Pondicherry : A Slice of France
- How to Get There
- Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- Promenade Beach
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral
- French War Memorial
- Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
A Slice of France
Pondicherry is a stunning hangover from the colonial era. However, unlike other parts of India, Pondicherry was ruled by the French instead of British. The romanticism of the French still lives on in the beautiful streets of Pondicherry. However, that is the old part of the city. The newer part is South Indian in its execution and feel. Pondicherry is also called Puducherry. The beautiful city soaks in the glorious sun on the stunning Coromandel Coast while the pristine waters of the Bay of Bengal smoothly crash on the beaches. The beaches are mesmerizing here. The fragrant winds of the sea create an atmosphere of relaxation while the sun shines gently over the tranquil beaches. If you want a romantic experience that is reminiscent of the French, the beaches in Pondicherry will be perfect for you. You can also enjoy a relaxing cruise through the rivers or make camp on the incredible seaside. The streets of Pondicherry will take you to the French countryside. The wide streets are lined by colonial bungalows built in the French architectural styles. As you stroll through the beautiful city you may end up on the newer part of Pondicherry which houses the Indian side. This area is a throwback to the Indian influences. In Pondicherry you will find a fascinating blend of architecture, culture and food from the two countries. Here mosques and churches prosper side by side creating a beautiful cosmopolitan haven.
How to Get There
By Air :
The nearest international and domestic airport is Chennai International Airport, 135-km from the city.
By Rail :
Villupuram rail terminus is the nearest railway station to Pondicherry,which is 36 km from the city.
By Road :
Roads are the best way to reach the city as there are a number of regular bus services which are available to and from Pondicherry. Distance from other cities; Chennai:170 km,Madurai: 340 km, Tirupati: 230 km, Bangalore: 315 km, Pondicherry: 387 km
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Built in 1926, the Ashram serves as the home of a spiritual community. Around 1200 members of the community live here immersing themselves in the teachings of Sri Aurobindo. It was Sri Aurobindo himself who built the ashram with the help of the Mother, a French woman. The teachings of Sri Aurobindo ask the followers to be a part of the world to achieve a higher level consciousness rather than to retreat from it. That is why you will find the devotees working in the many departments of the ashram such as the commercial and the education sections. The mausoleum of Sri Aurobindo has been placed here under the cool shade of a frangipani tree.
Auroville, or the city of the dawn, is a fascinating place. It was built by the Mother, a spiritual follower of Sri Aurobindo, to serve as a center for research into the ideal of unity in humans. When it was built, soil samples were brought together from 124 countries and kept together in an urn shaped like a lotus. This served as a symbol of the universal unity. The city was meant to be a haven where people could reside together without having to resort to creed, nationalities and ethnicities to divide them. More than 2000 people live here now. The most stunning piece of architecture here is the Matrimandir. This building is not a religious temple per se but rather a place when you can mediate while being surrounded by silence.
The pride of Pondicherry, the Promenade beach stretches across a distance of 1.5 kilometers. It is a wonderland of amazing vistas. As you take a stroll down the glorious walkway, the cool air from the Bay of Bengal will greet you. You can get lost in the sensational beauty of the beach or enjoy the magnificent landmarks that dot the stretch. Places like the War Memorial and the statue of the Joan of Arc offer you some stunning statues to marvel at. There is also a statue of Mahatma Gandhi here. You can explore the old lighthouse, the ruins of the old pier and the old customs house if you want some adventure. Exciting games such as volleyball are often held on the beach by visitors. The waterscape of the Promenade Beach is enchanting enough to make you stand and stare often.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
This amazing cathedral serves as the mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore. Completed in the year 1791, the cathedral is striking with its cloudy white exterior. The interiors will however surprise you a dramatic shade of blue that is similar to the color of a robin’s egg.
French War Memorial
The somber white structure, the French War Memorial, is a tribute to the soldiers who bravely laid down their lives for their country during the First World War. Constructed in 1971, the memorial entices you with its solemn facades. Every year on the Bastille Day, the French War Memorial is decorated beautifully with lights. The sight of the illuminated memorial is a dazzling one. The Bastille Day is celebrated each year on the 14th of July and people gather to remember the valor of the soldiers who fight for their country.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The charm of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus lies in its incredible Gothic architecture. However, the Gothic feel is subdued by the oriental influences of the building creating a whole new kind of splendor. More than a hundred years old, the beautiful basilica is adorned with intriguing stained glass panels. These rare panels provide an engaging glimpse of the lives of Jesus and the holy saints of the Roman Catholic Church.
Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
The incredible Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple is one of the oldest structures you will find in Pondicherry. According to some sources, the temple was established around 600 B.C. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in his various avatars inside the beautiful temple. There are exactly 108 of these small shrines inside the Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple. Together they create a riveting sight. The architecture comprises of the patterns unique to the Dravidian style. A dazzling rainbow of colors decorates the front gopuram while sculptures adorn the towers.