legacy of over three centuries of French Colonial rule, Pondicherry
is an idyllic town on the Coromandel coast just a few hours drive
from Chennai. The French festivals - the Masquerade and Eve of
the Bastille; the heavy French accent that goes with the Tamil or
English that is spoken by the people are reminders of the French
legacy in this town, where there are nearly 15, 000 French citizens.
Apart from being a former French colony, Pondicherry is famous for
the internationally renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville,
the concept town that is an offshoot of the Ashram.
The first things that strike one on entering Pondy or Puducheri
as it is otherwise known, are the streets that cut at right angles,
the French styled villas and the picturesque beaches. A town that
exudes the aura of a Mediterranean seaside village, it is the ambience
of the beach that makes all the difference at Pondicherry. The
beach has a relaxed atmosphere, with a French tang, thanks to the
architecture of houses along the beach. They were built by the French,
with high, white washed walls, large windows covered with bamboo
blinds and lush gardens in the front yard. Walking down the by
lanes one can find French styled restaurants, mostly run by French
nationals, serving authentic French cuisine.
are many important monuments on the beach front like the statue
of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by exquisitely carved monolithic
pillars, made by the famous sculptor Roy Choudhary who is
from the Madras School of Arts and Crafts and the War
Memorial raised by the French, commemorating the brave soldiers
who laid down their lives in the First World War.
The beach has a main road parallel to it. The Secretariat, which
houses the Pondicherry government is located on this road. Many
important buildings are located in the vicinity of the beach, like
the French Embassy, Alliance Francaise and Institute
Francais. The Institute Francais, which was started in 1955
by French Indologist J Filliozat, does research in Indian
culture, while the Alliance Francaise conducts French classes and
also arranges cultural programmes. Some of the other important
institutions and monuments in Pondicherry include, the Romain
Rolland Library, statues of Joseph Francois Dupleix and
Joan of Arc, Jawaharlal Institute of Post-graduate Medical Education
and Research (JIPMER), the houses of Tamil poets Subramanya
Bharathi , Bharathidasan and Ananda Rangapillai.
also boasts of a number of churches, which again are yet another
reminder of the French connection. Some of the notable churches
among these churches dating back to the 18th and 19th
century are the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, the Eglise de Notre
Dame de la Conception, the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, the Eglise
de Notre Dame de Lourdes and the Chapel of the Sisters of
Cluny. Other interesting places for the tourist are the Pondicherry
Museum, which was previously the Government Library; the botanical
gardens laid by C S Perrotet which date back to 1826; the
Varadaraja Temple and the Thyirukameswarar Temple,
both dating back to the 12th century.
Distance :365 kms from Coimbatore
Nearest Airport - Chennai.
Nearest Rail Hub - Pondicherry
Accomodation - Numerous lodges and hotels are available
in the town.
Easily accessible by road. Can take local buses and autorickshaws
from Pondicherry Bus stand and Railway station. Bikes for hire are
available near Auroville.
|Text :Joseph Pradeep Raj R
Photographs : V Ganesan