Often described as a sleepy French provincial town, Pondicherry retains a distinct Gallic flavour. French is still spoken among the older residents, while stately colonial mansions stand in tree-lined streets that are still known by their colonial names. Even the policemen continue to wear the military-style caps, known as kepis. Today, Pondicherry, has been renamed Puduchcheri. Located on the east coast of Tamilnadu, it is the administrative capital of a Union Territory that includes the former French enclaves of Mahe in Kerala, Yanam in Andhra Pradesh and Karaikkal in Tamilnadu. On the way to Pondicherry, one can view the natural beauty of the scenic Deccan plateau. Striking red soil and deep green vegetation, consisting mainly of cashew, palm and neem, combining to form a stunning landscape. Agriculture and fishing are the mainstays of Pondicherry's economy. Almost half of the population in Pondicherry is dependent on agriculture for livelihood. Due its 50 km coastline, fishing is one of the main sources of livelihood in Pondicherry, where there are nearly 30 fishing villages.
Pondicherry Quick facts
Pondicherry Geography and Climate
Geography: Pondicherry is the smallest union territory in terms of the land area. It is situated on the Coromandel Coast. On three sides, the state of Tamil Nadu borders it. On the east side of Pondicherry there lies Bay of Bengal. About 150 kilometers south of Pondicherry, on the east coast, lies Karaikal, while Mahe is located on the Malabar coast. Yanam is positioned in the adjacent East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. Climate: In the summer season, the maximum temperature recorded is around 35 degree C. Winters are not so chilly with the temperature falling to a minimum of 20 degree C. The average maximum temperature is 31.5ºC and the average minimum temperature is 23.9ºC. The average rainfall is about 1300mm.
Best time to visit Pondicherry
The place can be visited any time except the monsoon and the best season to visit is October to March.
Pondicherry is referred by names such as 'Quintessence of French Culture', 'India's Little France' and 'The French Riviera of the East'. This territory was under the French rule for nearly 281 years. Pondicherry is an ideal getaway if one wants to getaway from the maddening crowds and rush of the city. This city has always been one of the calm and quiet in comparison to other Indian cities. Pondicherry is also famous for the Aurobindo Ashram, an international institution that teaches the practice of yoga. Sri Aurobindo Ghouse: The firebrand Bengali poet philosopher, Aurobindo Ghouse, who joined the struggle for freedom in the early 1900s, was known for his extremist views. To escape from the British, he took refuge in the French territory of Pondicherry, where he was drawn into the spiritual realm. It was here that he studied, wrote about and popularized the principles of Yoga. His disciple, Mirra Alfassa, known later as "The Mother", was a Parisian mystic, painter and musician, who first came to Pondicherry with her husband during World War I. Sri Aurobindo's philosophy so inspired her that she stayed on, and was later instrumental in the establishment of the Aurobindo Ashram.
Pondicherry Near Getaways
Mahabalipuram : Located at a distance of 98-km from Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram has everything that makes a site memorable; tradition, history, western annals, and current importance as a centre of tourism.
The capital city of this union territory is Pondicherry. It covers a total land area of 492 Sq.Km.
How to reach Pondicherry by Road
Regular road services connect Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy, Coimbatore, Tirupati, Madurai, Cochin (Kochi), Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) etc.
How to reach Pondicherry by Rail
Pondicherry is connected by rail to Chennai, Trichy and Villupuram .
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How to reach Pondicherry by Air
Nearest airport is situated at Chennai, located 135-km from the city.
Pondicherry Festivals and culture
The Car Festival of Thirukameswarar Temple attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. December and January are important months for the locals who celebrate Christmas and New Year with aplomb. These are also the months when activity at the Ashram increases because of the birth and death anniversaries of Shree Aurobindo and The Mother.
Pondicherry is a combination of cultures. The place is a cosmopolitan one where foreigners and local people live and work together in harmony. A majority of the population in Pondicherry speaks French. There are a few people who speak Hindi, English and Tamil. The people here speak about 55 languages. The natural beauty mesmerizes and influences the visitors. People who love to go for shopping can select Pondicherry as goods in this town can be bought for cheaper prices and the shoppers can bargain and pay the minimal charges for goods to their satisfaction.
Pondicherry Religious Places
Pondicherry is well known for its gorgeous churches and intricate temples and ashrams. There are about 350 Hindu temples in and around Pondicherry. Considering the size of the Union Territory, this is a record. The Varadaraja Temple and Thirukameshwar temple are some of the important temples. The French constructed a number of Churches during 18th and 19th centuries. The notable ones are : Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges and Egilse de Sacra Coeur de Jesus which is the most beautiful church in Pondicherry.
Aurobindo Ashram ; (Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother): Pondicherry's best known landmark, the Aurobindo Ashram dominates life in this town. Founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926, the Ashram is a peaceful retreat with tree-shaded courtyards. The flower-festooned samadhi (memorial) of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother lies under a frangipani tree in the main courtyard. This memorial, with two chambers, one above the other, is the focal point for all disciples and followers. Raj Nivas : The former palace of Dupleix is now the residence of Pondicherry's Lieutenant Governor. Across the road from Raj Nivas is the Government Park.
Pondicherry Entertainment and Night Life
Chunnambar Resort : This resort provides irresistible opportunities of boating, backwater boat tours, and picnics on the Plage Paradiso located near the mouth of the backwater. If you are a true adventure enthusiast then you can try your hands at trekking as well. Otherwise, you can also take delight in fishing.
There's very little by way of nightlife in Pondicherry. The last bar shuts at the 'unearthly' hour of half past 10! During the day however you can go around the town or bike down to Auroville.
Kidding around Pondicherry
The Chunnambar Backwater area is a hot bed of varied activities like yachting, boating, sun bathing etc. The sports freaks will have a gala time here with the provision of sports like beach volley, horse riding in the beaches and many more. One can watch the lovable dolphins entertaining the spectators with their tricks. In one word the place is must visit for anyone who loves to enjoy.
Pondicherry is a shoppers paradise. Shopping is almost regarded as exciting experience in Pondicherry. The shopping list of Pondicherry mainly comprises of pottery, aromatics, textiles, furniture, leather and foods. Sunday Market is a great and favorable place to shop in Pondicherry. Aurobindo Ashram factory in Pondicherry produces many articles, like candles, incense sticks, and paper which are symbolic of local crafts and have become quite popular with tourists. Leather is in vogue and is manufactured in a conventional way with intricate details.
Famous To Eat at Pondicherry
One can have a variety of dishes from different cultures here like the South Indian food, Eastern and Western dishes in the hotels and restaurants. French cuisine, Japanese and Vietnamese food is available in certain restaurants.
Pondicherry Museum and Hill Stations
Pondicherry Museum: Located in the lovely old Law Building, near Government Park. The Pondicherry Museum has an outstanding collection of artifacts from the French colonial period. The rooms in one section are furnished in French style, and are decorated with marble statuary, paintings, mirrors and clocks. The museum also displays are bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola periods. Among the artifacts excavated from nearby Arikamedu, an ancient port that had trade links with Imperial Rome, are beads, coins, ornamented oil lamps, funerary urns and fragments of pottery and china. Inside the same compound is the Romain Rolland Library. Established in 1872, the library now has a rich collection of more than 300,000 volumes, including many rare editions in both French and English. Its mobile library service takes more than 8,000 books in a bus to nearby villages. The reference section, on the second floor, is open to the public.
Gardens and Parks at Pondicherry
Keezhoor: Keezhoor is a village with rich presence of the four hundred years old banyan tree. Botanical Gardens: The Botanical Garden in Pondicherry was opened to the public in 1826, it is located at the southern entrance of city bus stand. It sprawls over a 22 acres area and here you can just relax and listen to the twittering of birds and explore the rich variety of flora here. The Botanical garden as the name implies houses a large variety of plants, flora and good old trees of ages. The whole garden is green with thick plantation and ingarden roads. This is a very good place of recreation for the public. For the children there is a small children train and track in the garden.
Lake at Pondicherry
Chunnambar Backwater : One of the most popular areas of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, the Chunnambar Backwater is very close to the main city. The Chunnambar Backwater area is a hot bed of varied activities like yachting, boating, sun bathing etc. The sports freaks will have a gala time here with the provision of sports like beach volley, horse riding in the beaches and many more. One can watch the lovable dolphins entertaining the spectators with their tricks. In one word the place is must visit for anyone who loves to enjoy. Ousteri : Pondy has many lagoons, the major one among them being Ousteri, a calm lake. This lake is a popular place for boating and picnics among tourists.
Pondicherry Travel Tips
Bicycle is the best mode of transport for moving around and visiting the beauty of Pondicherry. In most of the hotels in Pondicherry specially around Sri Aurobindo Ashram , No Smoking, No Drinking rules apply strictly and you have to report back by 10:30 at night Carry cool cottons and open comfortable sandals for the pleasure of walking in India?s French enclave. For the tourist's help the office of Pondicherry Tourist and Transport Development Corporation is at 40 Goubert Salai. It is open daily from 8:45 am to 1 pm and then again from 2 pm to 5 pm. You can always contact them for any more information.
Pondicherry Tourist Offices
Pondicherry Tourism Information Bureau Directorate of Tourism, 19, Goubert Avenue ( Beach Road ), Pondicherry - 605001 Tel : (0413) 34575, 33590, 39497
CANARA BANK : Post Box No. 16, No.45, N S C Bose Road, Muthialpet, Pondicherry - 605110 Plot No.5, Vellupuram Main Road, Pavazhanagar, Reddiarpalayam, Pondicherry - 605005 ICICI : IOCL Petrol Pump, 40, Kamaraj Salai, Thattanchavadi, Pondicherry - 605009 274, M.G. Road, Muthialpet, Pondicherry - 605110 43, Weststreet, Villianur, Pondicherry - 605110 Plot No.37, East Coast Road, (Auroville) Periyamudhaliyar Chavady , Pondicherry - 605008 STATE BANK OF INDIA : 150, Easwaran Koil Street, Pondicherry - 605001 Pondicherry Railway Station Entrance
Must do at Pondicherry
Important place to visit: Pondicherry is famous for the Aurobindo Ashram, an international institution that teaches the practice of yoga.