Penang Happenings | The term ‘Chulia’ is a corruption of ‘Chulier’
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The term ‘Chulia’ is a corruption of ‘Chulier’

A major road within George Town’s Heritage Site is Chulia Street, which also houses numerous well-maintained Straits-era shop houses. Formerly known as both Chulier Street and Malabar Road – both named after early Indian settlers – it was first laid out during Captain Francis Light’s time, along with three other main streets of his then-newly developed settlement: Light Street, Beach Street, and Pitt Street (now known as Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling). Chulia Street had a pier at its end, until the street was extended in the late 19th century following extensive land exclamation, which resulted in Chulia Street Ghaut. Historically, the street used to be occupied predominantly by Hindus and Muslims, before Cantonese settlers moved in towards the end of the 19th century.

The term ‘Chulia‘ is a corruption of ‘Chulier‘, which was once used to refer to the Indians who originated from the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu in India. That particular region was formerly part of the Chola Kingdom, hence the term ‘Chulier‘.

Before UNESCO’s classification, Chulia Street housed ordinary convenience stores, travel agencies, restaurants, Internet cafes, and budget hotels along its road, which goes through both the buffer zones and core heritage zones, bordered by the junction between Love Lane and Carnarvon Street. Today, in addition to all of the above, Chulia Street now also houses a few high-end restaurants and even some boutique hotels gentrified from old Strait shop houses, a trend that has grown throughout George Town since the UNESCO announcement.

The changes to Chulia Street further cements its reputation as George Town’s epicenter for budget accommodation, as well as representing the city’s ever-evolving status in culture and history.