Pondicherry

When walking around the streets of the "old Pondi" one will inevitably succumb to the charm of its old colonial buildings in pastel colors and will cool oneself in the shade of lovely blooming bougainvillea. Pondicherry was under the colonial powers like the Dutch, Portuguese, English and the French. After having been ruled by French for nearly 300 years, the city has been incorporated into the Union Territory of Puducherry in 1963, which includes the former French enclaves in India.

Pondicherry is very well connected town via the East Coast Road as it is 150 km from Chennai and 100 km from Mahabalipuram. Pondicherry provides the much needed diversity for the visitors as there are places such as the Sri Aurobindo ashram, the famous Matrimandir, some many other temples, churches and beaches. Here is more information about the places to be seen in Pondicherry.

Sightseeing Places

Pondicherry has some amazing places to see and you could visit them in the order written below.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is located in the north of "the white town", the old French quarter. At its centre, in a tree-shaded courtyard, lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where the bodies of Sri Aurobindo and Mira Alfassa are laid to rest. The two spiritual companions founded the ashram in 1926. Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet and theologian. Mira Alfassa known as "The sweet mother" was a French lady, initiated into occult knowledge. They met each other in Pondicherry in 1914.

Today, Pondicherry has become an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourists. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the Ashram and meditate there. The visiting hours for visitors are from 8 a.m. to 12 noons and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm.

Auroville: The city of Dawn

Auroville is situated about 8 km north-west of Pondicherry city. It is an experimental township founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa. The mother clearly stated about the township as "Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity". At the very centre of Auroville one finds the "soul of the city", the Matrimandir (a concrete globe of astounding dimensions).

Inside the Matrimandir or "Temple of the Mother", a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as "a place to find one's consciousness". The surface of the dome has 56 kg of Gold, which is sandwiched between as thin sheets. At its centre is a 70 cm crystal ball in a gold mount which glows with a single ray of sunlight coming from the top of the structure. According to Mother, this represents "a symbol of future realization".

Auro Beach

Auro beach is about 4 km far away from Pondicherry and it's worth spending an evening here. There are quite a lot of hotels nearby and the weekends get crowded by the local tourists.

Promenade Beach (In the town itself)

A number of heritage buildings and monuments are present around the long, sweeping promenade - the Rue de la Marine that borders the Bay of Bengal -, such as the Gandhi statue, French War Memorial, 19th Century Light House, Rolland Library, Pondicherry Museum and the French Institute of Pondicherry at Saint-Louis Street.

Manakula vinayagar temple

Being close to the ashram, Manakula Vinayagar is a very famous Hindu temple, which houses Lord Ganesha. According to Sasthra, Lord Ganesha is named in 16 types based on his various forms, out of which this god facing the east coast near the Bay of Bengal was named as Bhuvaneshar Ganapathy, now called as Manakula Vinayagar. In Tamil, Manal means sand and Kulam means pond near the sea. Earlier, there was full of sand around the pond. So, the people called the god as Manal Kulathu Vinayagar [meaning God near the pond of sand]. Later, it was named as "Manakula Vinayagar".

Churches

Immaculate Conception Cathedral church

It is the cathedral mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore. It is located in the Union territory of Puducherry. It is also known as Samba Kovil, which is a phonetic corruption of Saint Paul's Kovil where Kovil means church.

The Church of Our Lady of Good Health

The church is located in Ariyankuppam, a village 4 km south of Puducherry. It has been a very popular pilgrimage amongst the people of Pondicherry for the last 270 years.

The Church of Our Lady of Angels

The Capuchins from Chennai came to Pondicherry in 1676 and built the Church of Our Lady of Angels at Pondicherry as an annex to the St. Louis Church inside the Fort in 1707.

Important festivals

International yoga festival From 4th January to 7th January every year
Masi Magam festival Between February and March
Summer festival Between March and April
Villianur temple car festival Between May and June for 10 days
Bastille Day 14th July
Veerampattinam car festival In August
Fete De Pondicherry In August
Sri Aurobindo's birth day 15th August

Travel

Airport The nearest international airport is in Chennai, is 150 km from Pondicherry.
Train The nearest rail head is Villupuram junction, is 39 km from Pondicherry.

Weather

Sunny throughout the year and the monsoon season starts in end of October and ends around mid-December. The winter is from November to February.

Taxi Rates
Trips Rupees Euros Dollars Pounds
Chennai Airport - Pondicherry
Chennai Central railway station - Pondicherry
Pondicherry - Chennai Airport
Pondicherry - Chennai Central railway station
Tiruvannamalai - Pondicherry
Chidambaram - Pondicherry
Thanjavur - Pondicherry
Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry

* Given as an indication only. Exchange rates updated daily.