Visit Pondicherry to experience a taste of France in India. A quite little town nestled on the Southern coast, Pondicherry is lined with colonial heritage buildings and endless stretches of beaches. It is a well-planned city where all the roads meet at right angles like a grid and a long Petit Canal divides the city on the sea side. The French connection is visible in the culture and lifestyle of Pondicherry even today.
Pondicherry is a Union Territory and comprises of four coastal regions - Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. While Pondicherry and Karaikal are situated on the East Coasts in Tamil Nadu, Yanam is in Andhra Pradesh and Mahe is on the West Coast in Kerala.
Places to visit
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Located on the rue de la Marine, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is one the famous ashrams in India.
Devotees from all over the world flock to this ashram for spiritual
salvation. Established by Sri Aurobindo, who was a revolutionary
(before he became a poet), the ashram is a centre for Integral Yoga.
The ashram was later developed by the Mother. The main ashram building
is where the mortal remains of Aurobindo and the Mother are kept.
is home to the famous Subramanya Bharathi. It is here that he worked on
some of his finest compositions - both romantic and patriotic. You will
get a glimpse of this great poet and his works at the Bharati Memorial
Museum (Bharathi's home is converted into a museum). You can also visit
the Barathidasan Memorial Museum that houses the works of
Kanakasubburatnam - an accomplished Tamil poet. These apart, you can
also visit the Jawahar Toy Museum, Children's Museum, Ananda Ranga
Pillai Museum and the Pondicherry Museum.
The 'Place de Gouvernement" or the Government Square includes 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 and the UCO Bank - all lined up
to form the square. 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.
The other places to see include the Botanical Garden. Created in 1826,
the Botanical Garden HAS a collection of 1,500 species of rare and
interesting plants. The Bharathi Park located in the heart of Pondicherry
is a beautiful park with lush green surroundings and shady trees. The
Aayi Mandapam situated in the centre of the park has carved granite
pillars and stone carvings of various gods and yallis.
Auroville is located around 8 kilometers northwest of Pondicherry
and was designed by the French architect Roger Anger who pioneered a
new concept in education and urban living. Auroville has 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. Throughout Auroville
you will notice buildings that reflect a combination of modern western
and traditional Indian architecture set in a rural landscape of narrow
lanes and lush greenery.
Pondicherry is famous for its beaches. You can unwind and relax at any of the four popular beaches in Pondicherry
- the Promenade, Serenity Beach, Auroville Beach and Paradise Beach.
The seafront has the Mahatma Gandhi statue set among monolithic pillars
and the War Memorial to honor the soldiers of World War I. The other beaches are equally enjoyable and the common thread is the serenity, peace and quiet all set in clean surroundings.
A 20 kilometer drive from Pondicherry
takes you to Arekamedu. The place has historical significance and
recent excavations at some sites have unearthed Roman coins and wine
jars establishing it to be the earliest Indo-Roman trading centre
(around 2nd century AD). The Mailam Murugan Temple is 50 kilometers
away from the town of Pondicherry.
Devotees flock to the Murugan temple situated on the hillock during the
Panguni Uthhiram festival held in March-April every year.
The Ousteri Lake is about 15 kilometers from Pondicherry
and is a popular picnic spot on the Pondicherry-Villupuram route.
Tiruvakkarai is India's first National Fossil-Wood Park. Large fossil
bearing trees lie scattered on low mounds and stream sections and date
back to 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.
Events and Festivals
The International Yoga Festival is held at Aurobindo Ashram in the month of January every year. Other important festivals of Pondicherry
are Sani Peyarchi Festival, which is organized once in every three
years and Panguni Uthiram in the month of March-April every year.
is a shopper's paradise, thanks to its low taxes and a wide variety of
handmade products. You will find a range of products in leather,
pottery, fashion, handmade paper, textiles, silk, etc.
Where to stay
There is a wide array of hotels to choose from depending on
whether you are visiting with family or friends. Hotels offer various
packages and the rooms are well-furnished and equipped with basic
amenities. Many 3-star hotels also offer accommodation to tourists.
How to get there
Pondicherry is accessible by air, road and rail from most of the major cities in India. The nearest airport is Chennai. The meter gauge railway line connects Pondicherry with Villupuram. The roadways connect to most of the major towns in South India.
Children below 3
years of age are not allowed into the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and
photography is allowed only with permission of the ashram authorities.
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