Pondicherry, India The French Riviera Of The East
Freed from the French ruling in 1954, the Indian Union Territory of ‘Pondicherry’, which is located on the eastern coast of the country, boasts an exquisite blend of the ‘French’ cultural heritage with an essence of traditional South Indian roots! The serene, slow paced life, secluded beaches, clean, cobbled boulevards & Mediterranean styled, mustard-yellow colored colonial houses, which flank the streets, give ‘Pondicherry’ an elegant touch of a medieval French town! ‘French’ is still well understood here & lots of restaurants serve steak & good quality wine.
The town is famous for its tranquility & leisurely life, which feels radically contrast, if you are coming here after visiting other bustling South Indian cities like ‘Chennai’! ‘Pondicherry’ was recently renamed as Puduchhery, although more often than not, locals find addressing it as ‘Pondy’ more convenient. While older part of this amiable town shows the heavy influence of the French culture, the town remains very much Indian by heart.
HOW TO GET IN PONDICHERRY, INDIA:
‘Pondicherry’ is very well connected with the major cities of ‘South India’. The city can be approached via road, train or the aerial routes.
By Road: ‘Chennai’ is the closest metro city which is situated 160 km (99 miles) north. A three hour ride by the scenic East Coast Road is all enough to get in ‘Pondicherry’. ‘Bangalore’ is located 320 km from ‘Pondicherry’, at some 5-6 driving hours.
By Train: An electric broad gauge railway connects ‘Pondicherry’ with ‘Chennai’ via 2 passenger railways, while a weekly train service from ‘Bubaneshwar’ is also available. One can also avail the train service from ‘Bangalore’.
By Plane: ‘Pondicherry’ has an airport suitable for the landings of small chartered plane services.
WHAT TO SEE IN PONDICHERRY, INDIA:
‘Pondicherry’ is very popular among the tourists. Well planned avenues, churches & colonial buildings, which comprise a meticulous town that underlines Pondy’s French connection, magnetizes many people. Apart from that, tranquil coast line, botanical gardens, picturesque ‘Ousteri Lake’ & backwaters at ‘Chunnambar’ also have their own share in improving the aesthetic wealth of this serene town.
Pondy’s four secluded beaches are one of the major attractions for tourists. The Promenade Beach that runs 1.5 km is considered as the pride of ‘Pondicherry’. The Auroville Beach, situated right next to the famous ‘Shri Aurobindo Ashram’ is renowned as an ideal destination for swimming. Paradise Beach is, as the name suggests, offers nice, heavenly feeling, whereas, the Serenity Beach that lies 20 minutes drive a distance to the north of ‘Pondy’, is an excellent gateway for surfers.
Out of three museums, the Pondicherry Museum is the most remarkable one. The museum is located on a ‘St. Louis street’ & it houses a collection of rare bronze & stone statues that date back to the ancient ‘Pallava’ & ‘Chola’ reigns. The museum dedicated to a ‘Pondy’ born great poet & playwriter Bhartidasan (1891-1960) is located on ‘No.95 Perumalkoli street’, whereas, the mansion turned Museum of Ananda Ranga Pillai– the 18th century interpreter of ‘Dupleix’, the Governor of Puducherry, displays the diaries & household of the celebrated interpreter.
Image Credit: Sanghita Nandi
Shri Arobindo Ashram & Auroville:
One of the most famous & the wealthiest ashram in India, ‘Shri Arobindo Ashram’ is always flocked by hordes of yoga & meditation enthusiasts & people seeking spirituality. ‘Auroville’ is an experimental futuristic city where people from all possible creeds can stay together in harmony & peace.
‘Pondicherry’ houses few massive & spectacular temples dedicated to various Hindu deities. The temple of Kamatchiamman Koil, dedicated to goddess ‘Durga’, is one of the most significant pilgrimage spots in the town, while Kanniga Parameshwari Temple is renowned for its amazing architecture that comprise of an exquisite blend of ‘French’ & traditional ‘Deccan architectural’ elements. Other noteworthy temples include ‘Manakula Vinayagar’ temple, ‘Shri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara’ temple, ‘Shri Varadaraja Perumal’ temple & ‘Vedhapureeswarar’ temple. All the temples are grandeur in appearance & are renowned for the outstanding decoration on their facades & phenomenal artwork.
Memorials & Monuments:
‘Podicherry’ has a bevy of beautiful memorials & colossal statues that can be seen bejeweling the town. ‘Aayi Mandapam’, ‘Dr. Ambedkar Mani Mandapam’, ‘French War Memorial’, ‘Gandhi Mandapam’, ‘Kargil War Memorial’, ‘old light house’, are some of the ‘must see’ monuments which have major importance in the history of the Pondicherry. The colossal statue of Dupleix, the French governor of ‘Pondicherry’ & Joan of Arc statue are also worth visiting!
Gargantuan churches of ‘Pondy’ are premium tourist destinations. ‘Pondicherry’ hosts beautiful churches like ‘Church of Our Lady of Good Health’, ‘The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’, ‘Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral’, etc. No visit to ‘Pondicherry’ is complete without visiting these architectural beauties!
The ‘Backwaters of Chunnambar’, which is situated 8 km from ‘Pondicherry’, is an excellent place of recreation. Camping alongside the lazy creek or spending a night in a tree-house is something that is worth experiencing. Apart from that, a century old man-made lake of Ousteri can also make a good spot to linger around as the tranquility that one can feel here is phenomenal!
The French past & the Indian present have painted Pondicherry into dual tones, however, Pondy carries both the tones equally gracefully. Its French connection has given it a proud identity of ‘La Cote d’Azur de I’Est’ (The French Riviera of the East)!