“Give time a break”. And that is indeed one of the more attractive features of Pondicherry. So relax, put your feet up, switch off your cell phone, and forget all about returning to work on Monday morning. Enjoy a fine meal with a glass of wine, rent a bicycle and take a ride at the promenade, take a walk in the park. Do something new an interesting that you wouldn’t do in the city you live in. Learn some pottery at the Golden Bridge Pottery.
Situated on the Coromandel coast, about 160 kms south of Chennai, lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this territory for 300 years, and today, it stands as a living monument of the French culture in India. It is bound on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the other three sides by the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu. About 150 kilometres south of Pondicherry, on the east coast, lies Karaikal, while Mahe is situated on the Malabar coast. Yanam is situated in the adjoining East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
Pondicherry or Puducherry is a well planned and well built town. This is a typical example as one can learn the way the French people gave importance to order and flair. They are known for their rich and quality living. The French too had an eye on the wealth and the fertility of India. Thus the French dream of Indian empire began and got over by establishing their supremacy in Pondicherry. The French constructed many buildings based on their craft and grand architecture. They developed an oval shaped, lovely ‘boulevard town’ – the French quarter. This French quarter was laid out in a geometric grid pattern with straight roads intersecting at right angles. A boulevard encircled the town and a grand canal, divided it into two sections- one the Tamil side called as Ville Noire or the black town and the other, a European side which was known as Ville Blanche or the white town. The impressive Ville Blanche or white town resembles a typical Medieval French township clotted with fine built monuments, government buildings, majestic mansions, elegant churches and lush green parks.
The History of Pondicherry can be traced back to the 2nd century. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, of the early 2nd century, mentions a market place named Poduke, which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikamedu (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry. Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeologicalexcavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was “a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD”
Pondicherry or Puducherry traces its origin to Saint Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. The excavations near Pondicherry reveal, that a Roman settlement existed here, 2000 years ago. It was also the site of many a battle between the British and the French, and was the capital of French India, before it attained its independence.
Sri Aurobindo, revolutionary, poet, philosopher and yogi was born in Calcutta in 1872.he came to Pondicherry in 1910. The mother, born in Paris in 1878, came to India in 1914 to meet Sri Aurobindo. She rejoined Sri Aurobindo in 1920 and resumed her spiritual collaboration with him for the evolution of a higher consciousness, a spiritual and supramental consciousness on earth. In the main building of the ashram, or Rue de Marine are the marble Samadhi, where Sri Aurobindo & the Mother have been laid to rest in the houses they lived.
The 1.5 km long promenade running along the beach is the pride of Pondicherry. Most of the landmarks are on the sea front : the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Jeanne d’Arc, Dupleix, the elegant War memorial raised by the French, the heritage building “Mairie”, the 27 m tall old lighthouse, the circular shaped customs house & Gandhi Thidal.
The park facing the governor’s bungalow reflects the French influence. Once called as “place du pantheon” now turned as Aayi mandapam – the emblem of the Pondicherry Government. The park surrounded by Aayi mandapam has been restructured by preserving its heritage.
CHUNNAMBAR BOAT HOUSE
Facilities for boating are available at the Boat House on the River Chunnambar, 8kms from Pondicherry. The backwater and the lush greenery on both sides of Chunnambar provide an ideal setting for boating.
Auroville welcomes people from all parts of the world to live together and explore cultural, educational, scientific, spiritual, and other pursuits in accordance with the Auroville charter. Auroville information centre and Matri Mandir [Meditation hall with world’s biggest man-made crystal ball] are the places open to most of the visitors. It offers less to see and lots to experience.
THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Botanical garden in Pondicherry was created in 1826, once called as “Colonial Park”. When the garden came under the control of the eminent botanist perottet “rare and interesting plants” were procured from Calcutta, Madras, Ceylon and Reunion. Its collection numbers to approx.1500 species.
The museum brings back memories of the glorious past of Pondicherry, from the days of the Greco-Roman era down to the present days, providing glimpses of the art and culture of the people of this region during the pallava, chola and vijayanagar days. Artifacts from the excavations at Arikamedu are preserved here.
OUSTERI LAKE BOAT HOUSE
Ousteri Lake is one of the biggest lake and major supplier of drinking water in those days. Now it is opened for the tourists for boat ride and to watch the birds. During the season, this lake acts as dwelling place for many migrating birds.
It is beautiful to take up the walk around the boulevard, showcasing three different architectures in 3-4 square kms. The White town or the French square, Tamil Square and the Muslim Square.
Places Around Pondicherry
This is a spiritual and a physical centre. It is a testimonial to The Mother’s vision of unity and harmony to mankind. The remarkable monument in the form of a massive golden globe is a place for quite reflection and concentration. The inner sanctuary, unlike the traditional temple, does not enshrine an image of the mother but has an abstract representation of her notion of spirituality rendered in light and glass.
Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple at Villianur is ten kilometers away from Pondicherry. It is noted for its fine architecture. The annual Temple car festival held on full moon day in the month of May-June attracts large number of devotees. The huge chariot is taken out during this time for procession. High officials take part in this car festival which is a grand one.
This ancient port town is 35 kilometers from Pondicherry. This was the major town of the Cholas. The original town lies submerged in the sea and is of great archaeological value. The excavations conducted here has revealed valuable information about the town planning, buildings, and sculptures, etc. the existence of ring wells near the sea shore which have been described in the Sangam Literature are quite interesting. Interesting sites are Sillapathikara Art Gallery, ancient Thirupallavanees-waram Temple, etc.
This historic sea-side resort is an open air museum displaying legacy of the Pallava architecture. It is also known for its natural beauty, vast stretch of glorious sandy beach, and delicious sea food. The world famous shore temple here is one of the oldest temples in the south and has been listed among the world heritage sites of UNESCO. The unique temple was built during the seventh century during the reign of Rajasimha. The five Rathas, Arjuna’s penance 14 caves and mandapams and sculpture museum along the beach side are found here.
This small enclave in Tamilnadu is one of the four districts of the Union Territory. It is about 300 kilometers south of Chennai and 135 kilometers away from Pondicherry on the east coast. Karaikal is known for its rich religious heritage and is ideally suited for visitors seeking solitude, leisure and serenity. The town is also noted for its distinct French flavour. It is well connected by road and the nearest airport and railway are Tiruchirapalli and Nagore respectively. The other places to watch in Karaikal are Lord Dharbaraneswaran Temple, Thirunallar, Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple, Jadaayupureeswarar Temple, T.R.Pattinam, Masthan Saheb Durgah, Our Lady Angels Church and Karaikal Beach.
HOW TO REACH PONDICHERRY
Nearest airport is situated at Chennai, located 135-km from the city.
Pondicherry is connected with a meter gauge link with Chennai via Villupuram by the Pondicherry Express which is 36 km. from the city.
Pondicherry has a good network of roads, which connects it with most of South India.
Facts About Pondicherry
Area 492 km square
Languages Tamil, French, Telugu, Malayalam
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