Pondicherry is a walker's delight with well-organized streets and quaint signboards displaying street names in French and Tamil, and quite often their renamed Indian version. Goubert Avenue (Beach Road) and Anna Salai form the town's eastern and western edges, connected by two arterial roads, Lal Bahadur Shastri (Bussy) Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Street South Boulevard (Subbaiah Salai) and North Boulevard (SV Patel Road), connected by MG Road and Ambour Salai, Complete the oblong.
French Quarter and Tamil Quarter
The cobblestoned paths of the French Quarter with its charming yellow and white buildings are towards the beachfront while a canal separates in from the Tamil Quarter, which lies inland. More congested with closely stacked homes displaying rich vernacular architecture, the Tamil Quarter is further demarcated into a Hindu Quarter in the north, the Christian Quarter in the centre (Around the Immaculate Conception Cathedral) and the Muslim Quarter to the south. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is in the north of the French Quarter, whereas the Promenade, other key sights and most up market hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, cafes and boutiques are concentrated in the wide streets towards the south of this quarter.
Pondicherry General Information
Pondicherry is the capital city of puducherry union territory . It covers a total land area of 492 Square Kilometers. Pondicherry is also called as Pondy. The population of this town is 9,73,829. The main languages spoken here are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and French. There are four districts which comprise this territory namely Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe. The best season to visit Pondicherry is between July and February. This town is connected by airways, by railways, and by roadways. Pondicherry is a peaceful city. Pondicherry is referred by names such as ‘Quintessence of French Culture’ and ‘The French Riviera of the East’.
Pondicherry is also called as 'Little France'.
This territory was under the French rule for nearly 281 years. Still it has the French flavor in it as one can see by the grand colonial mansions, beautiful boulevards, and placid promenades, spellings on sign boards and buildings, names of roads and public places.
Pondichery is a well planned and well built town. This is a typical example as one can learn the way the French people gave importance to order and flair. They are known for their rich and quality living. The French too had an eye on the wealth and the fertility of India. Thus the French dream of Indian empire began and got over by establishing their supremacy in Pondicherry. The French constructed many buildings based on their craft and grand architecture. They developed an oval shaped, lovely ‘boulevard town’ – the French quarter. This French quarter was laid out in a geometric grid pattern with straight roads intersecting at right angles. A boulevard encircled the town and a grand canal, divided it into two sections- one the Tamil side called as Ville Noire or the black town and the other, a European side which was known as Ville Blanche or the white town. The impressive Ville Blanche or white town resembles a typical Medieval French township clotted with fine built monuments, government buildings, majestic mansions, elegant churches and lush green parks.
Pondicherry Toursim Information
Pondicherry has a host of charming old churches, temples and mosques, renovated or rebuilt. The openness of the place drew people from all over to explore different forms of spiritual thought as elicited by the centres of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Vadapureswarar Temple on Iswara Koil Street, Varadaraja Perumal Temple nearby and the Panchavatee Panchamukha Anjaneyar Temple are other pilgrim sites.
Auroville is about 10km north of Pondicherry, accessible from ECR via Kuilapalayam or Bommayarpalayam(Old Auroville Road).
Aurovillians insist their campus is not a tourist attraction but a living experiment in humanity. Flowers incense and the usual trappings of organized religion are discouraged. Guests are requested to read wall panels elaborating on the Auroville Charter and watch a 10-minute introductory film at the Visitors centre. This is also where entry passes can be collected and where hours can be spent in the cafeteria or browsing the photo exhibition, Kalki Auroville boutique and Seagull bookshop. It must be noted that motorized transport is discouraged within the township.
Home to 2,200 residents from 45 nationalities living in small clusters over a 20sqkm area, Auroville is a utopian concept. It can be approached from all sides as there are no compound walls to segregate it from the neighboring villages. Nearly 125 commercial units operate in the commune and contribute a third of their revenue to maintain the self-sustaining campus.
Auroville's impressive product range includes handmade paper (Auroville Papers), indigo-dyed clothing (The Colours of Nature), incense (Encens D'Auroville), body care (Maroma Spa) to handicrafts, food products, metalwork, architecture and renewable energy. Every year a huge bonfire is organized at the Amphitheatre on 15 Aug,21 Feb and 28 Feb in celebration of the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo, the mother and Auroville itself.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a 150-year-old French building where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for most of their lives, the Ashram is an oasis of serenity. When the Mother settled in Pondicherry in 1920 and the informal gathering of followers who flocked to learn Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga steadily increased, the Mother decided on collective organization. With the vision of creating a space for followers to be free to pursue a spiritual path for the true actualization of the Divine Self, the Ashram literally founded itself in 1926 and was moulded by the Mother over half a century. The Mother established Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (Ashram School) in 1952 and founded Auroville in 1968. In the central tree-shaded courtyard stands the flower-bedecked Samadhi enshrining the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother (who passed away in 1973). Visitors often sit around the Samadhi, with heads bowed in prayer.
Behind its calm exterior, the Ashram buzzes with activity. The 1500-strong community served by three generation of Ashramites work unselfishly, in the spirit of service with no hierarchy, successor or formula for life. Its 80 departments include farms, gardens, health care, guesthouses, engineering units, art studios and publications, among others. the complete works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are available at the SABDA bookshop in the main building and at Kripa, their outlet half a block away. Nearby is the Bureau central Office, designed as an exhibition hall, which introduces the vision of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and their method of spiritual practice, through permanent exhibits of photographs, videos and books. Daily tours are conducted for those interested in visiting the Ashram's various units. Accommodation is provided with prior booking in several Ashram guesthouses like The Retreat, seaside and Park on Beach Road nearby.
Matri Mandir is surrounded by beautiful gardens, the 29m/95ft- high globe with a 36m/118ft diameter is the focal point of Auroville Township and a place for quiet contemplation. Four access routes, named Mahakali, Maheshwari, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, lead into the Matri Mandir. Twelve petals in red sandstone enfold twelve meditation chambers, each named after the Mother's manifestations. In the core chamber, the White Room, a crystal orb placed at the centre taps beam of sunlight as a symbol of future realization. Entry ino the Maatri Mandir is restricted and guests who obtain prior permission and passes to meditate inside are sent in two batches between 9.30-11am only.
A shaded 1km footpath leads to the Matri Mandir Viewing Point, a raised garden area, south of the Park of Unity. An electric shuttle is available for people who find it difficult to walk.
Puducherry Its Uniqueness
This unique union territory, Pondichery comprises of four scattered coastal enclaves- 1.Pondicherry now called as Puducheri, 2. Karaikal which is in Tamilnadu, 3.Yanam in Andhra Pradesh and 4.Mahe in Kerala which lies on the west coast. These places have preserved the French heritage and its cultural aspects which are unique in India. Pondicherry is a combination of cultures. The people here speak about 55 languages. The natural beauty mesmerizes and influences the visitors. People who love to go for shopping can select Pondicherry as goods in this town can be bought for cheaper prices and the shoppers can bargain and pay the minimal charges for goods to their satisfaction. The golden sea shores, the exclusive sunset cruises, the enchanting moonlit dinners and the blissful lagoons have given the lovely resort a reputation of being the most appropriate place for those in quest of a relaxed and leisurely holiday. Bicycle is the best mode of transport for moving around and visiting the beauty of Pondicherry.