History & Culture

A slice of Indian tradition

The spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral, the entrance to theMariamman temple, Sri Thendayyutthapani temple, the Saigon Opera House and the distinctly crafted 'Ther' seen inside the shrine.  

Just over 40 years ago, on April 30, 1975, the reunification of Vietnam took place and Saigon was renamed as Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon is a lovely, quaint city, some areas exhibiting a distinct old world charm, with typical Parisian style sidewalk restaurants, a hark-back to the French Colonial era. There are also several historical buildings with stunning architectural facades, built when Vietnam was a part of French Indo-china.

One of these is the Saigon Central Post Office, which was constructed in the Gothic and French style in 1890, and was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Adjacent to the post office stands the spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral, which is built in the Romanesque style, and was completed in 1880.

Built of shining red bricks specially brought from Marseille the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica looks stunning. An easy walk from the cathedral is the Saigon Opera House, built in 1911, an example of typical French Colonial style architecture. Another landmark in this area is the Taoist shrine, The Jade Emperor Pagoda, which was built by the Chinese in 1909.

A must seen in Saigon
» Sri Mariamman temple.
» Sri Thendayyutthapani temple.
» Notre Dame Cathedral, which is built in the Romanesque style,and was completed in 1880.
» Saigon Central Post Office, built in 1890.
» Taoist shrine, The Jade Emperor Pagoda, built by the Chinese in1909.
» Saigon Opera House, built in 1911.

Prominently displayed street names and clean well-paved sidewalks make it a pleasure to walk around the old quarter of Ho Chi Minh City.

It was on one of these walking trips that we discovered the Mariamman Temple in Saigon. Entrenched in District 1, in the midst of sidewalk cafes and grand architectural edifices, we came upon the familiar sight of a colourful rajagopuram, standing amid tall buildings, yet very much an integral part of the area. And we realised that this was the famous Mariamman Temple of Saigon.

The temple is said to have been built sometime in the late 1800s by Nagarathar businessmen from Tamil Nadu, (who are said to fund the temple even today), and by Tamil workers from Karaikal and Puducherry. While the presiding deity is Mariamman, the mandapam and outer wall of the sanctum are surrounded by idols of various forms of Mariamman, such as Chamundi, Bhairavi and Parvati.

Along with these are idols of Siva, Murugan and Vinayaka. Also seen within the premises is a beautiful vahanam. Shops selling puja baskets abut the outer wall of the temple. The entire spectacle seemed to have been lifted off some place in Tamil Nadu, except for the fact that everything around was so clean! The Manager of Sri Mariamman Temple in Saigon is Palani, whose grandfather came to Saigon from Tamil Nadu. Palani speaks a smattering of Tamil.

He greeted us with a ‘Vanakkam’, gave us prasadam and invited us, “Ayya and Amma varunga” for the puja in the evening.

In the same quarter of Saigon, within District 1, and a short walk away is Sri Thendayyutthapani Temple, dedicated to Lord Muruga, which is said to have been built in the early 1900s, again by Nagarathar traders from Tamil Nadu. This temple has a separate alcove for Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and also a beautiful and distinctly different kind of ‘Ther’, which is also housed in the temple premises. Another interesting feature of this temple is that, large framed pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and Tiruvalluvar adorn the walls within.

A large notice board displays information about the temple in both, Vietnamese and English. It was heartening to see the practice of secularism in Vietnam in that, these temples are open to all and those who throng the temples are Vietnamese devotees.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 2:30:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/in-saigon-discover-a-bit-of-india-through-the-temples-of-meriamman-and-muruga/article7561394.ece

Next Story