Pondicherry town is a surprise in India. This you'll realise as you pass through well-laid, wide streets carrying French names and kept unpolluted. Clean. A French past is still present.
Pondicherry cheers the heart of the romantic. With grand boulevards and quiet promenades. You'll be greeted with large bouquets of bougainvillea hanging over the ivory-coloured walls of colonial mansions. Pondicherry with its ashram charm, is sought out by the peace-seeker. And with its safe and secluded beaches, by the tan-seeker.
Pondicherry is richly cosmopolitan. A staggering number of 55 languages are spoken here. By an easy, relaxed set of people. Pondicherry is a favourite hunting ground for the shop-hopper. Where wonderful bargains are easy pickings. Pondicherry is a peaceful, easy feeling. That makes you want to put your feet up. And let your hair down.
Pondicherry has a rich French cultural heritage, having been the capital of the French colonies in India since the 17th century. Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and mahe were transferred to the Indian union in 1954. This French legacy is visible in the well-Planned town, neatly laid roads, wide and vibrant beaches, beautiful promenades, architecturally imposing churches and public buildings and the statues of joan of ark and joseph Francois colonies in India from 1742-54.The town also has an alliance Francaise and the French institute. Among the notable French personalities who left their indelible mark on Pondicherry, four names stand out.
Francois Martin who was appointment the administrator after the Treaty of Ryswick, brought stability and was responsible for its growth. Dumas, who succeeded him, built on Martin's foundation. The third notable Frenchman was joseph Francois Dupleix, the Governor of french india from 1742-54.
The forth French Personality who made an impact on Modern day Pondicherry was 'The Mother', a paris-born painter musician and Sri Aurobindo's close companion from 1920 until his death in 1950. She was responsible for developing the Ashram as it is today.
The known history of Pondicherry dates back to the beginning of our era. Excavations at Arikamedu, south of present Pondicherry town, have uncovered the remains of a Roman settlement, which was there between second century B.C. and second century A.D. Ancient Roman scripts mention one of the trade centres along the Indian coast as Poduca or Poduke, which refers, historians affirm, only to the present Pondicherry.
Before this period nothing is known with certainty. The "Bahur Plates", issued in the 8th century speak of a Sanskrit University which was here from an earlier period. Legend has it that the sage Agastya established his Ashram here and the place was known as Agastiswaram. An inscription found near the Vedhapuriswara Temple hints at the credibility of this legend.
History continues at the beginning of the fourth century A. D. when the Pondicherry area is part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram. During the next centuries Pondicherry is occupied by different dynasties of the south: in the tenth century A.D. the Cholas of Tanjavur took over, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the thirteenth century. After a brief invasion by the Muslim rulers of the North, who established the Sultanate of Madurai, the Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all the South of India and lasted till 1638, when the Sultan of Bijapur began to rule over Gingee.
If you are tired of the rat race that today's world has become and are in search of inner peace, harmony and spirituality, then Pondicherry is the place to come to. It has been seat of learning and Vedic culture since ancient times and was also the home of the great Hindu sage Agastya. Pondicherry mystic spirit found a great resurrection in the twentieth century with the establishment of Aurobindo Ashram.
Hindu, Christian, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam.
A variety of jams is produced by Naturellement in Auroville. Some of the produces available are jellies, jams, marmalades, chutneys, pickles, French mustard, peanut butter and other exotic preserves. One can also find snacking cheeses and the cooking kind in Auroville.
Pondicherry is famous for its mineral water of which Pondich?y Mineral Water by PASIC is the most known.
Pondicherry is the favourite stomping ground of the passionate shopper. It's an octroi - free destination for everything from cars to consumer goods. In addition, there is an enticingly low incidence of sales tax. Shop - hoppers will also relish the pleasant ambience of the boutiques in Pondicherry, which cater to a wide range of tastes, offering stylish garments, semi - precious stones, perfumes, hand - made incense, candles embossed with real petals, marbled silks and aromatherapy products. One can also find a variety of handicrafts from Tamil Nadu Orissa, Karnataka, Kashmir, Tibet and Pondicherry of course.
Textiles, Pondicherry has long been a centre for the production of household linen and garment textiles.
Furniture, Pondicherry offers antique furniture and curios such as refinished Tamil, Keralite, and French and British colonial furniture.
Leather, Making leather the forgotten way, with exacting attention to detail, is what separates the Pondicherry brands from the rest. Carefully finshed, innovative products with quality can be found in many leather shops in Pondy.
Pottery, Excellent ceramic artists and artisans work in Pondicherry and Auroville. They keep a keen eye out for the right kind of clay and glazes and make the kilns appropriate to the local environment. Lending their signature an elegant simplicity and a unique decorative flourish.
Aromatics, The aromatics in Pondicherry is world famous for high - quality non - toxic incense sticks and cones as well as scented candles, perfumed oils and sachets, incense holders, ceramic holders and diffusers.
Yogis and yoginis from the world over assemble in Pondicherry from the 4th to the 7th of January every year. Through live shows and talks, through the diplay and sample of the varied yogic food and through Indian dance and music, they keep alive the art of yoga. Its science. And its philosophy.
The harvest festival for rural Pondicherrians.
This festival is celebrated during the full moon around mid-March.
This festival is celebrated in March.
This festival is celebrated on First week after Easter between March - April.
This festival is celebrated in April (17 - 27).
This festival is generally celebrated around the middle of May but the exact date depends on the appearance of the full moon.
(Full moon day ) Karaikal breaks into a month - long festivity which accompanies this feast dedicated to Karaikal Ammaiyar.
On 14 July, Bastille Day, Pondicherry witnesses an indo - French pageantry.
A Food Festival to celebrate the great French cuisine, is organised by the Tourism Department every August.
This is the grand car festival of Pondicherry when the decorated temple car is pulled in a procession, with the Lieutenant Governor participating in the ritual.
The birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, is a holy day in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
A cultural pageant, coinciding with the Liberation Day and the Independence Day. The brilliantly lit Park Monument makes for a marvellous sight.
This festival is celebrated on 5 - 21 October.
This festival is celebrated on October, 1st week after Vijayadasam.
This festival is held on November 13 -19.
This Shopping festival is celebrated on December 22 - 31.
Pondicherry is located at 162 Kms south of Chennai, the capital of Talmilnadu and 22 kms north of Cuddalore, the capital of South Arcot District of Tamilnadu. Pondicherry is surrounded by Bay of Bengal on East, and on the other sides are the South Arcot District of Tamilnadu.
Pondicherry is linked with Chennai (Madras), which is 200 km away by Vayudoot Flights.
Pondicherry is connected with a meter gauge link with Chennai via Villupuram by the Pondicherry Express.
Pondicherry has a good network of roads, which connects it with most of South India.
The summer runs from March till July. The skies are cloudless and temperatures are soaring upto 40 degrees and beyond in May and June. The monsoon on the west coast brings some relieve in July-August with milder temperatures and occassional showers, which may last till October.
This beach is ten-minute drive to the north of the town. The ambience is well-captured in its name. It is ideal for a quick dip and for sun bathing.
Subramaniya Bharathi, Bharathiyar to all, was a Tamil poet-patriot who arrived in Pondicherry in 1908 a fugitive from British India. The Free French air brought out the best in Bharathi and some of his finest patriotic and romantic compositions were born here. Bharathi's home No.20, Easwaran Dharmaraja Koil Street, is almost a place of pilgrimage today for the Tamil people.
Established by Sri Aurobindo, a revolutionary turned poet, a philosopher and later developed by the Mother, the Aurobindo Ashram has grown into a centre for the practice of Integral Yoga, a seat of learning and a training ground for sadhana. The activities of the Ashram include agriculture, industries, art and cuture. In the main building of the Ashram is the Marble Samadhi where Aurobindo and the Mother have been laid to rest and the houses they lived in.
Pondicherry's beach is virgin; its golden yellow sand is unpolluted, the continental slope is gentle and safe. Pondicherry has a lovely beach, 1.5 kms. long, where one can relax, sunbathe, swim or take a stroll along the promenade. The beach has historical connections too. These sands have witnessed some of the fierest Anglo-French battles. On the sea-front are two important monuments a) Statue of Mahatma Gandhi set amidst eight exquistely sculptured monolithic pillars and b) the War Memorial raised by the French to honour the soldiers who died in World War I. The Light house and the 284 metre long new pier are further south of these monuments.
At Chunnambarm 8kms from the town, along Cuddalore Main Road, lies this stretch of tropical paradise. Flanked by a quiet-flowing creek on one side. You can sail downstream to the sands and pitch up a cozy seaside tent for yourself. Overnight within the tree-houses on the backwater banks provides a relishing experience of the great outdoors.
A short, pleasant cruise into the sea from here could reward you with the memorable sight of playful dolphins in natural habitat, horsing around.
This grand palace-typically French - was once Dupleix's home. Today, the exquisite building, with its beautiful lawns in front decorated with sculptures, is the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry (not open to Public).
Located opposite the Government Park, the Museum provides a glimpse into Pondicherry's rich past and present. The Sculpture gallery contains some specimens of Pallava and Chola art from Pondicherry and Karaikal. The Archaeological section displays a collection of the famous findings from Arekamedu, like Roman pottery, burial urns, etc. The French Gallery is the most interesting part of the museum which has an office and drawing, dining and bed-rooms with furniture typical of French India. The other sections of the museum are on geology, bronze images, arms, handicrafts and art. The Museum brings back to memory the glorious past of Pondicherry from the days of the pre-Christian era down to the present day providing glimpses of the art and culture of the people of this region during the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar days.
The 1.5 km long promenade running along the beach is the pride of Pondicherry. There one can relax or take a stroll at any time of the day. On the sea front are several landmarks the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Jeanne d'Arc and Dupleix, the elegant war memorial raised by the French, the heritage building Mairie, the 27 metre tall old lighthouse, the circular shaped two storied structures on either side of Gandhi maidan.
The XVIII Century Palais du Gouverneur (now Raj Nivas) the old Tribunal now housing the Legislative Assembly, the cercle de Pondicherry, the hospitals, the Ashram Dining Hall, the UCO Bank are all lined up to form "Place de Gouvernement" (Government Square), with a monument Aayi Mandapam at the Centre of a well laid garden. Some exquisitely carved monolithic pillars adorn the "place". These pillars, ascribed to the XVII Century were brought from Gingee to Pondicherry after the capture of its fort in 1751.
Auroville is described as the city of Tomorrow where an attempt is made to replicate on much larger scale the experiment that is being carried out in Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the evolution of a new society envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother where people could live "freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority that of the Supreme Truth, a place of peace, concord, harmony". Under the Mother's direction it was launched in 1968 with the co-operation of many nations.
The small township of Auroville or the City of Dawn was designed by a French architect, Roger Arger. It is an entirely new concept in education and urban living. There are about 40 odd settlements located around a central focus called the Matrimandir. These settlements are engaged in a variety of activities, including afforestation, farming, education and handicrafts. The total area of Auroville is about 50 sq km. No local transport is available inside the township. A conducted tour of Auroville from Boutique d'Auroville, 12 Nehru Street, Pondicherry, takes interested visitors around settlements of Auroville.
It is about 50 km from Pondicherry town. This is the location of the first Pallava cave temple for the Hindu trinity-Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Called Lakshitayatana, it was built during the reign of Pallva King Mahendra Varaman I.
Yanam, in coastal Andhra Pradesh, provides a different route to exhilaration. As you enjoy a sunset cruise down the spectacular Goringa Godavari river which winds through rich mangrove forests.
The shrine dedicated to "Manakula Vinayakar" existed even at the time of the arrival of the French in Pondicherry in 1673. This Ganesh temple is situated on MV Street. Every Friday, people gather here to seek divine blessings for their new ventures.
There are about 32 temples in Pondicherry. Of these Manakula Vinayagar temple, Sri Vedapureeswarar temple, Kamatchiamman temple and Varadarajaperumal temple are famous.
French missionary zeal in the XVII and XVIII Centuries saw a number of grandly embellished churches built in Pondicherry. The Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Cathedral, the Eglise de Notre Dame A'es Angles are particularly noteworthy.
Facilities for boating are available at a Boat House, on the River Chunnambar 8 kms from Pondicherry. The backwater and the lush greenery on both sides of Chunnambar provide an ideal setting for boating. Boats are available on hire on all days of the week. A most enjoyable hydroplane and facilities for boating and fishing make this an ideal site for relaxation and picnic.
Park monument built by the gallant French in the exuberant Graeco-Roman style to honour an oriented dancing girl stands as a symbolic landmark of all that is unique of Pondicherry and her distinct gracefulness.
The Jawahar Toy Museum is located in the old Light House building near Gandhi Maidan. Here toys and puppets from different parts of India are on display.
This church on the South Boulevard is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is noted for its Gothic architecture, stained glass corridors and panels depicting incidents from the life of Jesus Christ.
Sunrise-watchers can catch their magnificent view over the bay, with the pretty Arasalar river reaching out to the sea.
Alternatively, you can canoe or Kayak in picture-book surroundings or have a round of beach volley ball.
Twenty two kms south of Kannur, on the northern strip of coastal Kerala lies this bewitching beach strip. From Calicut, you will find this 75kms north of the town, bordered by a luxuriant crop of tall palm and dotted with numerous fishing hamlets.
It is about 50 km from Pondicherry town. There is a Murugan temple atop a hillock. The Panguni Uthhiram festival held in March-April attracts devotees in large numbers.
The Botanical Garden in Pondicherry was created in 1826. When the garden came under the control of the eminent botanist Perottet "rare and interesting plants" were procured from Calcutta, Madras, Ceylon and Reumian and introduced. Now it is having a proud collection of 1,500 species.
It is about 15 km from Pondicherry town. A popular picnic spot on the Pondicherry-Villupuram route.
It is about 30 km from Pondicherry town. Large fossil bearing areas fenced in to create the country's first National Fossil-Wood Park here. These petrified trees lying scattered on low mounds and stream sections, date from the Cretaceous Age (100 million years ago) The Chandramouliswara Temple, a monument of great architectural grandeur dating back to the Chola period, is an added attraction. Every Pournami (Full Moon Day), people gather here to worship Goddess Kali.
Visiting the century old Anglo-French Textile mills in Pondicherry is not only educative but also of tourism importance. The mill gives 10% rebate to the tourists who go on guided tours/buses on the purchases made. The world claimed fabrics and products of the mill will not only be a momento of Pondicherry but also can be used as gifts besides being products of utilitarian/aesthetic value in the houses.