(by You Leong and Priya )

Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups, according to U.S Department of States - Background note : Malaysia (Jan 2010), the total population in 2009 is 28.3 million with the annual growth rate of 2.0%. While the percentage of ethnic groups and religions are divided as below :

Ethnic groups:
Malay 53.3%
Chinese 26%
Indian 7.7%
Aborigine 11.8%
Others 1.2%

Religions :
Islam 60.4%
Buddhism 19.2%
Christianity 9.1%
Hinduism 6.3%
Other/none s 5.0%

As we can see as above, Malays comprise a majority of just over 50%. By constitutional definition, all Malays are Muslim. About a quarter of the population is ethnic Chinese, a group which historically played an important role in trade and business. Malaysians of Indian descent comprise about 7% of the population and include Hindu
, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians. Non-Malay indigenous groups combine to make up approximately 11% of the population.

In peninsular Malaysia, the population density recorded the highest with some 20 million of citizen of the country's 28 million citizen. The rest live on the Malaysian portion of the island of Borneo in the large but less densely-populated states of Sabah and Sarawak. More than half of Sarawak's residents and about two-thirds of Sabah's are from indigenous groups.


Heritage ( Architectural aspects ) -
1. Rumah Gadang
Rumah Gadang also known as minangkabau literally gives a definition of a big house, is the traditional house occupied by the Minangkabau. It serves as a residence, a hall for family meetings, and for ceremonial activities. While normally society is being patrilineal, the society of Minangkabau differs as they are being matrilineal which means the Rumah Gadang is own by the women and was passed down to the next generation from mother to the daughter.

The houses have dramatic curved roof structure with multi-tiered, upswept gables. Shuttered windows are built into walls incised with profuse painted floral carvings. The term rumah gadang usually refers to the larger communal homes, however, smaller single residences share many of its architectural elements.

2. Malay House
Malay house is the heritage dwellings of the indigenous ethnic Malay before the arrival of modern influences. Most houses are located together in a Malay community and was named as a kampung. They are built with stilts below and they have large windows. This is mainly to keep the building cool and the stilts elevate the building to keep them away from floods. Kampong houses are detached houses and they usually have no fences around them The traditional Malaysian house serves the housing needs of the majority of people living in rural areas of Malaysia. Traditional architectural forms, such as tropically-suited roofs and harmonious proportions with decorative elements are considered by traditionalists to still have relevance. However due to the raw material used which was easily available from the rainforest such as bamboo, rattan and more. Traditional buildings require significant maintenance compared to modern construction. While the traditional skills used to build a Malay house are gradually being lost as Malaysia continues its process of industrialiasation.


Heritage ( Architectural aspects ) -
1. Chinese Temple
Chinese temple are usually painted in red and gold because to the chinese these colours brings prosperity and good luck.The monastery, like other Chinese structures, normally faces south. Entering the front hall, one is confronted by four huge images, usually made from wood, two on each side. These are the Four Heavenly Kings or Devas, the Guardians of the Four Directions and the hall is named after them as the 'Si-Tien Wang Tien'. Typical chinese temple is traditionally chinese in stlye, decorated with extensively sculptures and sometimes traditional chinese paintings. While larger temples may be built as compound to accomodate more peoples and as a house to he mighty God. Usually in a temple, there will be a chimney-like structure made of bricks used for burning joss paper to Gods, ancestors or spirits. A plaque with the name of the temple ( read from right to left ) are hang at the entrance of the temple. Usually in the compound there will be 3 main shrines : Shui Wei Sheng Niang ( Waterfront Godness), Mazu ( Sea Godness) and Guan Yin ( the Benevolent Godness). Chinese temples also uses various pillars, beams and arches interlaced with each other to composelan architecture complex. It gives people the feeling of harmonious environment and comfortable life when they stroll in the changeable and complicated buildings.


Heritage (Architectural aspects)
1. Hindu Temples
Most of the ethnic Indians are Tamils from the Southern India. The Indian architecture in Malaysia is influenced by the Dravidian which emerged thousands of years ago in the Indian subcontinent. Hindu temples in Malaysia are examples of Indian architecture in Malaysia. Temples are most notable for their high spiers (Gopura) consisting of a number of stepped levels with sculptures and floral decorations over its main entrance and facade. Great care is taken in sculpting the exqusite details of the sculpture. Sri Mariamman temple in Penang which was built in 1883 is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia.There are some other famous temples in Malaysia such as Sri Kandaswamy Kovil , Brickfields ( one of the most prominent Sri Lankan Tamil temples in Malaysia ) , Natukkotai Chettiar Temple , Penang and Sri Sunderaja Perumal Temple.

2. Sikh Architecture
Besides the Tamils, there a minority group of Sikhs in Malaysia. The Sikhs have their own unique architecture. Sikh architecture is characterized with progressiveness, exquisite intricacy, austere beauty and logical flowing lines. Example of Sikh architecture in Malaysia is the Gurdwaras - the worshiping place of the Sikhs. The layout of the gurdwara consist of :-
- Shoe Room ( shoes are placed in this room as footwear are not allowed in gurdwaras)
- Darbar Sahib ( where the spiritual assembly is held)
- Langar Hall ( free community kitchen)

Indigenous People

Heritage ( Architectural aspects)
1. The Longhouse / Rumah Panjang
The Longhouse is the traditional architecture in the states Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia. A longhouse is a type of long , narrow, single roomed building. It is mainly built from timber in older days but now the the buildings are replaced with modern material but the design remains unchanged. The long house is divided into public area along one side and private living along the other side. Basically, the long house is built raised off the ground on stilts.

Advantage of it being built in such a way is :-

- reduces the inconvenience caused by the flood
- cooling air could circulate underneath the floor of the building
- elevated living area are more likely to catch the above ground breezes
- Livestock could be placed underneath the dwelling for graeter protection.


Tradition (Events)-
1. Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Hari Raya Aidilfitri is one of the two important events for the Muslims besides Hari Raya Aidiladha. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated after Ramadan which is a one month fasting period for the Muslims. The primary purpose of fasting is for good deed to remind all the Muslims of self-control and submitting to Allah, the holy one. Besides that it teaches Muslims to appreciate what they have rather than asking for more. On the morning of the festival, the Muslims would wear their new clothes and go to the mosque to pray. They offer their thanks to God and after that they would ask for forgiveness from their elders. This is an important custom followed by the Muslims. After that they will visits relative and friends to celebrate this happy oc casion. While some will attend open houses to bond up greater relationship. For the children they might receive green packets which enclosed with money as a money tokens.

2. Hari Raya Aidiladha
Hari Raya Aidiladha also known as Hari Raya Korban is an important event for the Muslims which is celebrated about two months after Hari Raya Aidilfitri. It marks the end of the haj pilgrimage period (about two weeks). ‘Korban’ which means sacrifice commemorates the sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim. On the day, the sacrifice of four-legged animals such as lambs, goats, and cows take place. The animals are killed in accordance with the proper religious rites and the meat is distributed. One third of the meat is given to individual who made the sacrifice while others are distributed to the poor and other people. This event portrait and teaches the younger generation that sharing is very important too.


Tradition (Events)-
1. Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. Normally, a reunion dinner will be held on the eve of the Chinese New Year to bring family members closer. Reunion dinner can be held either at the restaurant or simply at home. Relatives will come together to cook and later have dinner together. On the first day of Chinese New Year, Chinese will burn firecrackers as a symbol to get rid of spirits and to boost the atmosphere. Red lantern and decorative items can be seen everywhere. Later, families will go to temples for prayers. After that, Chinese will visits relative and friends to enjoy the whole day. Red packets are given to those who are not marry while word of wishes such as ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ are greeted among each other.

2. Mid-Autumn Festival
In another words also known as Moon cake festival is held on the 15th day of the eight months of the Chinese calendar. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomelos under the moon together. This brings relationship among family members eveThat shows the n closer. While children will enjoy playing with candles and lanterns to light up the dark.

Indigenous People
Tradition ( Events)
1. Hari Gawai
Hari Gawai is celebrated on 1st June by the Dayaks or Ibans of Sarawak. Its iscelebrated for four heads. this festival is celebrated to mark the end of paddy harvesting season and the beginning of the new new planting season.There will be a lot of singing, dancing, and drinking of tuak or rice wine.

2. Harvest Festival
The indegenous tribes of the Kadazan, Dusun, and Murut of Sabah calebrates this Harvest Festival also known as Tadau Kaamatan. This festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving to the spirit of paddy, called Bambaazon or Bambarayon, by Kadazan Dusun. During the celebration there will be agricultural shows , exhibitions, cultural programmes, buffalo races and other traditional games. There will also b a Harvest Festival Queen ( Unduk Nangau) peagent to seek the fairest maiden, honouring the sacrifice made by a maiden legendary times.


Tradition(Events) -
1. Deepavali

Deepavali is also known as the The Festival of Lights , celebrated by Hindus in Malaysia. In Hinduism, light signifises goodness. So lights are burned out throughout the day of Deepavali and into the night , to ward of darkness and evil.Deepavali is actually celebrated for various alleged origins throughout the world. In Malaysia, Deepavali is celebrated as the day the evil Narakasura was slain by Lord Krishna. That shows the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.It is a ritual for everybody at home to need to have an oil bath early in the morning. This ritual is done to cleanse the impurities of the past years.

2. Thai Ponggal

Thai Ponggal is a celebration celebrated by the Indian community in Malaysia and is celebrated to mark the harvesting of the bounteous crops in the field. It usually falls in the middle of the month, January.It is celebrated for four days when the month of Thai starts.' Ponggal ' gives the meaning ' boiling water '. How is it celebrated ? Well milk is allowed to boil over and spill out of the pot which is believed that it gives prosperity and luck to the family. then, sweet rice is cooked and puja is performed. After, the puja , the ponggal can be enjoyed by family members together.


Tradition (Foods) -
1. Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak is a national heritage of Malaysia and usually it is serve as breakfast. But because of its versatility, it is now served and eaten at any time. The rice is soaked with coconut cream and the mixture is later steamed. Nasi lemak is served along with cucumbers, anchovies, roasted peanuts, sambals and chicken curry. It is widely eaten in Malaysia, even as a dish served in Malaysian schools. Nasi lemak is a common breakfast dish, sold early in the morning at roadside stalls in Malaysia, where it is often sold packed in newspaper, brown paper or banana leaf.

2. Satay
Satay or sate is a Malay dish consisting of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, fish, tofu, or other meats. These are grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with various spicy seasonings along with cucumbers and onions. Although it’s a Malay dish, but now it had become an identity of Malaysia as it could be found everywhere by other races.


Tradition ( Foods) –
1. Yong Tau Foo
Yong Tau Foo is a Chinese soup dish with Hakka origins. Yong tau foo is essentially a clear consomme soup containing a varied selection of food items including fish balls, crab sticks, bitter gourds, cuttlefish, lettuce, ladies fingers, as well as chillies, and various forms of fresh produce, seafood and meats common in Chinese cuisine. Some of these items, such as bitter gourd and chilli, are usually filled with fish paste. In Malaysia, the Malay Muslims have taken to yong tau foo in a big way. As pork consumption is prohibited for Muslims, halal yong tau foo is generally soy based or stuffed vegetable fritters or steamed bean curd with fish paste stuffing.

2. Char Kuey Teow
Char Kuey Teow, literally "stir-fried rice cake strips", is a popular noodle dish which typically prepared at a hawker stall. It is made of flat rice noodles fried together with prawns, deshelled cockles, bean sprouts and with some chillies. When the dish was first served, it was often sold by fishermen, farmers and cockle-gatherers who doubled up as char kway teow pedlars in the evening to supplement their income.

Tadition (food)
1. Roti Canai
Roti canai is one of the famous Malasian Indian breakfast. Roti canai looks like a pancake and its made of wheat flour, oil, ghee or butter.The softness of the roti canai is achieved by swinnging it into the the air until it takes a flat round shape. The more it is swung, there softer it gets. It is then fried and served with dhal, chicken or fish curry.
2.Tandoori chicken
Tandoori chicken i originated from the northern india.Spring chickens or quarter chickens are marinated in a red batter which is made of yoghurt and spices. The chicken pieces are then skewered on a metal stick and placed in steaming hot cicular oven from the top. It is then lifted out after sometime and served with mint sauce and plain naan bread.
Indegenuos people
Tradition (food)
1. Pansuh
The traditional food for Iban people who are mainly from Sarawak is called Pansuh. Basically Pansuh means cooking of food in a bamboo stem . the food cooked in the bamboo stem can be meat, chicken,, fish, vegetables and even rice cooked together with spices. these ingredients are put into the bamboo stem stem to cook.The speciality of this way of cooking is, bamboo gives a special taste and smell to the food.

Resources :

U.S Department of States - Background note : Malaysia (Jan 2010)


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