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Please call (559) 446 0499 or email: brij@indiatravelerusa.com to plan a Southern India Journey with Pondicherry

Pondicherry - The Union Territory of Pondicherry is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 160 kilometers or 99 miles south of Chennai. It is bound by the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu on three sides. This is the political head quarters of four separate and unconnected Union Territories: Pondicherry – surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Karaikal – 150 kilometers south of Pondicherry and also surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Yanam is a 30 square kilometer or 19 square mile area in the east Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh and Mahe that is surrounded on three sides by Kunnur District of Kerala State and in the west on the Arabian Sea coast. The French handed over these territories to the Government of India in 1954. The French ruled these territories for about 300 years and they are today a living monument of the French culture in India.

Pondicherry traces its origin to Saint Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions a market place called Poduke in early 2nd century CE. G. W. B. Huntingford identified this place as Arikamedu (now in Ariyankuppam) that is about 2 miles from modern Pondicherry. Roman pottery was found in Arikamedu in 1937. Archaeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 unearthed a trading station where items manufactured in Rome were imported during the first half of 1st century CE. The French left an indelible mark on the territory that can be experienced to this day. The French designed the territory on a grid pattern with clear and perpendicular streets. The town is divided into two distinct sections – the Ville Blanche or the white town that was originally for the French and the Ville Noire or the black town where native Indians lived traditionally. The street names are still in French and the French colonial architecture can be seen in the residential and official buildings of the territories. The Indian houses have verandas in front, the doors are large and grills are used in front of the houses. The French style buildings are usually on larger plots and the buildings have high ceilings as well as other features that remind one of Mediterranean architecture. An organization called INTACH works diligently to protect and preserve these historical buildings in the union territories of Pondicherry. A majority of the population in the territories is native Indian but there are still descendents of French who chose to remain back and of others with French passports who also chose to remain back in these territories. Because of this relationship there is a French Consulate in Pondicherry along with several other cultural organizations like Le Foyer du Soldat – a Legion Hall of soldiers who served in various French wars; Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient and a branch of the Alliance Francaise. The Lycee Francaise de Pondichery school is still affiliated with the French Ministry of Education.

Shri Aurobindo, an Indian and Bengali Hindu nationalist, freedom fighter, scholar, poet, mystic, evolutionary philosopher and yogi, who was born on August 15, 1872 in Bengal, chose Pondicherry as his residence in later part of his life and died here on December 5, 1950. After a brief but very radical career in politics of freedom struggle Shri Aurobindo devoted his attention to the development and practice of a new spiritual path that he described as Integral Yoga and that aimed at furthering the evolution of life on earth through high level of spiritual consciousness – a state of Supermind that would represent a life free from physical death. He wrote many books on his new spiritual philosophy and is still regarded by many as one of greatest yogis of Hindu history. His work was further carried on by his disciple, Mirra Alfassa, who was popularly known as The Mother. She proposed the idea of a universal township based in Pondicherry. This idea was adopted by the Aurobindo Society who collaborated with the Government of India to present this revolutionary concept to the United Nations. In 1966, UNESCO passed a resolution to accept this concept and give their support for the development of this project under the guidance of The Mother. The Auroville Foundation was founded in February 1968 for furthering this cause. This universal town was called Auroville. The name is a combination of two French words – aurora, which means the dawn and ville for city. The Mother personally guided the construction and development of the Auroville community until her demise in 1973. The Auroville project is now governed by the Auroville Foundation through an act of Lok Sabha, the parliament of India that is called the Auroville Foundation Act (1988). Auroville International has centers throughout the world who actively contribute to the financial upkeep of the Auroville Foundation. Half of the finances for Auroville Foundation come from the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India. The buildings in Auroville have a very unique, modern architecture and are a great attraction for not only the followers of Shri Aurobindo.

The former French colony has been restored to exude a Mediterranean aura and is a considerable tourist attraction in southern India. Festivals of Pondicherry are different from the rest of India because the French influence persists in this enclave. The Masquerade celebrated in March and April is a popular mask festival, during which brilliantly costumed and masked people of Pondicherry, dance down the streets to the music of trumpets and accordions. During the Eve of the Bastille Day, retired soldiers parade the streets in war finery, singing the French and Indian National Anthem. French is still widely spoken, and the seaside villas and the cobbled streets remind one of the atmosphere of the south of France.

Pondicherry hotels:

The Sunway GRT Grand Hotel - 61 rooms
Hotel Du Parc - 10 rooms
Dune Eco Beach Hotel - 30 villas & 20 rooms
Pondicherry Executive Inn - 17 rooms
The Richmond Hotel - 14 rooms
Kailash Beach Resort – 37 rooms
The Promenade – 35 rooms
Le Dupleix – 14 rooms
Hotel de l’Orient – 40 rooms
Anandha Inn – 70 rooms
Hotel Mass – 111 rooms
Hotel Annamalai International – 70 rooms
Hotel Pondicherry Ashok – 21 rooms
Calve Heritage Hotel – 10 rooms

Distance from Pondicherry in Kilometers and Miles:

Chennai: 165 Kilometers or 103 Miles
Karaikudi: 130 Kilometers or 81 Miles
Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram: 98 Kilometers or 61 Miles
Kanchipuram: 101 Kilometers or 63 Miles
Chidambaram: 61 Kilometers or 38 Miles
Madurai: 324 Kilometers or 201 Miles
Thanjavur: 177 0Kilometers or 110 Miles
Kanyakumari: 578 Kilometers or 359 Miles
Rameshwaram: 435 Kilometers or 301 Miles
Tiruchchirapalli: 196 Kilometers or 122 Miles

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