traditionally been the preferred career choices in Indian families although more young Indian Malaysians are now venturing into other fields such as engineering, finance and entrepreneurship. Ananda Krishnan and Tony Fernandes are examples of notable Malaysian tycoons of Indian heritage. There are major Indian business districts in Kuala Lumpur (Brickfields, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Masjid India), (Lebuh Pasar) George Town Penang, Klang Selangor and Ipoh Perak.
The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) is the oldest and largest Indian political party in Malaysia. It is a senior member of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. The Indian Progressive Front (IPF), another Indian-based party, is affiliated with Barisan Nasional but is not a formal member. The People's Progressive Party (PPP) is technically a multiracial party but its membership is overwhelmingly Indian. It is a member of the Barisan Nasional. The opposition People's Justice Party (PKR) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) have a large Indian membership and have many Indian lawmakers. Both parties are members of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), a minor opposition party, has a strong Indian presence. The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) was formed in 2007 to address alleged racial discrimination against Indian Malaysians. It was banned after it staged a large anti-government rally in Kuala Lumpur in 2007. Hindraf's political wing is the Human Rights Party (HRP). The Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (KIMMA) is a party that represents the interests of the Indian Muslim community. The Malaysian Ceylonese Congress represents Malaysia's Sri Lankan Tamil community who are technically not Indian but often regarded as such by most Malaysians. Other Indian fringe parties include the Malaysian Indian United Party and the pro-Barisan Nasional Malaysia Makkal Sakthi Party.
Media and the performing arts 
Satellite television provider Astro provides several Tamil satellite television channels. Astro Vaanavil and state-owned RTM TV2 broadcast locally-produced Tamil shows. India-based channels available in Malaysia are Sun TV, Jaya TV, Chutti TV. Thanga Thirai and Velli Thirai are Tamil movie channels while Astro B4U is a Hindi movie channel. The Indian Malaysian community is an important market for the Tamil film industry Kollywood. There are 2-Tamil radio stations of the state-owned Minnal FM and the privately owned THR Raaga.
It is also customary for major Malaysian corporations to produce television commercials in conjunction with Deepavali. They generally pay tribute to the contributions of the Indian community to the nation and are well received by Indians of all faiths. The heart-warming Deepavali commercials by the state petroleum company Petronas are especially popular.
Indian Malaysians have also contributed to the mainstream Malaysian entertainment industry. The Jayhawkers from Seremban led by one Joe Chelliah was the first non-Malay pop band with only Indian musicians that recorded popular commercial albums in Malay in the mid 1960s itself. More recent notable Indian Malaysian artists with multiracial appeal are Reshmonu, Jaclyn Victor, and Alleycats. Indian Malaysians have also made significant contributions to the Malaysian English theatre scene. Tamil hip hop was started in Malaysia by pioneers like rappers Chakra Sonic, Yogi B and several others, which had since then made its way to Kollywood.
Bharata Natyam, the Tamil classical dance of India, is an important feature of Tamil culture and is hence popular in Malaysia. Ramli Ibrahim and Mavin Khoo are two non-Indian Malaysians who are world-renowned Indian classical dance performers. The Temple of Fine Arts in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur is an academy that provides training in traditional Indian dance and music. The urumee drums are often played at religious and cultural events. The nadaswaram is a traditional Indian wind instrument often played at Indian weddings in Malaysia.
The contribution of the Indian community in Malaysian cuisine is enormous. Indian cuisine has had a strong influence on traditional Malay cuisine resulting in the popularity of curries in Malaysia. Indian restaurants are well received by Chinese and Malay Malaysians. They have become an important fixture in everyday Malaysian life and is the venue of choice for watching live English football matches. Mamak restaurants and stalls refer to eateries owned and staffed by Indian Muslims. The word 'Mamak' is sometimes erroneously used to describe any Indian restaurant. Roti canai, nasi kandar and rojak pasembor are Indian dishes unique to Malaysia. Nasi kandar is sold exclusively in Indian Muslim restaurants and the sauce recipe is kept secret. Unlike Indian cuisine in the United Kingdom and other Western countries which tend to focus on North Indian cuisine, Indian cuisine in Malaysia is largely based on south Indian cuisine as the Indian diaspora here is overwhelmingly Tamil, although some northern dishes such as tandoori chicken and naan bread are common. Southern breakfast delicacies such as idli, vadai and dosa (spelled in Malaysia as 'thosai') are common. The appam is a favourite breakfast dish in Tamil homes. Idiyappam is known as putu mayam in Malay and usually sold by mobile motorcycle vendors. The murukku is made to mark Deepavali or Christmas. Banana leaf rice meals with various meat dishes and condiments are served in restaurants during lunch and dinner and in Indian households during special occasions. Mutton is highly favoured and served as either varuval (dry curry) or peratal (thick curry). Fried bitter gourd, banana chips, papadam, rasam, yoghurt and pickels are the usual condiments. Deserts and sweets include payasam, halva, mysore pak, palgoa and ghee balls.
Religions and faiths 
Hinduism and Buddhism came from India and arrived in the Malay Peninsula around the 2nd century AD . The Indian-influenced kingdoms of Kadaram (Old Kedah), and Ilangosagam (Langkasuka) practiced Hinduism and Buddhism during the rule of the Malay-Srivijaya and Tamil-Chola kingdoms. The early Indians married into leading families of Maritime Southeast Asia and brought Hindu ideas of kingship. More than a thousand years later the Tamils married into the families of the Sultans and Bendaharas of Malacca.
Trade contact between the Tamils, Malayali along with other southeastern Indians such as Telugus, Bengalis and Arabs and with East Indies antedate the Islamic period (c. 570-632 AD), or the birth of Islam. Indonesians and Malays came to know about Islam through the merchants of south India and not through Arab missionaries. Furthermore Islam had reached South India, particularly Tamil country in the 8th century AD, while the state of Gujurat received Islam during the early 14th century, as a result of the invasion of the Delhi sultanate.
The practice of Hinduism began to rise since the first wave of people from the Indian subcontinent during Rajaraja Chola. Hinduism is the most practised religion amongst the Tamils, including both the major Hindu and Tamil pantheon of deities. Tamils of both Indian and Sri Lankan backgrounds practice Hinduism. Telugus predominantly belong to the Vaisnavite branch of Hinduism, with a minority among them belonging to Christianity and Islam.
Christianity is practiced by Tamil people in many denominations. Christianity has been in Tamilakkam or Tamil nation since the times of St. Thomas, an apostle of Christ. After him, came the Portuguese who introduced Catholicism, then the British who introduced the Protestant denominations. In Malaysia, most of the Christians are Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Plymouth Brethren (Christian Brethren of Malaysia), and Catholic. Amongst the Malayali community Catholicism is strong. The Marthoma Church also has a strong presence in Malaysia. Sikhism is practiced by many Punjabis. While most of the estimated 200,000 Indian-Muslim community was absorbed with the larger Malay society due to their common religious background, with a substantially high level of assimilation and intermarriage between the communities, rendering the figure for the indian-Muslim community is generally understated.
One of the biggest Indian festivals in Malaysia is Thaipusam. Thaipusam is a religious festival dedicated to the Tamil deity Murugan which occurs on the day in the Indian month of Pausha (January–February) when the asterism Poosam is on the ascendant. It is celebrated in grand style in the temples of Singapore, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur for three days.
In Kuala Lumpur, Thaipusam has become an almost national seat for Poosam celebrations. The venue of the Kuala Lumpur celebrations is a picturesque shrine right inside a cave that lies many feet above the ground, and can only be approached by a steep climb. This place, known as Batu Caves, is about eight miles from the city, and a chariot procession carrying the image of the deity to and from the place adds to the color and gaiety of the festival. Crowds from all over the country throng to the cave, including people of all classes and groups. It is above all a day of penance, on which all kinds of vows are fulfilled. A 42.7m high statue of Lord Murugan was built at Batu Caves and was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct.
One of the most significant rites performed is the carrying of the kavadi, a large wooden decorated arch, as an act of penance. When deities were taken on procession from one shrine to another, they would be followed by a number of these voluntary kavadi-bearers. In other towns and estates, kavadis would be taken for other festivals like Chittirai Paruvam. As back in the Indian country, some of the more rigid practitioners would bear spikes, spears, and hooks pierced into their bodies. The Chittirai Paruvam festival and festivals to the Tamil deity Mariamman are usually accompanied by a fire-walking ceremony.
Deepavali or Diwali is another popular Hindu festival which is the 'Festival of Lights' and celebrated by all Hindu community. Makar Sankranti is a festival of the Indians occurring on the first or second week of the month of Pausha. In India it is celebrated as a harvest festival when the first grains are gathered and brought in for the ceremony. The Malayalees celebrate Vishu, Malayalam new year which usually falls on the month of April or Malayalam month of Medam. Onam is the most popular festival which based on the Malayalam calendar and usually observed on the month of August or September. Pooram is also a major festival celebrated by the Malayali community in Malaysia. The Telugus celebrate Ugadi, Telugu new year based on the lunar calendar as compared to solar calendar which is celebrated by Tamils and Sikhs. Sankranthi is another major festival for Telugus which is also celebrated as pongal by Tamils.
The Festivals of the Christian faith practiced by the Malaysian Indian communities are Easter, All Souls' Day, and Christmas. In the Islamic faith, Ramadan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha is observed and celebrated by Indian Muslims.
Challenges facing the community 
Despite the fact that the average income of Malaysian Indians exceeds that of their Malay counterparts, there exists a portion of the community who are poor and share less than 1.5% of Malaysia's wealth. Despite their obvious need, they are not eligible for any of Malaysia's lavish affirmative-action programmes, which are reserved for Malays and select indigenous people. What has further added to the challenges faced by the community is the sense of creeping Islamisation in the country which threatens their religious freedom. These factors in part have resulted in the migration of many highly skilled Malaysian Indians abroad, where Indian migrants are largely upwardly mobile.
However, the underprivileged section of the community (along with the poor from other races e.g. ethnic Chinese) continue to be excluded from affirmative-action programmes despite their genuine need for support in obtaining employment, government subsidized education, and housing. This perception of a zero-sum game amongst the races has unfortunately fueled protests by frustrated sections of the hitherto quiescent community - who consequentially faced a heavy-handed response from the authorities. Recently, the Malaysian government has at least pledged to change this by increasing assistance to needy Malaysians regardless of race.
- "Ye Dhamma - The Verse of Causation". Vinodh's Virtual Cyber Space. April 2, 2012. Archived from the original on April 13, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2012. "The Pali verse 'Ye Dhamma... ' is a popular verse in Buddhism that explains the heart of Buddhism Philosophy i.e Dependant Origination. The Sanskrit version of the verse is called "Pratityasamutpada Hridaya Dharani" [The Heart Dharani of Dependant Origination] with Om added to the beginning of the Verse, and Svaha added at the end, thus Dharani-fying the entire verse. The Pali version never seems to have had any specific title."
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