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Anupriya Bedi Apr 03 2014

Which are the famous things to see and do in Pondicherry?

2 people found this answer useful Useful ?Yes

Life is slow, almost staid in Pondicherry. But the slow pace has its charm, making it a popular destination among tourists. Home to the serene Auroville, there are a lot of famous things to see and do in Pondicherry which promise to add a zing to your vacation. Come, take a look:

The Beach Road:

All the pretty streets of Puducherry are concentrated on this side of the town. The wind-swept Beach Road, also known as the Goubert Avenue, is lined with a host of late 18th- and early 19th century buildings. These include the Ashram Press, the Town Hall (the former Hotel de Ville), the War Memorial, the circular 88-foot-tall lighthouse (now the Central Excise Officer’s residence), Selva Mansion with a vintage car perpetually parked in its garage and the yellow-plastered French Consulate General (the former House of the Navy Admiral).

Running parallel to these stately mercantile and gubernatorial buildings (characterised by high boundary walls, colonnaded porticoes, balustrades, balconies and columns capped with ornate capitals) is the Promenade where the city’s denizens come for a leisurely stroll in the evenings. Most of the action then is centred round Le Café (the former Custom House that adjoined the wooden pier whose stumps are still visible in the distance) and the star-shaped podium bearing eight magnificent granite pillars and a statue of a marching Gandhi.


Photo of Promenade, Pondicherry (by Flickr user NDSRAM)


Walking the Streets

Rue Dumas, the oldest street in the city, is where the first French settlers lived. Cutting it at its first intersection from the South Boulevard end is the Rue du Bazar St Laurent — a quiet street that delivered daily provisions to the settlement. (St Laurent is the patron saint of cooks, so the street must have had a fair share of eating joints, now no longer extant.) Today, Rue Dumas is home to the Hotel de Pondicherry, run out of a 19th century villa, the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (School of Oriental Studies), the forlorn statue of Joan of Arc standing in the middle of an unkempt garden and the serene Notre Dame des Anges Church with an entrance from Rue Surcouf.


Photo of Government Park, Pondicherry (by BishkekRocks)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Situated behind the Raj Niwas, the pearl grey and white Ashram buildings are the most orderly part of the city. Most quarters here are closed to the public except the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where the mortal remains of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh and the Mother (Mira Alfassa) are interred. The ambience here is one of peace and quiet as people come here for meditation. The Mother’s love for flowers is reflected in the Ashram’s gardens that are lush with verdure and flowering plants. Remove your shoes before approaching the samadhi. If you wish, you can sit anywhere around it and meditate for a while.

The pervading serenity of the Ashram is a contrast to the lively Manakula Vinayagar Temple, one of the famous temples in Pondicherry, where Lakshmi, the temple elephant, cheerfully blesses the visitors. Dedicated to Ganesha, the temple is a study in 19th-century architecture.


Address: Aurbindo Ashram, Near Raj Niwas, Pondicherry
Entry: Free
Timings: 8 am to 12:00 pm & 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm (daily)


Photo of Aurbindo Ashram (by Aravind Sivaraj)


The Tamil Quarters

In this part of the town the streets get narrow, the houses smaller and the temples bigger. Though there are a few traditional houses left untouched (look for the facades bearing the thalvaram, a street verandah with a slanting roof supported by wooden pillars), most others have metamorphosed into ugly urban dwellings. Amid it all hides a unique specimen of Franco-Tamil architecture, the Mansion of Ananda Rangapillai, built in 1738. The mansion (still home to the family), which stands on 69 Street bearing his name, faces the market that was once the centre of all business activity in the city.

Address: Ananda Rangapillai Street, Pondicherry
Entry fee: Free
Timings: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

Puducherry Suburbs


The city’s busy suburbs are home to a few churches and country houses built during the French era. Though none of the villas appear to have survived, the churches do. St Andrew’s Church, one of the famous places to visit in town, in Orlypet was built by dubash Pierre Canagrayan. Another church worth a visit for its co-option of Hindu practices is the Notre Dame de Lourdes (consecrated in 1877) in Villianur, 9 km from the town centre. The church houses a tank where people make offerings before entering the church barefooted, as they would in a temple.


Photo of French Consulate building (by Aravind Sivaraj)

Shopping in Pondicherry

Visitors in Puducherry mostly head for Auroville outlets such as Auroshika on Rue de la Marine for the high-quality, high-priced non-toxic agarbattis and scented candles or to Boutique d’ Auroville on Mission Street which sells Ashram publications and CDs. If you are keen to watch traditional clay potters at work and maybe place an order, make a trip to New Nagar 1, Kanuvapet, in Villianur, where master craftsman VK Munuswamy creates wonders in his home-studio. In short, shopping in Pondicherry is a true delight for all those love to indulge in this therapy.


As for the dining options, there are some really interesting variety of restaurants in Pondicherry which are worth exploring if you are a foodie by heart!


Photo of a busy street, Pondicherry (by Bryce Edwards on Flick)


Auroville

About 14 km to the north of Puducherry is the ‘universal city’ of Auroville, inaugurated in 1968 by Mira Alfassa, affectionately called Mother. Take the main Chennai Road (not ECR) with a right detour to Matrimandir after 8 km. Auroville was meant to be a place which “no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings … could live freely as citizens of the world”. But it did not turn out that way.

The universal city has slipped into farmhouse existence, dominated by foreign expats who devise sustainable ways of survival. One can pick up candles, apparel and handmade paper at the Visitors’ Centre. Tourists are not welcome except at the Matrimandir dedicated to ‘the universal mother’. Inside the globe, at its very top, is a white room with a crystal orb, which emits blue light. In short, Auroville is surely one of the not-to-miss destinations around Pondicherry!

Address: Auroville, near Pondicherry
Entry to Matrimandir: Free (Prior permission is needed)


Photo of Matrimandir, Pondicherry (by Santoshnc at en.wikipedia)

Its time to head to this beautiful city to experience and enjoy the famous things to see and do in Pondicherry. Happy vacation! Also, the Menakshi City is located at just a 5-hr distance, so if you have ample time in your hands, don't forget to check out the famous things to see and do in Madurai!

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