Places to Visit in Pondicherry

Pondicherry/Puducherry 

Pondicherry is the capital city of Indian union territory of Puducherry. Pondicherry is situated in Puducherry district of the union territory and other districts situated in Tamil Nadu (Karaikal), Andhra (Yanam) & Kerala (Mahe) majority of the people speaks Tamil. It is affectionately known as Pondy, and has been officially known by the alternative name Puducherry in Tamil (New Town) since 2006. Pondicherry is the regional capital and largest city in the territory. The current Chief Minister of Pondicherry is V. Narayanasamy (6 June 2016 – incumbent).

The history of the city of Pondicherry is recorded only after the arrival of Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonialists. By contrast, nearby places such as Arikamedu, Ariyankuppam, Kakayanthoppe, Villianur and Bahur, which were annexed by the French East India Company over a period of time and which became the Union Territory of Pondicherry after Independence, have recorded history predating the colonial period. A marketplace named Poduke or Poduca is recorded as a Roman trading destination from the mid 1st century. The area was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the 4th century. The Cholas of Thanjavur held it from the 10th to 13th centuries, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. The Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all of the South of India in the 14th century and maintained control until 1638 when they were supplanted by the Sultan of Bijapur. The French acquired Pondicherry in 1674 and held it, with an occasional interruption by the British or Dutch, until 1954 (de jure 1956), when it was incorporated into the Indian Union along with the rest of French India. On 18 October 1954 in a general election involving 178 people in Pondicherry Municipal and Commune Panchayat, 170 people were in favour of independence and eight people voted against. On 1 November 1954, Puducherry became part of the union. However, the formal agreement was signed on 16 August, which is the date celebrated as Independence Day in Puducherry; following the demands of French India, Viduthalai Kaala Makkal Iyakkam to their current Chief Minister of Puducherry. So 1 November was declared as the Independence Day of Pondicherry and 16 August as the Republic Day.

SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM

Founded in 1920, the ashram is the brainchild of revolutionary thinker and philosopher Aurobindo Ghosh. It is based on the philosophy of harmonious living and attracts visitors from all over the globe. It houses the Samadhi of its founder and his living quarters and has a diverse community of around 1200 members. The ashram has different departments to maintain its smooth functioning and to satisfy the basic needs of its members. Members engage in various activities in farms, libraries, gardens, and small-scale industries like handmade paper and printing press.  There is also an Education Centre with around 400 students.

AUROVILLE

8 km from Pondicherry is Auroville, also known as the ‘City of Dawn’. It is an “experimental” township started by Mirra Richard, the Mother or simply ‘Maa’, renowned disciple of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.

ARIKAMEDU ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

This is the site of Roman settlements from more than 2000 years ago. Excavations at this site have brought out wine jars, coins and megalithic burial urns of Roman origin. The area was once a bustling Indo-Roman trade centre. You will also find the remains of an 18th century French Jesuit Mission house here. And in all probability, you’ll bump into a couple of history and archeology enthusiasts around these parts.

BEACHES

Pondicherry has some of the most beautiful stretches of beach in Tamil Nadu or for that matter, all of the east coast. Paradise beach and Auroville beach are the most popular and must do things in Pondicherry. Serenity beach is fairly offbeat and Promenade beach is more for strolling and Promenade Road as the seawalls make it impossible to swim in.

                                        List of Beaches to see in Pondicherry

Karaikal Beach
Mahe Beach
Plage Paradiso Beach
Auroville Beach
Serenity Beach
Paradise Beach
Quiet Beach
Reppo Beach

RELIGIOUS PLACES

Pondicherry is quite the religious melting pot with a heady mix of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. While the Manakula Vinayagar temple is the most popular Hindu shrine, there is also the Varadaraja Perumal, Vedapureeswarar, Kanniga Parameswari, Kamatchamman, Panchavatee and the newest Pyramid Natraj temples. The churches include that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Capuchins, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of the Angels, Assumption and Saint Anthony’s Shrine. The Jama, Meeran, Kuthba and Mulla Muhamed masjids represent Islam.

                                   Religious places to visit in Pondicherry

Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswarar Temple
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Eglise de Sacre Coeur de Jesus Church
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Chidambaram Temple
Sivaji Nagar Church
Varadarajaperumal Temple
Perumal Temple

 HERITAGE MUSEUMS & PARKS

Pondicherry is home to the Pondicherry museum, the Bharathiyar and Bharathidasan memorial museums and a toy museum, all housed in heritage buildings. There are beautiful public parks and garden spread out over the city. The French cemetery too is worth a visit if you have the time to see the ornate marble tombstones.

                             Museums to see in Pondicherry

Pondicherry Museum
Jawahar Toy Museum
Bharati and Bharatidasan Memorial Museums
Romain Rolland Library
Anglo-French Textile Mills

                               Parks in Pondicherry

Botanical Gardens
Bharathi Park
Keezhoor Park
Chunnambar Backwater
Botanical Garden and Aquarium

It will always be pondy, or Pondicherry. It’s been a while since the official name was changed to Puducherry,  but for us who took the random weekend drives and spent days tinted with cheaper booze just lying on the beaches, it shall be perpetually ‘Pondy’.You will find endless lists on places to see in Pondicherry and all things to do, but it’s alright if you don’t see or do any of them. The important thing is to feel Pondy, it’s like no other place. You compare it to Goa but it’s cleaner, more sophisticated, where would you find cobbled-stoned walkways to the beach; of course you could compare it to France, but where in France would you ever find autorickshaws and crowded markets abuzz with a million different sounds.The drive to Pondy along East Coast Road (ECR) from Madras is itself amazing. It will take you less than 3 hours; stopping at the Taj on the way is never a bad idea. Originally a French colony, the city retains a lot of it original French feel including the culture and some magnificent architecture. The French buildings are well preserved and serve as fully fledged government institutions till date.

Walking along the cobblestoned streets sure transports one to a different era, and the whole aura of Auroville is worth experiencing. The cheesecake at the Auroville-run bakery in town is a must try. The beaches of Pondy are cleaner than those in the city and quite chilled out. You’ll find a thriving café and bar culture come alive as the sun sets. French food is everywhere, but its authenticity is questionable. As a rule of thumb, Indians at large do not fancy French food. A restaurant that serves only authentic French cuisine and wine will no doubt burn a hole in your pocket and is more likely to be popular in a metropolis and not a quaint pretty seaside town in Southern India. So you’ll find French food being served alongside a mix of Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisines at most places with some good steaks and sandwiches too!

Walk around town and you’ll discover your own favourite places. Like the Pondicherry Tourism logo suggests, “Give time a Break!”

P.S: Pondicherry is a Union Territory and therefore, the booze is exempt from Tamil Nadu taxes. Well, don’t try to stock up to take back home; there are regular checks on all vehicles leaving the territory.

Tourist Place in Pondicherry

NO PLACE K M
1 Pondicherry Rock Beach  3 km
2 Auroville  14.8 km
3 Raj Niwas  4.1 km
4 Promenade  beach  3.2 km
5 Pondicherry Museum  4.1 km
6 Park Monument ( Aayi Mandapam ) 3.5 km 
7 French War Memorial  3.8 km
8 Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple  4 km
9 Immaculate Conception Cathedral  3.6 km
10 Bharathi Government Park  3.8 km 
11 The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus  3 km
12 Pondicherry Botanical Garden  3.2 km
13 Sri Aurobindo Ashram  3.3 km
14 Seaside Promenade  3.8 km 
15 Serenity Beach  9.2 km
16 Paradise Beach  4.4 km 
17 Chunnambar Boat house  4.1 km 
18 Ousteri Lake  11.2 km 
19 Arikamedu Archaeological Site  4.5 km
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