Location : Four non-contiguous districts in Southern part of India
Capital City : Puducherry
Major Attractions : Beaches, Pondicherry Museum, Maasi Magam Festival
Mostly Visited For : Aurobindo Ashram, Meditation
A Bird's Eye View of Pondicherry Beach
Since time immemorial, India has embraced the world and shared her heart to all. From north to south, and across the diameter, you will find their signatures preserved in the womb of Mother India like an orphan child. The quaint little town of Pondicherry on the East Coast Road, is no exception. Its imbued with all the charm of a seaside town in France, yet the Union Territory is both Tamil to its roots and sublimely cosmopolitan. Applauded as the Riviera of the East, the oval shaped city with its neatly aligned streets has been constructed on the lines of Mediterranean town planning. Walking down the corridors of time, you can still feel the French aroma floating in air, still and poised, which might help you to emulate the spiritual beacon at Auroville, an argent lantern with its dream like tranquility that attracts seekers to savour a different life ethos from across the seven seas.
The pages of history might seem to have shrunken over the time, but they caresses such great volumes of bygone memorabilia, that it is hard to overlook the glory of this French sector. Once the mainstay of French ambitions in the subcontinent for teo-and-a-half centuries, Pondicherry offers an eclectic mix of French and Indian culture. Recent excavations at Arikamedu have revealed relics of Roman settlements, dating back to 2nd century BC which attests the importance of this place as a trading vantage point. The French followed in the 17th century, by which time it had mutated into a flourishing fishing village on the eastern shores of India. They came late but left an eternal signature on the heart of this pristine city, and you can still their mark - as the stamp on the French passport many of its Tamil-born denizens still hold out, the red caps of the local police force, the graffiti and signages, the conectionary shops laden with exotic breads and the handsome bougainvillea-trimmed villas bleached in Mediterranean creams, yellows, pinks and greys.
An Evening Walk By The Gandhi Statue on Beach Road
The Chunambar Beach at Pondicherry, 7 km out of town is a wonderful place to wander around leisurely. The city ends at the cafe and bar lined beach with the roaring waves crashing against the rocks. Try to relish your sightseeing, start you beach combing from the 1 ½ km long promenade that provides a magnificent view of the beach from the feet of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. Behold the eight exquisitely carved monolithic pillars embellishing the place along with a War Memorial raised by the French in honour of those who died in World War I. Stretch out on the golden sands away from the warm hum of the bustling city, then retire for the night until you are ready to wake to the backwater boating and beach huts. It is often possible to spot dolphins gamboling in the sea close to the beach. A natural of entertainment comes from hawkers, acrobats and snake charmers who make an evening besides the shores a memorable experience.
Get A Spiritual High At Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
The heritage trail should ideally commence from the
labyrinthine lanes of the Old Town, standing in mute testimony to the
bygone realm of France. Leave your hired bicycles behind for your ramble
to Auroville, portraying an International Township of Harmony. Roosting on
a concept that caresses the concept of a motherly ambience, it is an
entirely independent multi-racial community, which works and lives in
self-fashioned, wildly traditional homes. You will find belle France
peeping out from behind her Indian ghungat (veil) around every
street corner, from behind every louvred windowpane, but never dropping
her mask. Relax in self consciousness at Matri Mandir, an architectural
marvel built as a centre for meditation.
Spend an evening amidst the serene and soul-touching ambience of Aurobindo Ashram, within an aura of peace and harmony. It is a quite place to meditate and peep into the realms of superconsciousness. Nestling in the eastern part of Pondicherry, the Ashram was founded in 1926 with the object of creating an evolution of a higher spiritual domain. Interestingly, the Ashram is not a quiet place of retreat but a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting. The dynamic character of the community reflects the various stages of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.
Visit the heritage monuments that sit around the green
lung of Bharathi Park. The pilastered, corniced, arched and louvred
fromtages are simply ornamental, but afford a high quality woodwork,
especially in the hanging Juliet balconies and iron fretwork. Walk inside
the park to see the Greco-Roman folly of Ayee Mandapam, built by the
French in honour of a courtesan. Dont miss the Maison Anandha
Rangapillai (1738), with its curious seguing of Indo-French hallmarks - it
is second home to the dubash (diarist) of the celebrated
French Governor Dupleix, whose statue presides over the promenade to the
In the Tamil quarter, swelling around the temples in the northern part of the town, marvellous mansions lie cheek by jowl along east west lanes. Walk out in the sun, in the shade of the thalvaram (street verandah) jutting out of most every facade. Take a breather on one of the hospitable masonry benches at their thinnai (ground-floor verandas) below. Wonder at the gigantic, fancifully carved dorrways. If you are lucky enough, you could be invited in by a hoary resident. Accept the invitation and feel the pleasure of stepping inside, garnished with a series of colonnaded courtyards 9mutram) to gain the intimacy of the familys living spaces.
Chunamber Beach, Pondicherry
Pondicherry is a place where you can enjoy the euphoria of two directions; the East and the West. Visit during January, and be a part of the International Yoga Festival held in Pondicherry. Amidst an international gathering, yogic art is displayed through practice sessions, seminars and shows. Drive north of the quaint fishing village of Kurichikuppam, to behold the century old magnificent Maasi Magam festival in March. Deities from about 38 temples are brought in a grand procession to Pondicherry and taken around the town. The ends with the ablutions of chakra (the discus of Lord Vishnu) and trishul (the trident of Lord Shiva) with the euphony of Nadaswaram (horns) in the backdrop.
Fly to this serene town but disembark at Chennai or
Tiruchirapally, the nearest airports to Pondicherry. The town is also a
railway terminal on the Southern Railway but is linked with a meter-gauge
line. The railway station is located only 1 km from downtown, with a
computerised reservation facility. However, Pondicherry is connected to
all major centres in the region by an excellent network of roads. The East
Coast Highway from Chennai provides one of the best access options to the
city. The 163 km journey on the wide and rippleless two-lane highway is a
driving pleasure as the road runs parallel to the coast for most of the
distance. Enroute you can halt at a number of amusement centres like VGP,
MGM and Crocodile Park.
The next important stretch is till the beach resort town of Mamallapuram (60 km from Chennai), which the highway skirts by about 3 km. Excellent beach side hotels, including Tajs Covelong Beach Resort, are dotted along the road. Good rest and recreation facilities are available throughout the route till Pondicherry. Tourists can also avail State Bus Services from Chennai with buses opearting between the two centres at almost 5 minutes interval.
There are no yelow-top taxis. Tourist taxis are available at the railway station, bus stands and other prominent locations within the territory. Auto-rickshaws (rates negotiable) are a popular mode of transport. However, getting a bicycle is the best option to explore Pondicherry as the distances are not long and roads well paved.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Pondicherry
Pondicherry - Savour the French Flavours
A Holiday on Solitary Sands
Rejuvenate Yourself At Aurobindo Ashram
A Celebration of Life
Shop A Lil' Bit of Pondicherry
Caves and Beaches
The Beauty of