A calm and quiet city, retaining the French aura, Puducherry is a perfect blend of East and West. Hire a bicycle and ride free, exploring the clean streets of the city…
Puducherry is one of the only cities in India where the Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonisers settled and proliferated. This wonderful agglomeration became the headquarters of the French East India Company in 1674. The French influence still lingers in the city where many roads and streets are named after French legends and colonialists. The town planning, including many of the colonial buildings, statues and parks transport you to a city in modern-day France. Even many of the food joints serve quintessential French cuisine, including the delicious quiche and the melt-in-the-mouth éclair! In fact, the city’s police force still adorns the traditional French cap, the kepi.
Endless Stretch of Beaches
The city hosts some of the most pristine beaches in the country. You can head over to the Promenade Beach, also popularly known as the Rocky Beach, for a quiet stroll along the delightful 1.2-km beachfront. This long stretch has statues of Jeanne d’Arc Dupleix and Mahatma Gandhi, the heritage building ‘Mairie’ and War Memorial built by French. It also has 27 mt tall Old Lighthouse, Gandhi Thidal and a circular-shaped Custom’s house at this site. You can also sit back, relax and introspect at Auroville Beach, as you close your eyes and shut out the world. The beach lies by the scenic East Coast Road (ECR). The beauty of the beach is enhanced by the shell fragments and the shingles that are deposited by the waves along the beach.
Or you could head over to Paradise Beach, around 8 km from the city and accessible only by boat. Also known as Plage Paradiso, this ‘island beach’ will immediately bring out the adventurer in you as you set to explore its vast landmass. The force of the waves on the beach is definitely a thrill and you can enjoy a quiet time prancing around in the waters.
Sights of Puducherry
You can rent a two-wheeler and whizz around town. Many of the museums and memorials are housed in charming heritage buildings. There are also many temples and churches that dot the city. The Notre-Dame-des- Anges is one such church with fascinating architecture. Believe it or not, its interiors were made of eggshells in plaster. Thereafter, you can also visit the various arts and cultural centres where you can join single-session activities, including learning Tamil, making kollam (a type of a rangoli), practising yoga asanas and even indulging in making exquisite French delicacies. Do you also want to learn surfing? The Kallialay Surf School will help you fulfill your dream.
The list of places to visit in this Union Territory is endless. The 1826 French-established Botanical Gardens, the Ecole Francaise D’Extreme-Orient heritage building and library, the Governor’s residence Raj Nivas and the leafy Bharathi Park opposite it; the Gandhi Memorial; the Old Lighthouse and the Jawahar Toy Museum, among many other such sites. Don’t forget to visit the Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory where you can tour the facility and buy some of the most delicate paper products and accessories on offer. Also, don’t miss the 2,000 year old Indo-Roman trade centre and archaeological site of Arikamedu.
Auroville: A Town for World Peace
How can your itinerary be complete without a visit to The City of Dawn, Auroville? Founded by The Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo in 1968, this experimental township is home to citizens from all over the world, living in peaceful co-existence. The tranquil Matrimandir in the middle of the township is designed to enable one to find their inner consciousness. Besides, the many bakeries will ensure that you have a great connect with your taste-buds. You must also visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which is not a part of Auroville, and is an independent spiritual community.
Established in 1926, the Ashram grew around followers of Sri Aurobindo who retired in the city. Today, it houses more than 1,000 residents. Visitors from all over the world come to the Ashram to find peace from the daily stress of life.
Words: Adnan Hamid