Hindu Temple in the Tamil Quarter.
The Tamil Quarter (or erstwhile “Black Town”) of Pondicherry sits to the West of the French Quarter. It was separated from the latter by a Grand Canal that bisected downtown Pondicherry, and still runs through the city today.
In size, the Tamil Quarter dwarfs the French Quarter, being a good 3 – 4 times larger. In typical colonial fashion, the quarter is further segregated into a Hindu Quarter to the North, and Christian (Catholic) Quarter west and centre, and a Muslim Quarter to the South, each of which have their own unique architecture and places of worship.
Notably, the Hindu Quarter boasts the city’s most important Hindu Temples, with their soaring, majestic gopurams; while the Christian and Muslim quarters host the city’s oldest mosques and most exquisite churches.
The most interesting walks in the Tamil Quarter are to be taken along Vysial Street (also known as Chetty Street) in the Hindu Quarter and Mullah and Cazy Streets in the Muslim Quarter, where one can see dozens of historic Tamil residences in good condition. The city’s Grand Bazaar (also known as Goubert Market) sits in boundaries between the Christian and the Hindu Quarters.
This tour first takes us North to South from the Hindu Quarter, through the Christian Quarter to the Muslim Quarter.
The former grand canal, which divides Old Pondicherry into the French and Tamil Quarters.
The Hindu Quarter
Collège Calvé Soupraya Chettiar was opened in 1875 to educate Hindus of caste and Muslims. Today it is a Government High School. Note the eclectic East-West architectural style.
Kamatchi Amman Kovil is known for its pink gopuram.
Unfortunately, during my stay in Pondicherry, the major temples appeared to be undergoing extensive restoration. This is Perumal Kovil, along Gandhi Street – one of two great temples that dates from at least the early 1700s.
Just down the street is Isvaran Dharmaraja Kovil, built in the late 1700s and also under restoration.
A typical Tamil house along Vysial Street, with a thinnai, or verandah on the ground floor with masonry along the sides for visitors to sit on. Wooden pillars hold up a terracotta roof.
INTACH Pondicherry Headquarters, in a typical Tamil House.
Ecole Soussilabai, established in 1940 on Vysial Street, was a gift of M. N. Selvaradjalou Chettiar. Vysial Street itself was home to the Chettiar community.
Historic Tamil house facades, Vysial Street. The street, also known as Rue Calve Subraya Chetty, is named after the gentleman who established the Calve College.
Sri Aurobindo Street, Hindu Quarter.
The Christian Quarter and Bazaars
The Cathedral of our Lady of Immaculate Conception was built in 1791, in the style of the Jesuits.
The bright interior of the Cathedral.
Société Mutuelle des Créoles, established 3 July 1883 in Pondicherry.
The Grand Bazaar, today’s Goubert Market, was established in 1826.
The Modéliar Clocktower was built in 1851 in the Grand Bazaar.
Chinna Mani Kundu, donated by Cou Latchoumanasamy Chettiar in 1892, stands at the site of the former Petit Bazaar.
Sacré-Coeur de Jésus Cathedral was built in 1902 in the Neo-Gothic style.
The Interior of the Cathedral, with stained glass windows made in Alsace in 1908.
The Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter boasts traditional Tamil houses with variations to ornamentation and adornment to reflect the religion of their inhabitants.
Moullah Street, Muslim Quarter.
Exquisite Tamil house dating from 1933 in the Muslim Quarter. Inscription at the top reads “C.M.S. 1933”.
The Meeran Mosque dates from the late 1600s and is the oldest mosque in the city.
The Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque), also known as Kutpa Mosque, also dates from the 1600s and predates the French arrival.
Moullah Mohammed Mosque.
Tower in the Muslim Quarter, at the junction of Cazy and Mullah Streets. Inscription reads “C.M.S. 1936”.
And finally, another beautiful Tamil house in the Muslim Quarter.
About Kennie Ting
I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.