Puducherry (Pondicherry) – the French connection

Puducherry  (Pondicherry) is located at a distance of 155 km from Chennai. One can reach  Chennai by air / train and take a taxi to Puducherry. The ECR route is the preferred route to reach Puducherry as the roads are good and one can also visit Mahabalipuram en route.

I visited Puducherry in August 2016. We took an overnight train from Hyderabad to Chennai and from Chennai reached Pondicherry  by taxi in 4 hours via ECR road.

History

Puducherry  was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the 4th century and under the Cholas of Thanjavur from the 10th to 13th centuries, the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century followed by the Vijayanagar Empire in the 14th century who maintained control until 1638 when they were replaced by the Sultan of Bijapur. The French acquired Puducherry in 1674 and held it until 1954, when it was incorporated into the Indian Union .

The present day Puducherry consist of old Puducherry i.e. the french colony (French Quarters) and new Puducherry which is like any typical south Indian city. You can see the perfect blend of East and West.

The French connection

The near two century presence of French is visible in the French colony architecture. The ‘French’ part of town is on the east side towards the sea. One cannot miss the  clean and quiet tree-lined streets, mustard and grey colored colonial villas and beautiful churches. People in the old french colony area still speak French and English with french accent. I spent a large part of my two day stay in old Puducherry to appreciate the French architecture.

Sharing some of the pictures  taken at the French quarters during my visit:

Attractions

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram was founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose and is a well known spiritual ashram in India. Mirra Alfassa (also known as ‘The Mother’) became the spiritual guru of the community after Sri Aurobindo retired into seclusion.

There is complete silence maintained in the Ashram for meditation and one can spend some time here for meditation.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This church was consecrated in 1907 and is located near the railway station of Punducherry. It is one of the prominent and most visited church in Puducherry.

Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges

The Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges (The Church of Our Lady of Angels) was build in 1855 and is one of the most beautiful churches located opposite to Seaside Promenade. I went here in the early morning and this is possibly the best time to spend here in solitude.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

The present church was  consecrated in 1791 and is one of the oldest church in Puducherry. It is said that this church was demolished three times before it was constructed in the present form.

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French war memorial

The French War Memorial on Goubert Avenue was built in 1971 in memory of soldiers who laid down their lives, for their country during the First World War.

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Seaside Promenade

This is one of the prominent beaches in Puducherry where you can sit on the rocks and spend some time or walk in the morning and evening. You cannot enter the sea due to presence of rocks For entering into sea you need to walk towards the end

Bharati Park

This park is surrounded by some important buildings like Governor palace and the Legislative Assembly. The park is popular among locals and visitors.  The park is illuminated in the night which gives a good view.

The Aayi Mandapam is a famous monument which lies at the center of the Bharati Park.

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Aayi Mandapam

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Aayi Mandapam

After 2 days stay, I bid ‘Au Revoir’ to the French capital of India for my visit of Mahabalipuram.

Tips:

  1. Best time to visit: November- February
  2. Stay close to French quarters if you are interested in exploring the old Puducherry
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