The India Street derives its name from the fact that it has always been a street occupied by the Indian Shops. Most of the Indians are from the southern and northern India. At first, it was called as the Kling Street in the 1850’s, but the Third White Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke changed the name to India Street in 1928.
In 1992, the street was closed to vehicular traffic and converted into a pedestrian mall.
INDIAN MOSQUE LANE
A small passageway (locally known as “Lorong Sempit”) that connects India Street Pedestrian Mall and Gambier Road. A popular short-cut for shoppers who patronized the area. Built originally as the access to the Indian Mosque located between the Mall and Gambier Road. The doors and steps which marked the beginning of the passageway from the Mall side have been restored in their original state since early seventies.
Indian Mosque Lane is a narrow passageway locally known as "Lorong Sempit".This small lane lead to Gambier Road.The lane is so narrow that at section only one person can walk pass at anytime.
If you follow this passageway you'll pass a small Mosque hidden away in the middle of the city. The Mosque's structure has undergone many changes since it was originally built by Kuching's Indian Muslim community in the mid 19th century.
Outside view of Indian Mosque.
Photo Above - Masjid Bandar Kuching ( Masjid India - The Indian Mosque) is the oldest in Sarawak
The time for prayers is marked by the sounding of a drum, known locally as the ‘bedok’.(Photo Above) That drum has been in use for 50 over years.
The hidden history of Indian Mosque in Kuching.
Inconspicuously sandwiched between India Street Mall and Gambir Street, the mosque covered an area of 16,004 square feet.
The mosque was built in 1837 by Indian Muslims from southern India. The originally walls and roof was made of nipah palms. In 1876, belian wood planks replaced the nipah palms walls. The name was changed to Masjid Bandar Kuching in the 1960’s from its original name Masjid India (Masjid Tambi).
Other than the Indian Muslim community, at that time when there was no road transportation yet, the
Malay Muslims from the costal villages also come to the mosque to pray and rest when they come to trade in the city.
In those days when there were no roads to the costal, the villagers travel by boats and would berth their sampans by the river beside Gambir Street wet market and visit the mosque for prayers. Sometimes, they lodged in the mosque before returning to their villages. To this day, Masjid India provides shelter to tired travellers.
The time for prayers is marked by the sounding of a drum, known locally as the ‘bedok’. That drum has been in use for 50 over years.
Being in the heart of the city, it is a convenient place of worship for Muslims working in the area and shoppers On a Fridays, the congregation could swells to over 1,000 while on ordinary weekdays some 400 gather for prayers.
The mosque also started the first religious school in Sarawak back in 1940’s. The Madrasah Islamiah remains in operation.
A committee Lembaga Amanah Khairat administrates the Masjid India, and whatever funds collected will be used to maintain the mosque. Funds for maintaining the mosque come from rent collected from 23 neighbouring shops owned mainly by Indian Muslims who sold groceries, spices, cloth and books. Two Chinese shopkeepers also operate their businesses in the area. These family businesses have been handed down through the generations.