Puducherry, formerly known as Pondicherry is one of the most picturesque towns of Tamil Nadu.
It traces its history way back to the first century AD. It used to be a bustling town in those days with trading links with countries far away. By the tenth century AD, it came under the reign of different dynasties of the South – the Pallavas, the Vijaynagar Empire and so on.
Then began the European chapter in Puducherr’s history. First came the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the English and the French.
The history of French occupation in India begins with the legendary general Joseph Francois Dupleix. He fought many wars with the East India Company and finally brought Madras under French rule in 1746. For the next few decades, they ruled over the region around Puducherry and Madras.
v In1954, all French settlements in India were transferred to the Indian Union and Puducherry became a Union Territory.
Today, this seaside town manages to retain its old world charm. Tourism is the biggest industry here and Puducherry attracts hordes of tourists from all over the world. It is frequented by Yoga enthusiasts and those with a spiritual bent of mind. Weekends see a big rush from Chennai as the city is merely a two hour drive away from Puducherry.
Peak season is December to February because the weather is pleasant. As for summers, they are best enjoyed indoors in Puducherry! Temperatures routine touch 40 degree Celsius and the sun is scorching all day long.
No worries on the communication front. Tamil and French are the lingua franca of Puducherry. Though English is used for administrative as well as practical purposes.
Puducherry is a bustling centre of art and culture. If you happen to be in the city in the first week of January, do participate in the Yoga Festival. It draws aspirants from across the globe and includes includes talks, discussions, exchange of ideas, consultation and demonstration of techniques. There are dance and music performances each day as well.
Sightseeing in Puducherry:
The Promenade – The 1.5 km long promenade that runs along the beach is a beehive of activity on weekends. There are several landmarks along this stretch: The War memorial, the statue of Joan of Arc, the heritage town hall, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and Dupleix, the old light house, the remains of the old pier and more. Stroll across the promenade and soak in the delights of Puducherry’s rich colonial past.
Auroville – This experimental township was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa who is popularly known as ‘The Mother’. Auroville was conceptualised as universal town where people of all nationalities could live harmoniously. In the centre of the town is the Matrimandir. A monument that has been hailed as an outstanding architectural achievement by many. Remember to observe silence here as the entire area around the temple is called Peace Area.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram – This was founded by Sri Aurobindo in1926 (Siddhi Day). A highly respected institution, it provides many charitable benefits to the area, including free medical facilities and a publishing house. It also has a centre called School for Perfect Eyesight that claims to improve eyesight with natural methods.
French War Memorial – This is a solemn reminder of the brave soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War. Every year on the 14th July which also happens to be Bastille Day, the monument is illuminated and people pay homage to the martyrs.