Pondichery is a city in the south east of India and dates back to the 1st Century AD when the Romans mentioned the town of Poduca as a trading settlement. In 1674 the French East India Company set up a trading post in Pondicherry and it would become the major French settlement in India.
A French colonial settlement, Pondicherry was a British colony in India until 1954, and is now a Union Territory town in southeastern Tamil Nadu state. The town has a charming French Quarter, with tree-lined streets, mustard-coloured colonial villas, chic boutiques, and a promenade that stretches along the Bay of Bengal. Visit the Gandhi Memorial, as well as the museum, and you’ll have a unique experience of life in the former enclave.
The main things to see in Pondicherry include:
- See the Sri Aurobindo Ashram – yoga centre
- Take a walk in the Puducherry Botanical Gardens
- Visit the many churches built in the 18th and 19th century in the French Quarter
- check out the local food at the Goubert market
History of Pondicherry
Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, is a coastal town on the southeastern coast of India, with a history that spans centuries and is marked by diverse cultural influences. From its ancient origins to its colonial past and its current status as a Union Territory of India, Pondicherry’s journey through time is a captivating tale of resilience, assimilation, and progress. Let’s embark on a historical voyage through the evolution of Pondicherry with a timeline of significant events.
- 1st Century AD: Archaeological evidence suggests that Pondicherry’s coastal region was part of the Chola Empire during the early centuries AD. Trade and maritime activities flourished during this period.
- 10th – 13th Century: Pondicherry came under the rule of the Pallava dynasty and later the Cholas, further consolidating its position as a prominent trading port.
- 14th – 17th Century: Pondicherry became part of the Vijayanagara Empire and witnessed significant commercial and cultural growth.
Arrival of Europeans:
- Early 16th Century: Portuguese traders arrived in Pondicherry, followed by the Dutch, Danes, and English, who established trading posts in the region.
- 1674: The French East India Company established a trading post in Pondicherry under François Martin, marking the beginning of Pondicherry’s French colonial era.
Treaty of Paris:
- 1761: The British briefly captured Pondicherry during the Seven Years’ War but returned it to the French as per the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
Napoleonic Wars and British Control:
- 1793 – 1814: During the Napoleonic Wars, the British captured Pondicherry in 1793 and again in 1814, officially making it part of British India.
Restoration of French Control:
- 1816: After the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars, Pondicherry was returned to French control under the Treaty of Paris in 1814.
- 20th Century: Pondicherry became a centre of the Indian independence movement. In 1954, it was integrated into the Indian Union as a Union Territory.
- 2006: The name “Pondicherry” was officially changed to “Puducherry,” and the Union Territory was reorganised into four administrative districts.
- Today: Puducherry is a Union Territory with a distinct cultural identity, blending Tamil, French, and other cultural influences. It is known for its serene beaches, colonial architecture, spiritual heritage, and educational institutions.
Puducherry’s history is a reflection of its diverse past and the intermingling of different civilizations, making it a unique destination that resonates with history enthusiasts and travelers seeking a blend of cultural experiences in India. As the town continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the spirit of harmony and coexistence that has defined its identity throughout the ages.
Best Places to see in Pondicherry
There are many things to do in Pondicherry, a former French colonial town in southeastern Tamil Nadu. From tree-lined streets to mustard-colored colonial villas, the town offers a unique cultural experience. There are many historical buildings to visit, as well as chic boutiques and the Bay of Bengal promenade. Gandhi Memorial and the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple are also must-see attractions.
You may have never been to the serene, private beach known as Paradise Beach in Pondichery. This idyllic, white sand beach is separated from the main town by backwaters and offers unparalleled views. Even the boat ride there is scenic. If you’ve never been to the beach before, this is a great place to begin your experience. Listed below are some tips for visiting Paradise Beach in Pondicherry.
The Paradise Beach is also known as Full Moon Beach, due to its green, lush beauty after the monsoon. The sand here projects golden reflections in the water, and it is softer than most of the beaches in Pondicherry. Once you’re there, make sure to grab a picnic lunch or enjoy a leisurely stroll in the lush landscape. If you’re traveling with small children, bring a frisbee to keep the kids entertained.
If you’re traveling by car, it’s easy to reach the beach via several transport options. The nearest railway station is Puducherry. Cleartrip’s interface makes traveling to the beach a breeze. The price range is subject to change, but the experience will be worth it. While planning your vacation, make sure to take into account the weather forecast before booking your trip. It’s possible to enjoy the scenery throughout the entire year!
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple
The Hindu temple of Arulmigu Manakula Vineyagar in Puducherry is a popular tourist and pilgrimage site. The temple is pre-conquered and pre-dates the French occupation of Puducherry. Today, it is one of the country’s most popular destinations. In addition to being a tourist attraction, the temple is also one of India’s most important Hindu shrines.
The Arulmigu Manakula Vineyagar Temple is open daily, except for Thursdays when the complex is closed. It is open from 5:45 AM to 12:30 PM, Monday to Friday. During Dussehra, it attracts thousands of visitors from across India. The winter season in Pondicherry is pleasant and cool, making it a perfect time to visit.
The Arulmigu Manakula Vineyagar Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in India. It is a popular place of worship and stretches over an area of 8000 square feet. The architectural design of the temple includes a raja gopuram, a mandapam, and a prahara, where the deities’ images are kept.
The Seaside Promenade in Pondicheryry is a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike. There are many activities you can enjoy here, from strolling along the beach to visiting a museum, where you can see fossilized tree trunks and ancient relics from the time of the gods. If you enjoy swimming and eating, there are also numerous food outlets on the Seaside Promenade.
Guests can enjoy the beach and sea views at the Seaside Promenade. It is best visited in the early morning or late evening, when you can soak in the beautiful scenery and watch the sun rise or set. The beach in this area is also best visited in winter, when temperatures tend to drop considerably. The winter season starts in October and lasts until March. For a more authentic Pondicherry experience, visit the beach during the winter months.
If you’re planning a trip to the seaside, consider taking a surfboard. There are a few small stalls with Surfboards for rent, so you can rent one and get started. You’ll also need personal medications and a camera to document the experience. Remember to pack sunscreen and sunglasses. Bringing swimwear is also a great idea. Don’t forget to take your towel!
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Christ is an impressive church located on the south boulevard of the city of Pondicherry in Puducherry, India. It is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and is home to a treasure trove of stained glass panels depicting events in the life of Christ and other saints of the Catholic Church. If you want to experience the beauty of stained glass without spending a fortune, the church is a must-see in Pondicherry.
In 1895, the Archdiocese of Pondicherry was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The new church was built following a plan drafted by the parish priest of Nellithope, Rev. Fr. Telesphore Welter. The construction of the Basilica began in 1902, and the church celebrated its centenary in the year 2008-2009.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
You can visit the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the territory of Puducherry in India. This community grew from a small group of disciples, who followed the spiritual teachings of Sri Aurobindo after his political retirement in 1910. In the 1920s, it was opened as an international center for spirituality and has been a popular tourist destination ever since.
When visiting the Ashram, make sure to consider the many rules that apply to all its members. While Sri Aurobindo didn’t enforce many rules in his early years, he wanted his followers to learn to direct their own lives by looking inward. After his death, written rules were circulated, containing rules for collective life. Some of the main rules were banned substances, alcohol, drugs, sex, and politics. The rules also contained guidelines for a smooth collective life. The rules and regulations were later compiled in a book called the Rules and Regulations of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which are provided to all ashram members.
There are many books to read about the Ashram’s history and the teaching methods of the Mother. You can even watch a short movie about Sri Aurobindo. You can also visit the Mother’s collection gallery, which has more than 2500 works by Ashram artists. You can buy souvenirs and other items from the Ashram’s CBD. You can also visit the Ashram’s library to purchase books on Aurobindo, meditation, and other aspects of spirituality.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges
The Eglise de Notre Dame des Angels in Pondicherry is one of the oldest churches in the state. It is situated on the corner of Surcoof and Dumus streets and has a quaint old world charm. The interior of the church is filled with dozens of glass panels that portray scenes from Jesus’ life. It is also home to many pious relics from past centuries.
The edifice is the fourth oldest church in Pondicherry and is dedicated to Our Lady of Angels. Built in 1855 CE, it is a replica of the Basilica of Lourdes. Visitors can visit the church for mass in three languages, including French, English, and Hindi. If you’re planning a trip to Pondicherry, don’t forget to pay a visit to this historic church.
The Eglise de Notre Dame des Angels is a beautiful church, but the most important aspect is that it is the only church in the town that organizes mass every Sunday. Moreover, it is the only church in Pondicherry to offer mass in three languages: French, Spanish, and Tamil. Construction work on the edifice began on 14th May 1851 and lasted for four years. It opened to the public in 1855.
French War Memorial
The French War Memorial in Puducherry is located in the Indian state of Puducherry. The French are an important part of Indian history, and the city of Pondicherry is a very beautiful place. There are many attractions that you can visit in Puducherry, including the French War Memorial. You should take a few days to visit the memorial and learn about the history of the French-occupied Indian territory.
The French War Memorial in Pondicherry was built in 1937, and the inauguration ceremony was held on 3rd April 1938. The French Governor of the time, Crocicchia, was the one to inaugurate the monument. The bronze bas-relief on the memorial is a reminder of the arrival of Dupleix in 1742. A major reconstruction was carried out on the monument in the 1970s, and many new sections were constructed.
The museum is home to a bronze statue of Duplex, who was one of the first French colonists to settle in India. The museum displays items from the French Revolution. It also features art and sculptures, including a painting of a French soldier named Paulin. The museum is a must for any Pondicherry traveller. There are many other things to see and do in the city, and you will be surprised at how much there is to do.
Visit the Pondicherry Museum to learn more about the history of the area. There are numerous exhibits of antiques from different eras on display in the museum. Visitors can see lost wax bronze sculptures, which are copies of metal artefacts made from the original. The museum is home to a variety of historical artifacts, including fossils, coins, and pieces of French furniture and handicrafts. Other exhibits include ancient churches and relics from the region.
The Pondicherry Museum was established in 1983. While the building itself is more than a century old, it is the most recent museum in India. Located on the site of an ancient trading port, the museum focuses on the area’s history. Its collections feature artwork from the Pallava and Chola dynasties, as well as French furniture and terracotta figures. In addition to the ancient artifacts, the museum displays colonial and contemporary prints, as well as furniture from French rule.
Besides ancient artifacts, the museum also showcases paintings and other forms of artwork. The museum houses a huge collection of pre-Christian and Roman relics and offers information about the French colonial period. Visitors can view beautiful handicrafts, temple lamps, and other interesting articles. There are also exhibits from the Chola, Vijaynagar, and Pallava eras. Once inside the museum, visitors can enjoy an ice cream, tea, and snack at a stall outside.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the heart of the city. It is the Samadhi that houses the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother of Pondicherry. It is indeed the most famous pilgrim spot.
Discipline and leniency intermingle to maintain the quiet sanctity of the Samadhi and its surroundings, and the prayers and meditative silences of the devout are an almost palpable presence.
A way to enjoy the beautiful beach is on a vintage bicycle tour. There are countless bicycle rentals available in the town, as well as guided tours of the mustard streets and colonial villas. This is a great way to see the town’s history and enjoy the scenic beauty. During the day, you can ride a bike and take in the sights and sounds of the area. Be sure to catch a sunrise in the region. You can make stops at cafes or restaurants if you get hungry. If you enjoy sightseeing and meeting local people, you can visit the Arikamedu museum, which features 120 colorful dolls dressed in traditional costumes. The city also has a Roman relic from the time of the Roman Empire.
The town’s beautiful beaches are a great place to enjoy the low tides. The town’s park is an ideal spot for picnicking or a romantic dinner. If you’d like to take a tour of the beautiful gardens, visit the nearby Hotel Anamalai. The hotel offers cooking classes, and the Sita Cultural Centre even has a YouTube channel for cooking classes. There’s plenty to do in Pondicherry, and there’s no shortage of music. The city hosts many concerts, and there’s something for everyone to do.
For those who are religious, a trip to the Ganesha Temple is a must. The golden vimana and gold-plated kodikambam are some of the most sacred religious places in the city. This is a must-see for nature lovers, as it is a beautiful, historic site. If you have a chance, you should also check out the other historical buildings in the city.
What do you like best about Pondicherry
Pondicheriens and visitors take the air on the sea side Beach road, especially in the evening and most particularly on weekends and holidays, when most of the kilometre stretch is closed to non-pedestrian traffic.
I prefer this as the perfect place to stroll, chat and snack, The chunambar,7 kms away, has charming backwaters with beach huts and boating facilities. A visit to this Aurobeach is highly recommended.
Here are a few things more things to do in Pondicherry thanks to Tanya.
Best Walk in Pondicherry
The Botanical Garden, Me and my friends usually go to this park, this place is really very calm and it is the greenery spread all around you, it is the best place to be explored on foot.
As the trees here are not just ancient and venerable, there are varieties that are not usually seen elsewhere in the country. In this garden, Huge rocks are carved into benches, here I have seen many saints meditating and hence a very it’s a very peaceful place to keep your mind and thoughts fresh.
Best Places to Eat in Pondicherry
Pondicherry has all kinds of restaurants: big and small, on terraces and off carts. I love having French food, so I would recommend Promenade, it’s a beach hotel on the sea shore; especially this hotel looks great at night.
The best places to eat in Pondichery will give you a chance to sample different food styles from the local cuisine. You can find an abundance of dishes at these restaurants, from burgers to Indian curries. If you want to splurge on food, you can head to Auroville Bakery. The cafe offers croissants, baguettes, pizzas, quiches, tarts, and pies. Cakes are baked in the afternoon.
The most popular food is the mushroom bonda, which is a South Indian specialty. It is made from chickpea flour batter with green peas, sauteed mushrooms, and potatoes. If you’re craving fish or beef, you can stop by the nearby Blueline restaurant for some irresistible seafood. Mission Street is known as a pocket-sized paradise for bonda lovers.
The food at Sicilys is delicious Italian cuisine, and you can find it on the streets of the town. You can sample Mediterranean Pizza, Basil Pesto Pasta, and Chicken Lasagne here. And you’ll want to wash it all down with a refreshing cocktail, like a Sangria. If you’re in the mood for a great brunch, Sicilys is the place to go.
Regardless of your taste, there are many places to eat in Pondicherry. French food is always a good choice. Whether you prefer European or local dishes, you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy your palate. From freshly baked goods to soft idli, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of cuisines while you’re here. And the city is also home to some of the most famous European dishes, such as fondant au chocolat.
Despite its name, the food markets in Pondicherry are not just for selling food. You can find everything from spices to vegetables. Goubert Street Market is the supplier of fresh produce for many of the local restaurants. Its name derives from the French poet and satirist Edouard Goubert. The market branches out from M.G. Road and is characterised by quaint alleyways. It is worth a stop by, even if you’re in town for a day or two.
Cooking Classes in Pondicherry
The Sita Cultural Centre have both Indian and French cooking classes.
Akshaya’s Kitchen conducts South Indian cooking classes and also has her own You Tube Channel.
Shyama’s Kitchen operates off of her Facebook Page and conducts Tamil cooking classes from her home at 32 Rue Francois Martin St
Best Hotels in Pondicherry
Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, is a captivating coastal town on the southeastern coast of India that offers a delightful blend of French colonial charm, spiritual serenity, and vibrant cultural experiences. Whether you seek luxury, boutique elegance, or budget-friendly comfort, Pondicherry provides a diverse range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences. Let’s explore some of the best places to stay in this enchanting town:
1. Le Dupleix: Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Le Dupleix is a beautifully restored 18th-century French colonial mansion turned boutique hotel. With elegant rooms, a serene courtyard, and a French-inspired restaurant, it offers a truly luxurious experience.
2. Palais de Mahe: Another gem in the French Quarter, Palais de Mahe is a charming heritage hotel that exudes colonial charm. Its rooms are tastefully decorated, and the rooftop pool offers stunning views of the town.
3. The Promenade Hotel: Overlooking the Bay of Bengal and situated on the lively Promenade Beach, The Promenade Hotel offers modern comforts with a touch of elegance. The rooftop restaurant provides a breathtaking view of the ocean.
4. La Villa Shanti: Tucked away in a quiet corner of the French Quarter, La Villa Shanti is a boutique hotel that combines contemporary style with traditional charm. Its restaurant serves delectable French and Indian fusion cuisine.
5. Maison Perumal: Step back in time with a stay at Maison Perumal, a quaint heritage hotel that celebrates Tamil culture. Its tastefully decorated rooms and warm hospitality create a homely ambiance.
6. Accord Puducherry: For those seeking a comfortable stay with modern amenities, Accord Puducherry offers spacious rooms, a swimming pool, and a convenient location close to the beach and city center.
7. The Richmond Hotel: Located near the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, The Richmond Hotel offers a peaceful retreat with comfortable rooms and a rooftop restaurant overlooking the town.
8. Hotel du Parc: Situated in the heart of the town, Hotel du Parc offers comfortable rooms and a serene garden, providing a relaxing escape from the bustling city.
9. Ginger Pondicherry: For budget-conscious travelers, Ginger Pondicherry offers affordable accommodation without compromising on comfort. Its central location allows easy access to major attractions.
With its diverse array of accommodations, Pondicherry ensures that every traveler’s stay is a memorable one. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious escape or a cozy boutique experience, these handpicked hotels offer the perfect blend of comfort and cultural immersion in this charming coastal town.
Almost every weekend there will some sort of a Music concert produced by famous singers and musicians, who are sponsored from various other cities. It includes Multilanguage tunes, and not only are the local language, Tamil. These music concerts are usually held, right besides-a statue of Gandhi surrounded by ancient columns, along the Beach side.
Best Nightlife in Pondicherry
I always come back feeling like a fresh person after a visit to the Matrimandir. It takes time for a first timer to understand that this is not a temple. Here in the white marbled lined hall, where the pillars reach, but not quiet, up to domed ceiling. The man-made crystal lit by natural light seems almost surreal.
The silence is almost audible, fifteen minutes into the meditation and I can hear the blood pulsing in my body. In my throat, in my ears. This is a must-see place.
Best Day Trip Out of Pondicherry
There are many places on the outskirts of Pondicherry, but these are some, which one must-see. Chidambaram is synonymous with Lord Nataraja, the awe-inspiring and wonderful dancing form of Shiva.
Its approximately 70 km from Pondicherry. And you can even visit Karaikal, also a former French enclave about 135 km and enjoy its quiet river promenade and charming backstreets. Mallapuram is worth visiting, it is located 98 km north of Pondicherry on the splendid East cost road. On the way don’t miss a visit to the ruins of Alamparey Fort on the shore.
Something that not many tourists would know about Pondicherry
There are many places which most tourists would not know, actually there is an under water tunnel, in the old harbor of Pondicherry. I have been there many times with my mates. The place is fully surrounded by coconut trees and has a beautiful view of the Beach.
The other one is what we Pondicheriens call it the Sunday market. It’s the best place to shop leather goods and antique furniture and even handloom products.
The most important thing which I wanted to say is that most shops are closed during the heat of the day. In the afternoon, and open quite late into the evening.
10 interesting facts about Pondicherry
- French Colonial Legacy: Pondicherry was a French colonial settlement until 1954, and its French influence is still evident in its architecture, cuisine, and culture.
- Official Language: In addition to Tamil, which is widely spoken, Pondicherry is one of the few places in India where French is also an official language.
- Aurobindo Ashram: Pondicherry is home to the Aurobindo Ashram, a spiritual community founded by Sri Aurobindo and his disciple, The Mother. It attracts spiritual seekers and visitors from around the world.
- Auroville: Located near Pondicherry, Auroville is an experimental and international community dedicated to the idea of human unity. It aims to create a harmonious and sustainable living environment.
- White Town and Black Town: The town is often referred to as “White Town” and “Black Town.” White Town, with its distinct French colonial architecture, is the area where the French colonists lived, while Black Town was primarily inhabited by local Indians.
- Promenade Beach: Pondicherry’s Promenade Beach, also known as the Rock Beach, is a popular waterfront promenade where visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll and admire the Bay of Bengal.
- Matrimandir: Auroville’s iconic golden dome, Matrimandir, is a prominent landmark known for its spiritual significance and unique architectural design.
- French Quarter: The French Quarter in Pondicherry is a picturesque area with beautiful streets, charming cafes, boutiques, and art galleries, offering a delightful experience for visitors.
- Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education: Pondicherry is home to the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, a progressive educational institution inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
- Pondicherry University: The town is home to Pondicherry University, which offers a range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and research programs, attracting students from across India and beyond.