Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Coral Merchant Street, George Town, Chennai: 326 years Old History of Jews

Coral Merchant Street, Mannady, George Town (Source: The Hindu
Jewish Cemetery (Source: The Hindu
Sri Venugopala Krishnaswamy Temple 
Kalahasthi temple (one of five Pancha boodha sthalam equivalents in Chennai representing air)
Coral merchant street , locally known as Pavazhakara Street, is one of the  oldest and historical streets of George Town or Black Town in Chennai, India. The road stretches from north to south and links the Old Jail Road / Basin Bridge Road  in the north and Mannady Street  in the south. This commercial cum residential street is dotted with hardware shops, transport joints, guest houses, lodges, religious places and few historical structure.

Two prominent temples of Coral merchant street: Kalahasthi temple (one of five Pancha boodha sthalam equivalents in Chennai representing air) and Sri Venugopala Krishnaswamy Temple are considered as few of the old temples in Chennai with a history of few hundred years.

There are two choultries built by Nattukottai Nagarathars of Chettinadu: (1). Devakottaiyar Nagara Viduthi, 114,Coral merchant street, and (2). Rangoon Nagara Viduthi, 88,Coral Merchant Street.

History: This Colonial Street has a long history and during seventeenth and eighteenth centuries  it was a synagogue. The Pagadalpet (coral-town)  in the northern part of Muthialpet is named as coral merchant street. A small sized  Portuguese Jews belonging to Paiva or Porto families lived here as a settlement since from 1688 and they chiefly engaged in the export the diamonds of Golconda to London and imported coral beads as well as in raw form their fellow Hebrew merchants in London. From the records it is learned that they were allowed to reside within the Fort St.George and had their cemeteries in Peddanaickenpetta. Also there was an association ‘The Colony of Jewish Traders of Madraspatam' prevailed.  At the turn of 18th century the Colconda diamond trade  dwindled down and the population of the jews reduced gradually and today there is no Jewish presence at this street and could not find neither a synagogue nor the Jewish cemetery.

Nattukottai Chettiars, the community of traders, indigenous bankers and financiers occupied the Coral merchant street during the late 19th-early 20th Century and built typical row type houses with grilled  verandah  with raised platforms ('thinnai') between the front wall and the road. Soon Coral merchant street became the head quarters for the deposit banking trade of nattukottai chettiars.


  1. Coral and diamonds by S Muthiah The Hindu May 16, 2011
  2. George Town, Chennai - Wikipedia
  3. Lustre dims, legacy stays by Anusha Parthasarathy The Hindu
  4.  The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume. Asian Educational Services, 01-Jan-1994 - Chennai (India) - p.257.
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