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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrPondicherry, a former French colony popularly known as “Pondy”, is a picturesque city in the union territory of Puducherry in India. Located in the coastal region, the city has a 2 km long seawall which was built in 1735 by the French to prevent coastal erosion. Also known as the French Riviera of the East, the beautiful backwaters of Pondicherry, the palm fringed beaches, the marvelous city of Auroville and its 32 km long coastline are a few of its attractions. French is largely spoken here and is the de-jure official language of the territory, while Tamil as well as Telegu is mostly used by the common people. Being a touristy town, most people here can communicate in Tamil language , Hindi, French, and English.
HistoryThe city of Pondicherry first came to have a recorded history only after the arrival of the colonists like the Portuguese, French, English, and the Dutch. Pondicherry and its surrounding areas were controlled by the French East India Company since 1674 right until 1956 when it became a part of India along with other French Colonies in India. In the 4th century ADE, Pondicherry used to form a part of the Pallava Kingdom. It was ruled by the Chola Kings of Thanjavur between the 10th- 13th century. From the 13th century on wards, the Pandyas took control of the area and by the 14th century, it became a part of the vast Vijaynagar Empire . In 1638, this area was incorporated within the territories of the Sultan of Bijapur. Finally, it was the French colonists who took control of the territory in 1674.
What to ExpectOne of the major tourist destinations of South India, Pondicherry attracts travelers from all over the world. The beautiful coastal town and its thoroughly planned urban space with its pretty churches, colonial buildings coupled with Tamil style architecture, constitute a unique combination of foreign culture and local tradition. On travelling from Chennai, one gets to breathe a gust of fresh air on reaching the tranquil little town of Pondi.
A canal runs through the city from north to south and tourists will prefer living on the “French Part’’ of the town in the eastern side, facing the sea. One can spend time in the city in diverse ways and some of the major tourist attractions are listed below.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram founded in 1926 by the Bengali freedom fighter, Sri Aurobindo Ghose, attracts both regular tourists and salvation seekers from all over the globe. The tenet preached by Aurobindo Ghose emphasized on the practice of yoga to attain spiritual evolution and enlightenment.
It’s open for all visitors between 8AM – 12 noon and from 2 PM – 6PM.
The experimental township of Auroville, designed by the French architect, Roger Anger, was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, the spiritual associate of Sri Aurobindo, popularly referred to as ‘The Mother’. Conceived as a universal town it contains soil collected from 124 countries of the world in an urn which is in the shape of Lotus. In a public speech, describing the purpose of the township, the Mother stated that ‘’Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics, and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.’’
The city houses a number of beautiful statues of prominent French nationals like Joan of Arc and Joseph François Dupleix. The War Memorial of the French martyrs of the First Word War , at Goubert Avenue is illuminated every year on the 14th of July – the Bastille Day.
The Pondicherry Museum houses many historical artifacts excavated from the ancient port of Arikamedu which had trade connection with the Romans in the 1st century. It also houses many exquisite sculptures of the Chola and the Pallava dynasty. Other notable museums of Pondicherry are the Ananda Ranga Pillai, the Bharathidasan Museum and the Bharti Museum.
The Botanical Gardens was created in 1826 by the French who decorated the garden with many exotic pruned trees collected from all over the world. The beautiful fountains and gravel lined pathways add to its charm.
The Ousteri Wetland and National Park, about 10 km north from the city center, is a vast stretch of marsh lands which boasts of a vast range of aquatic vegetation and different species of birds.
The Varadaraja Perumal temple, which dates back to the 6th century, is the oldest temple of Pondicherry. Dedicated to the Goddess Shakti, it blends French and Dravidian architecture.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located on the southern boulevard is an oriental rendition of Gothic architecture. Built by the French Missionaries in the 18th century, it has panels of stained glass depicting events from the life of Jesus Christ and the façade is embellished with Doric pillars.
The oldest mosque of the city, the Meeran Mosque is also another tourist destination. One would love to take a solitary stroll on the beautiful beaches and boulevards of Pondicherry. The Auro Beach, the Plage Paradiso or the Chunnambar beach are some of the beaches where one can sit back and enjoy a glass of beer.
A walk through the beautiful cobbled streets of the colonial part of the town will take you through many of the major landmarks of the city. Many tourists prefer to hire a bicycle to roam about the town.
Festivals in PondicherrySince the founder of Modern Pondicherry - Sir Aurobindo was a yogist, an International Yoga festival is organized here every year in the month of January featuring yoga workshops and demonstrations along with cultural events.
The Bastille Day is celebrated in Pondi every 14th of July with street parades and typical French decorations. During the Masi Magan Indian festival in February, more than 30 images of different Gods and Goddesses are brought to the sea shore and given a ritualistic bath.
How to get thereOne can reach Pondi from Chennai in 5 -6 hours by Volvo buses which run regularly. It is connected to Delhi and Mangalore by railways. One has to fly to Chennai and then take a bus to the city of Pondicherry.
Similar Places NearbyOne can reach the historic coastal town of Mahabalipuram within 2 hours from Pondy. Famous for its beautiful temples and monuments, the town has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Aug 14, 2014