PUDUCHERRY (Pondicherry)

Pondicherry is a Union Territory of India. It is a former French colony, consisting of four non-contiguous enclaves, or districts, and named for the largest, Pondicherry. From Chennai to Pondicherry 135 Kms, and nearest railway station, from Vilupuram to Pondicherry 37 Kms.

This History of  Pondicherry can be traced back to  the 2nd century AD. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, of the early 2nd Century, AD,  mentions a marketplace named Poduke, which G.W.B.Hunting ford identified as possibly being Arikamedu (Ariyankuppam), about 2 mails from the modern Pondicherry. Hunting ford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that I is was A TRADING STATION TO WHICH GOODS OF ROMAN MANUFACTURE WERE IMPORTED DURING THE FIRST HALF OF THE 1ST CENTURY AD.

Pondicherry  cheers the heart of the romantic. Legendary associations trace the origin of this city to Rishi Agastya, the revered sage of the  south. Pondicherry has been the theatre of many battles between the British and the  French, and was the capital of French India before it attained independence in 1954.

Pondicherry was the residence of one of Indian’s most renowned Freedom Fighters and Spiritualists, Sri Aurobindo. The world-famous Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville still operate from Pondicherry, which draws huge crowd of tourists.


          Auroville is located 10 kms north of Pondicherry town, Auroville is envisioned as a Universal Town, where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs, can live in peace and harmony. The construction of this Universal Town was started in 1968 under the guidance of The Mother, a Paris-born painter musician who became Sri Aurobindo’s disciple and close companion from 1924 till his death in 1950. The development of this utopia is still in progress.


          The Sri Auobindo Ashram located on rue de la Marine, is one of the most well known and wealthiest ashrams in India, with devotees from India and all over the world flocking to it for spiritual salvation.

          Its spiritual  tenets represent a synthesis of Yogo and modern science. It is open to the public daily between 8.00 -12.00 hrs and 14.00-18 hrs.

          Children below 3 years of age are not allowed into the Ashram and photography is allowed only with the permission of the Ashram authorities.

          The Ashram was set up in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose, one of India’s greatest philosopher poets. His philosophy deeply rooted in yoga and his writings inspired a number of followers. After Aurobindo’s death in 1950, the running of the Ashram was entrusted to his chief disciple and companion, Mirra Alfassa, (called as The Mother)

          The ashram’s influence can be felt in most of Pondicherry. The main ashram building is where the mortal remains of Aurobindo and the Mother are kept. 


          Dedicated to the Sacred Heart  of Jesus, this church is noted for its gothic architecture and stained glass panels which depict the entire life of Jesus Christ.


          Beach Road in the evening is a refuge  from the heat. Its formal names have been Rue du Rampart, Cours de Chabrol and now Gouber Salai. Beach Road has little of architectural interest but oceans of Charm. Here you can enjoy swimming and sunbathing, free of cost.


          The museum has a collection of sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties and artifact excavated from Arikamedu, including Greek and Roman pottery that is 200 years old. The museum has a coins, fossils sculptures, glimpses of French heritage, specimens of modern and traditional handicraft, paintings armouries, carvings and  many other things of historical interest. Open 10.00 am to 5.00 pm  Closed Mondays & Holidays.


          The French War memorial on Gouber Avenue is solemn reminder of those brave soldiers who laid down their lives, for their country during the First World War. Every year on the 14th July the memorial  is beautifully illuminated and homage is paid to those brave martyrs.


          Ananda Ranga Pillai was the celebrated dubash of Dupleix, the governor of Pondicherry  while it flourished under the French glory. Pillai’s compilation of diaries serve as a storehouse of information on the 18th century French India. His mansion, completed sometime in 1738, is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the west side- then known as natives quarters. Its architecture represents a curious mix of French and Indian styles.


          Established by C.S.Perrotet in 1826, it preserves a large variety of exotic species of plants from all over India and abroad. Children’s Museum: A small museum located next to the Botanical Gardens, it has a good collection of snail shells from the Pondicherry region.


          The house of the great Tamil poet had been converted into a museum. He freed Tamil poetry from forms that, while writing beautifully rich and terse, had kept it the preserve of the few. The inscriptions and material in the museum are  exclusively in Tamil.


          Located next to the old lighthouse on Goubert Avenue, the museum is open on all days except Monday. This rather unusual museum has collection of over 120 dolls, each one dressed in costumes from different Indian states. Also on display is a little fairyland with a tiny Ganesha watching  over all the proceedings.


          The 1.5 km long Promenade running along the  beach is the pride of Pondicherry. Several landmarks like the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Duplex, the elegant war memorial raised by the French, and the 27 meter tall lighthouse can be found along the water front.


          The Romain Rolland library was established in 1872 and has a rich collection of more than 3,00,000 volumes in  both French and English. It also boasts of a mobile library service which has a collection of more than 8000 books. These books are taken to nearby villages by bus, in order to make the books more accessible to the common man. The reference section on the second floor is open to the general public.


          The Classical colonial building is a research institute in Indian Civilization, history and society in ecology, in environment and development in South and Southeast Asia. Located at  St.Louis Street.


          Chunnambar is located in Ariyankuppam which is 7 kms. From Pondicherry on the way to Cuddalore and 1 Km from Ariankuppam. As it is located on the Cuddalore main road, all buses going to Cuddalore will take you to the bus-stop near the main gate. Chunnambar is unique in nature as on one end there is a calm backwater and on the other end, a long sea shore. Chunnambar, the perfect picnic spot-Chunnambar is the right mixture of fun, sports, calm, romance and beauty. You can swim, row a boat, stay on  a tree house and watch the sunrise, have a picnic at the beach and play beach volleyball, go trekking, or even fishing.


          The Government House is a harmonious blend of French and Indian style of architecture. Once the location of the Hotel de la Compagnie ( the French trading company that ruled in Pondicherry from its first settlement in 1674 until the French Government took over in 1769) and later played host to Dupleix. It is now the Lieutenant Governor’s residence. It is not open to the general public except on certain national holidays like Republic Day on 26th January, when it is adorned with lights and looks rather impressive.


          Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswarar Temple, architecturally the finest in Pondicherry, is located 9.5 kms away. During May-June, a Ten Day annual festival-Brahmothsavam is held here which attracts hundreds of devotees. The temple car procession around the town.


          Another example of the French influence in Pondicherry is a marble statue of the heroic French damsel Joan of Arc, which is located in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Angles. The statue is placed in the middle of a garden. The French Institute of  the Far East. This is an internationally  renowned research institute. This institute has two impressive and handsome buildings almost diagonal to each other at the corner of Dumas Street and is known for its research in the field of Indology, history and archaeology.


          The museum is the formed house of a renowned Pondicherry born poet(1891-1960) who was a follower of Bharathi. He wrote poetry, plays and film scripts on such issues as support for Dravidian (south Indian) culture and  the  rights of women, and  in opposition to superstition and casteism. 


          This gleaming white monument built during the  time of Napoleon III, Emperor of the France. The monument commemorates both the provision of water to the French city during his reign and the good deed of a lady some 300 years before.


          Established over a century ago, a visit to the Anglo-French Textile Mills is an education in itself. The mill gives a ten percent rebate on purchases made by tourists who go on guided tours. The acclaimed fabrics and products of this mill make ideal mementos and gifts.


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