India’s own French Riviera
Pondicherry, the former capital of French India, still retains a strong French aura. Pondicherry offers a unique blend of orient and French cultures, which makes it one of the most frequented destinations in the country. French heritage is visible in the beautiful boulevards, gorgeous beaches, cuisines, magnificent churches and imposing public buildings. Pondicherry is widely known as “India’s little France” and “The French Riviera of the East”. Pondicherry was integrated to India in 1954 as a Union territory and today it lies within the state of Tamil Nadu.
To a traveler Pondicherry offers a versatile choice ranging from historic buildings, museums, art galleries, meditation centers, scenic beauty to sun-kissed beaches. The beautifully laid out promenade along the beach is an ideal place to take a ramble.
Pondicherry still has a sizeable French population and French is widely spoken and understood along with the local Tamil language. The fascinating statues of Joan of Arc and Joseph Francois Dupleix tell of the strong French influence in the region. The French National day of July 14 is celebrated here with much pomp and gaiety, accompanied with the singing of the French national anthem.
The trip to this magnificent destination is never complete without indulging in the culinary delights, indigenous to the region. The cuisines offer a unique blend of the culinary traditions of the Orient and the French. The delectably French Chocolate croissants, patisseries and baguettes are sure to tantalize the palate. Mouth-watering Tamil preparations with distinct French flavor are served in all restaurants.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1920, is a centre for prayer, yoga and meditation. The Ashram is founded on the firm grounds of peace and harmony. The Ashram also houses the mausoleums of Sri Aurobindo; and his French companion Mirra Alfassa - popularly known as the mother. The annual Yoga festival held here during the month of January is a huge crowd puller, attracting both domestic and international crowd.
Auroville, meaning The City of Dawn is an international settlement of unity with people from different parts of the world living in perfect harmony.
“Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus” or the church of Sacred Heart of Jesus stands as a delightful example of Gothic architecture.
The Pondicherry Museum situated in the Government Park, has a good collection of sculptures and archeological finds from all over the state. The French section of the Museum has a fabulous array of artifacts from the French colonial era, offering a glimpse of the glorious past of Pondicherry’s French heritage.
Bharti Museum is housed in the place where the legendary tamil poet Bharti lived after reaching Pondicherry. The memorial Museum of his disciple Bharthidasan is also a frequently thronged place in Pondicherry.
Other places of interest include the Chunnambar boat house, botanical garden, Manakula Vinayagar Temple and Romain Rolland Library.
Chennai Airport at a distance of 162 km is the nearest airport
Pondicherry is well connected to almost all major south Indian cities. There are frequent buses plying between Pondicherry and Chennai.
Pondicherry is connected to Villupuram by a meter gauge railway line. Villupuram is connected with Chennai through broad gauge line.