Destination of the Month

Pondicherry (Puducherry)

Landing on the tarmac at Chennai International Airport brings you closer to, and barely 3 hours away from a spectacular place, well known for a fascinating past filled with political upheavals and obsessional turbulence between the Dutch, British and France for its possession. I am sure some bells have already started ringing in your minds as you guess the destination….quite correctly!! Yes! You got it! It is Pondicherry or Puducherry as it was rechristened in 2006.

If Solace and Serenity are the two S's which you seek after a hard grinding period at work, then Pondicherry is surely one of the choicest holiday destinations for you in South India. As an urban buildup in the Indian union territory of Puducherry, this town is a unique blend of modern heritage and spiritual culture. With a predominance of historical background and colonial traces seen around, Pondicherry is a time warp that takes you almost a century back in time.

The City of Pondicherry has recorded a profound history after the advent of Colonial Powers like the Dutch, Portuguese, English and the French. Nearby places like Arikamedu, Ariyankuppam, Kakayanthoppe, Villianur, Bahur were annexed by the French East India Company over a period of time and became the Union Territories of Puducherry after Independence and have history preceding the Colonial History. Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India and also known as The French Riviera of the East (La Côte d'Azur de l'Est).

A marketplace in Pondicherry named Poduke or Poduca was a popular Roman trading destination during the medieval period. This area was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram during the 4th century AD. The Cholas of Thanjavur ruled for close to 300 years here from 10th century to 13th century, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. Thereafter, Vijayanagar Empire took charge of almost the entire Southern India during the 14th century which lasted until 1638, to be superseded by the Sultan of Bijapur. The French acquired Puducherry in 1674 and held control, with occasional interruption from the British and Dutch, until 1954 (de jure in 1956), when it was incorporated into the Indian Union along with the rest of French India.

Pondy (nickname of Pondicherry) projects a strong French factor in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Boulevards lined adjacent to the Mediterranean style houses and bakeries galore. Despite all this the city reverberates with Indian feel and flavor. The usage of French language is still quite prevalent and the whole city makes for a pleasant concoction of East and West practices and beliefs. Apparently, this city with a dual personality provides a flavor of two cultures with diametrically opposite characters.

Pondicherry is pretty well connected from all sides. Chennai International Airport is situated 160 km north of the city (99 miles). Getting to Pondicherry involves a three hour road journey from Chennai. As you approach Pondicherry by land, you are bound to experience a mild culture shock on discovering French architecture and restaurants serving steak and fine French wine. Pondicherry is also connected to Chennai by an electric broad gauge railway line through Villupuram. There are 2 passenger trains running daily to Chennai Egmore Railway station and Tirupati in addition to a weekly express train service to Bhubaneswar.

The most propagated method to see Pondicherry and its surrounding areas is on a bicycle/motorcycle/scooter. Apart from these, walking is another great option within the city, as many sights are within 2-3 kilometers of each other. In a private vehicle barely takes 8 hours to complete the local sightseeing. Two days are sufficient to cover all spots leisurely. However, the pace can be decided by you depending upon your interest and disposable time in hand. Climate is tropical wet and dry similar to coastal Tamil Nadu, wherein maximum average temperature is 36 °C (97 °F) and average minimum temperature ranges between 28–32 °C (82–90 °F).

Popular tourist attractions in Pondicherry include the four main beaches - Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, The Auroville Beach and Serenity Beach. In addition, you also have Sri Aurobindo Ashram, located on rue de la Marine, and considered one of the renowned and wealthiest ashrams in India. Auroville or 'City of Dawn' is an 'experimental' township located 8 km north-west of Pondicherry. It is considered to be a universal town where men and women of all countries can quench their thirst of living in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, politics and nationalities. There are also some old and large churches in Pondicherry, majority of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, you get to view a large number of heritage buildings and monuments based around the Promenade Beach. Puducherry Botanical Gardens located near the new Bus stand should not be missed at any cost.

Located about 10 km away (towards Villupuram) from Pondicherry town is the Thirukaameeswarar Temple, which is an ancient temple, located here. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the prime goddess here is Goddess Kokilambigai.

Despite being a small location, Pondicherry offers its visitors a wide variety of Boutique Hotels and some finest luxury brands. This makes the destination even more sought after, as all those vacationers who wish to enjoy a luxurious holiday at a venue offering divine feel can undoubtedly choose Pondy.

Une visite à Pondichéry est vraiment une expérience pour ceux qui recherchent l'enrichissement de leur vie ... !!

I hope I got my French right this time.