Pondicherry: A Unique Town
The Union Territory of Puducherry which was formerly referred to as Pondicherry is made up of four coastal regions – Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahé and Yanam. Puducherry, Karaikal and Yanam are located on the East Coasts whereas Mahe on the West Coast. Puducherry is the Capital of this Union Territory and one of the most well-liked sightseeing places in Southern India.
Pondicherry is a potpourri of French and Indian architecture, beaches and colonial buildings. Since this was a French colony until 1954, it still has many magnificent pieces of architectures, statues and antiques that remind of the French influence on the place. Since Pondicherry is accessible from nearby metropolises such as Bangalore and Chennai, many people visit the place on weekends in order to take in the unique ambiance; away from the hustle and bustle of big cities.
Places of Interest
There are four main beaches which are famous here – Prominade beach, Paradise beach, Serenity beach and Auroville beach. However, the most popular among these in Pondicherry is the Prominade beach. A road runs alongside this beach for about a mile and the sea shore has many landmarks such as the statue of Joan of Arc, Old Light House, The old Customs House, The War Memorial, Heritage Town Hall, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and Dupliex Statue. There is also a tourist information center that is located in the Heritage Town hall for assisting visiting tourists.
Auroville beach is close to Auroville and it is possible to swim in the shallow waters of this beach. The beach is located around eight miles from the main puducherry town opposite the road leading to Auroville.
Paradise beach is located near the Puducherry-Cuddaalore highway and is approx. five miles from the town. However, the beach can only be accessed using boats since it is flanked by a creek on one side.
The Puducherry Museum has archeological findings that are from the Arikamedu Roman settlement which was located four miles from the town. Pre-Christian artifacts such as jars from the Greek and Roman era can be found here along with beads made of glass as well as precious stones from the Tsung Era. The museum also has various coins, French furniture, and other relics along with handicrafts.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
This is one of the well known and wealthiest Ashrams in India and strives to combine modern science and yoga for spiritual well-being. Founded in the year 1926 by the fighter, poet, philosopher and yogi, Sri Aurobindo Ghose, it attracts many people from India as well as other countries.
This is an experimental township which is also known as the “City of Dawn” located about five miles from the town of Pondicherry. Founded in 1968 by Mirra Richard and designed by French architect Roger Anger, the place strives to bring together people from all creeds and sects to live in peace and harmony. The township also has a lotus shaped urn in which soil from 124 countries was mixed during the inauguration of this township in order to symbolize oneness. Although designed to accommodate 50,000 people. Today Auroville is home to approx. 2000 people.
Monuments and Statues
The town has many monuments and statues including the statue of Mahatma Gandhi which is surrounded by eight granite pillars. Just opposite the statue of Mahatma Gandhi is the statue of the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru which has four pillars. The most remarkable statue located in this town is that of Joan of Arc and emphasizes the French influence that was present in Pondicherry. Another monument is dedicated to soldiers who died in the First World War and the memorial is located on Goubert Avenue.
Established in 1872, the Roman Rolland Library has over 300,000 volumes in French as well as in English. The unique feature of this library is that it has about 8000 books that are meant for a “mobile library” through which books are made accessible to common man by using buses to transport these books. Another important institute is the French Institute of the Far East which is known for its research in fields such as architecture, Indology, and history. Le Café is another building that is situated near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and was once a port office when a railway line ran from the Beach road to the 240 meters iron pier.
Places of worship
There are many temples, Mosques, and churches scattered all over the town and finding one is very easy. One of the most famous temples is the Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple which existed even before the French came and settled here in 1666. The temple has a golden spire depicting the various forms of Lord Ganesha and also has a smaller shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan who was the younger brother of Lord Ganesha. Another important temple that is located on M.G road is the Varadaraja Perumala Temple and is believed to be the oldest temple in town dating back to 600 AD.
Situated on the south boulevard is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which flaunts a gothic architectural design. The church was supposedly built by French missionaries in the 1700’s and is a Catholic church. The Church of Our Lady of Angels is another famous church located in Rue Dumas is appreciated for its masonry work. This church is made of limestone and egg white which makes it look like a marble structure. In front of The Church of Our Lady of Angels is the statue of Our Lady with infant Jesus in her arms.