Settled in the early 18th century by the French, Pondicherry on the Bay of Bengal in the state of Tamil Nadu has a Gallic flavour. Relinquished by the French in 1954, the town became the headquarters of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, administering three other former French enclaves scattered across South India.
There is, however, an enduring legacy of the Gallic rule. The first French governor Dupleix designed Pondicherry’s street plan, which still today consists of a central grid encircled by a broad oblong boulevard. Many streets still possess their Gallic names. Streets near the seafront are dotted with rows of houses that wouldn’t look out of place in Montpellier. Red Parisian style kepis (caps) are worn by the local constabulary, bake houses produce croissants and restaurants churn out quality Gallic-inspired cuisine. The town’s seaside promenade is a good place to stroll and people watch. The Hotel de Ville, which today houses municipal offices is impressive as is the Gandhi memorial, Government Place – a leafy provincial-style square and Raj Nivas, former home of Dupleix.
A short distance away on Rue de la Marine is the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Established in 1926 by the Bengali philosopher-guru, Aurobindo Ghosh (1872 – 1950), spiritual authority was subsequently passed to a foreign devotee known as ‘The Mother’ who died in 1973. Many travellers come to Pondicherry to visit the popular ashram, whose spiritual tenets combine yoga and modern science, and to view Samadhi, or mausoleum of Sri Aurobindo and ‘The Mother’.
To get you started with planning your holiday to Pondicherry, we have showcased below some popular itineraries requested by our clients which we hope will inspire your visit to India
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