Tuesday 10 July 2012

Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis (part 2)

In the previous post we saw that the southern part of Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis is heavily influenced by the cultures from the north of the Indian sub-continent.  Well, as you might expect, the northern part of the street is indeed dominated by businesses from southern India and Sri Lanka.

Between Gare du Nord and La Chapelle the number of Tamil shops and restaurants has increased steadily over the past decade to the point where today Tamil is clearly the dominant culture in the area.  If you're looking for Indian spices or silks, you'll be spoilt for choice. There are also a large number of good-value Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants in nearby Rue Cail and Rue Louis Blanc.

Ganesh Chaturthi in Rue du Faubourg St Denis
(photo: Paul Munhoven via Wikimedia Commons)
Tamil people are mostly Hindu and many of the shops and restaurants have religious symbols on display. Ganesh Chaturthi — the Hindu festival of Ganesha — is celebrated every year around the end of August or the beginning of September.

The festival attracts thousands of devotees from all over Europe. The men pull a chariot bearing a gilded bronze effigy of the elephant-headed deity through the streets to the Hindu temple in nearby Rue Pajol.  Women follow the chariot,  carrying camphor pots on their heads and singing devotional songs. Coconuts are smashed all along the path of the chariot.  The shell represents worldly illusion; the flesh individual karma; the water human ego.  In breaking the coconut, devotees offer their hearts to Ganesha.

Getting there

  • Metro: Gare de l'Est (lines 4/5/7); La Chapelle (Line 2)

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