Petite and Picturesque
Situated on the Coromandel Coast, about 160 kms. South of Madras, lies the Union territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled this territory for 300 years and today it stands as a living monument of the French Culture in India.
Being a small, calm and quiet enclave of Tamilnadu, it has imbibed the Tamilian culture and language.
What has brought international reputation to this coastal town is the Aurobindo Ash- ram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in the year 1926. After Aurobindo's death, the Ashram came under the spiritual influence of a French lady known as the "Mother", who died in 1973. Visitors throng to pay homage to the samadhis (final resting places) of these two spiritual companions at the Ashram premises. Aurobindo Ashram attracts hundreds of devotees - not only Indians, but also foreigners, because of the doctrines taught there are based on a fusion of modem science and yoga.
Auroville: 10 kms. away from the Aurobindo Ashram. Also known as the "City of Dawn", it is an experiment on international living in peace and harmony rising above all barriers of caste, creed and nationality.
The Ashram Beach office and Auroville authorities have put up a photographic exhibition of their various activities. Tourists can also avail of the various booklets, journals and pamphlets published here.
The manufacture of per- fumes based on French technology is a lucrative business in Pondicherry.
Other places of tourist interest in Pondicherry are:
The Raj Nivas: It is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Pondicherry.
The Government Palace: It is located opposite the Raj Nivas and has well laid out lawns, flower beds and fountains.
The Botanical Garden: This garden is located at the junction of West Boulevard and Lal Bahadur Street and boasts of an acquarium with a large variety of fish.
The French Institute: This institute was founded in 1956 and financed by the French Government. It is rendering yeomen service in the field of religion, language, philosophy, history, art and archaeology. This institute has publications of translations of French scholars.
Romain Rolland Library and Museum: One of the oldest public libraries in India, it has a vast collection of French books and manuscripts. The museum attached to this library houses numerous articles of archeological importance.
Ananda Ashram: This ash- ram situated at about 5 kms west of Pondicherry is said to be the ancient land of sage Agastya. Training in yoga is imparted here.
Churches of Pondicherry:
The three important churches of Pondicherry are:-
Eglise De Notre Des La Conception: This 18th century church was originally constructed by the Portuguese.
Eglise De Notre Dame Des Anges: Roman architecture is predominant in this church. A huge oil portrait presented by Napoleon III, the French Emperor, is the proud exhibit here.
Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus: Built in the Gothic sty le of architecture, this church is dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus.
Temples of Pondicherry : There are about 350 temples in and around Podicherry built by the Cholas between the 10th and 12th centuries.
However, the important ancient temples are: -
The temple of Lord Tirukameshwarar at Villianur 8 kms. from Pondicherry, has a 7th century idol.
Vedapurishiswarar Temple: In this temple the symbol of the Lord is believed to be a Swamyambu Lingam.
How to get there:
Bus : Buses connect Pondicherry with Chennai,Chidambaram, Tiruvannamalai, Bangalore, Madurai, Ooty, etc.
Train : Trains. connect Pondicherry with Villupuram.