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Shubhyatra >> Pondicherry Yatra


Location : Four non-contiguous districts in Southern part of India
Capital City : Puducherry
Major Attractions : Beaches, Pondicherry Museum, Maasi Magam Festival
Mostly Visited For : Aurobindo Ashram, Meditation

Pondicherry - French By Looks, Indian by Heart

A Bird's Eye View of Pondicherry Beach
A Bird's Eye View of Pondicherry Beach

Since time immemorial, India has embraced the world and shared her heart to all. From north to south, and across the diameter, you will find their signatures preserved in the womb of Mother India like an orphan child. The quaint little town of Pondicherry on the East Coast Road, is no exception. It’s imbued with all the charm of a seaside town in France, yet the Union Territory is both Tamil to its roots and sublimely cosmopolitan. Applauded as the ‘Riviera of the East’, the oval shaped city with its neatly aligned streets has been constructed on the lines of Mediterranean town planning. Walking down the corridors of time, you can still feel the French aroma floating in air, still and poised, which might help you to emulate the spiritual beacon at Auroville, an argent lantern with its dream like tranquility that attracts seekers to savour a different life ethos from across the seven seas.

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Annals And Antiquity of This French Territory

The pages of history might seem to have shrunken over the time, but they caresses such great volumes of bygone memorabilia, that it is hard to overlook the glory of this French sector. Once the mainstay of French ambitions in the subcontinent for teo-and-a-half centuries, Pondicherry offers an eclectic mix of French and Indian culture. Recent excavations at Arikamedu have revealed relics of Roman settlements, dating back to 2nd century BC which attests the importance of this place as a trading vantage point. The French followed in the 17th century, by which time it had mutated into a flourishing fishing village on the eastern shores of India. They came late but left an eternal signature on the heart of this pristine city, and you can still their mark - as the stamp on the French passport many of its Tamil-born denizens still hold out, the red caps of the local police force, the graffiti and signages, the conectionary shops laden with exotic breads and the handsome bougainvillea-trimmed villas bleached in Mediterranean creams, yellows, pinks and greys.

An Above The World on The Beach

An Evening Walk By The Gandhi Statue on Beach Road
An Evening Walk By The Gandhi Statue on Beach Road

The Chunambar Beach at Pondicherry, 7 km out of town is a wonderful place to wander around leisurely. The city ends at the cafe and bar lined beach with the roaring waves crashing against the rocks. Try to relish your sightseeing, start you beach combing from the 1 ½ km long promenade that provides a magnificent view of the beach from the feet of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation. Behold the eight exquisitely carved monolithic pillars embellishing the place along with a War Memorial raised by the French in honour of those who died in World War I. Stretch out on the golden sands away from the warm hum of the bustling city, then retire for the night until you are ready to wake to the backwater boating and beach huts. It is often possible to spot dolphins gamboling in the sea close to the beach. A natural of entertainment comes from hawkers, acrobats and snake charmers who make an evening besides the shores a memorable experience.

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The Aurobindo Trail

Arbindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Get A Spiritual High At Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry

The heritage trail should ideally commence from the labyrinthine lanes of the Old Town, standing in mute testimony to the bygone realm of France. Leave your hired bicycles behind for your ramble to Auroville, portraying an International Township of Harmony. Roosting on a concept that caresses the concept of a motherly ambience, it is an entirely independent multi-racial community, which works and lives in self-fashioned, wildly traditional homes. You will find belle France peeping out from behind her Indian ‘ghungat’ (veil) around every street corner, from behind every louvred windowpane, but never dropping her mask. Relax in self consciousness at Matri Mandir, an architectural marvel built as a centre for meditation.

Spend an evening amidst the serene and soul-touching ambience of Aurobindo Ashram, within an aura of peace and harmony. It is a quite place to meditate and peep into the realms of superconsciousness. Nestling in the eastern part of Pondicherry, the Ashram was founded in 1926 with the object of creating an evolution of a higher spiritual domain. Interestingly, the Ashram is not a quiet place of retreat but a vibrant centre of life in a modern urban setting. The dynamic character of the community reflects the various stages of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga.

A Heritage of French Signature

Visit the heritage monuments that sit around the green lung of Bharathi Park. The pilastered, corniced, arched and louvred fromtages are simply ornamental, but afford a high quality woodwork, especially in the hanging Juliet balconies and iron fretwork. Walk inside the park to see the Greco-Roman folly of Ayee Mandapam, built by the French in honour of a courtesan. Don’t miss the Maison Anandha Rangapillai (1738), with its curious seguing of Indo-French hallmarks - it is second home to the ‘dubash’ (diarist) of the celebrated French Governor Dupleix, whose statue presides over the promenade to the south.

In the Tamil quarter, swelling around the temples in the northern part of the town, marvellous mansions lie cheek by jowl along east west lanes. Walk out in the sun, in the shade of the ‘thalvaram’ (street verandah) jutting out of most every facade. Take a breather on one of the hospitable masonry benches at their ‘thinnai’ (ground-floor verandas) below. Wonder at the gigantic, fancifully carved dorrways. If you are lucky enough, you could be invited in by a hoary resident. Accept the invitation and feel the pleasure of stepping inside, garnished with a series of colonnaded courtyards 9mutram) to gain the intimacy of the family’s living spaces.

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Moments of Merriment

Chunamber  Beach, Pondicherry
Chunamber Beach, Pondicherry

Pondicherry is a place where you can enjoy the euphoria of two directions; the East and the West. Visit during January, and be a part of the International Yoga Festival held in Pondicherry. Amidst an international gathering, yogic art is displayed through practice sessions, seminars and shows. Drive north of the quaint fishing village of Kurichikuppam, to behold the century old magnificent Maasi Magam festival in March. Deities from about 38 temples are brought in a grand procession to Pondicherry and taken around the town. The ends with the ablutions of ‘chakra’ (the discus of Lord Vishnu) and ‘trishul’ (the trident of Lord Shiva) with the euphony of Nadaswaram (horns) in the backdrop.

Drive Your Way

Fly to this serene town but disembark at Chennai or Tiruchirapally, the nearest airports to Pondicherry. The town is also a railway terminal on the Southern Railway but is linked with a meter-gauge line. The railway station is located only 1 km from downtown, with a computerised reservation facility. However, Pondicherry is connected to all major centres in the region by an excellent network of roads. The East Coast Highway from Chennai provides one of the best access options to the city. The 163 km journey on the wide and rippleless two-lane highway is a driving pleasure as the road runs parallel to the coast for most of the distance. Enroute you can halt at a number of amusement centres like VGP, MGM and Crocodile Park.

The next important stretch is till the beach resort town of Mamallapuram (60 km from Chennai), which the highway skirts by about 3 km. Excellent beach side hotels, including Taj’s Covelong Beach Resort, are dotted along the road. Good rest and recreation facilities are available throughout the route till Pondicherry. Tourists can also avail State Bus Services from Chennai with buses opearting between the two centres at almost 5 minutes interval.

There are no yelow-top taxis. Tourist taxis are available at the railway station, bus stands and other prominent locations within the territory. Auto-rickshaws (rates negotiable) are a popular mode of transport. However, getting a bicycle is the best option to explore Pondicherry as the distances are not long and roads well paved.

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Top 5 Reasons to Visit Pondicherry

Arvindo Ashram Pondicherry

Pondicherry - Savour the French Flavours
Applauded as the ‘Riviera of the East’, the oval shaped city with its neatly aligned streets has been constructed on the lines of Mediterranean town planning, that still caresses French architecture and interests quite evident in its monuments dotting the terrain.

A Holiday on Solitary Sands
Relax on the silvery beaches of this tranquil Union Territory and enjoy a holiday like never before. See the sun seeting behind the grand Mahatma Gandhi statue or birds flying behind huge colnial buildings that decorate the promenade around the beach.

Rejuvenate Yourself At Aurobindo Ashram
The Aurobindo Ashram with its unsurpassable aura of peace and harmony is a quiet place to refresh your weary soul. Built with an objective of creating an evolution of a higher spiritual consciousness, it has more than 1,500 spiritual seekers from every part of the world today.

A Celebration of Life
If you want to celebrate your winter holidays, plan a trip to Pondicherry where you can be a part of the famous International Yoga festival. Enjoy meditating and practising Vedic Yoga methods amidst an international gathering.

Shop A Lil' Bit of Pondicherry
After a fun-filled holiday, remember to fill your bags with traditional dolls and textiles that Pondicherry is famous for. The leather work is fantastic too, as is the array of handmade papers available at the Ashram.

Best Selling Yatras (Tours)

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» Unforgettable Tamil Unique

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