Pondicherry – The French Connection

Puducherry was formerly known as Pondicherry or Pondy. It is one of the union territories of India.  It is also synonymous with Aurobindo Ashram. Known mainly for its colonial French & Franco-Tamil architectural style in the Heritage Buildings. There are two towns, white town & Heritage Town. I preferred more towards the beach side, so as to save on transport, and walk around, I booked accommodation in White Town. I liked Pondicherry more for its relaxed, slow paced lifestyle.

Saw this Art on wall at Promenade Beach Road

After leaving Mahabalipuram Town and arriving at Bypass, in some time, PRTC bus arrived (Rs. 90), although it was full, got place to keep my bags, later, got seat to sit. I reached by 10:30 am almost took 2 hours to reach Pondicherry Bus Stand.

I got Auto (Rs. 70) to Hotel duParc (Heritage Hotel), which was 6 kms away from Bus stand, located in White Town. Checked in, had breakfast (late), which was complimentary. I inquired with Hotel Reception regarding convenient way to travel to Auroville and the local charges for same, since it was far away from Pondicherry town, almost 10 kms. I was advised minimum charges are around Rs. 600 for to & fro journey to Auroville in an Auto. I hired an auto, he quoted 800, asked another one, who quoted 700, bargained to 600. It was almost mid-noon and since the Maitrimandir was closed for maintenance (I had read about it before coming here), there was lot of crowd at the View Point.

Maitrimandir at Auroville

Auroville (City of Dawn) is an universal town, where men and women of all countries live in harmony with population of almost 50,000 from around the world. The purpose of Auroville is to realise Human Unity. (The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – came to the Mother (Mirra Alfassa) as early as the 1930s. In the mid 1960s the concept was developed and put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement. On 28th February 1968 some 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the States of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble- clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of the Amphitheatre.

Presently an area of 405 hectares, the Green Belt – though incomplete – stands as an example of successful transformation of wasteland into a vibrant eco-system. Its further planned extension with an additional 800 hectares will make it into a remarkable demonstration site for soil and water conservation, ground water recharge, and environmental restoration. As lungs for the entire township, it will complete the healing process that Auroville started several decades ago.- https://www.auroville.org/)

IMG_20191027_115140It was almost a 2 kms walk on shaded path from the point where vehicles are not allowed further. The road diverts from main highway leads to the lush green forest. There were usual crowd. Since, maitrimandir was closed, all people were flocking towards the View point to watch the Golden Globe from far. I stayed for sometime, took some photos and started walking back.

IMG_20191027_115407There are mini buses for people who do not want to walk back. I was hoping to catch the same to save the time, but the long queue deterred me from same. I started walking back. I saw the huge Banyan Tree, which had witnessed the development of this whole area from start. I reached Pondicherry town by  by 01:00 pm, and was dropped outside hotel, rested till 04:00 PM since, I was feeling bit feverish maybe because of the afternoon heat.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

I left hotel at 4:30 PM to visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, hired an auto from outside the hotel (Rs. 60). This Church was built in 1902 by Fr. Fourcaud. Mainly known for its Gothic Architecture. Inside the Church, 24 main columns hold the structure, also, there are Glass pictures of 28 Saints who were related to the devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Church also contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ  and saints of the Catholic Church. Photography was allowed here.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral

I took another Auto (Rs. 50) to visit the next historical Immaculate Conception Cathedral. This Cathedral is the mother Church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry & Cuddalore.

This Cathedral was originally built in 1692 and later demolished and re-built many times, first by Dutch, then by British and finally rebuilt on 1791. The huge bell Tower was built later on.  The white & golden color compliments well with its beautiful architecture. Photography is allowed.

My next stop was Promenade Beach Road. I checked the GPS, it was hardly less than 1 km. I decided to walk through the beautiful buildings along the road.  I kept Gandhi Beach Stand on one end of the Beach Road as my mark on GPS to reach.

The Promenade Beach resembled the Marine Drive, walked all the way till another end, took the inner roads, watched the Bougainvilleas, Our Lady of Angels Church, Fresh Memorial, Cream and Yellow colored houses, French Consulate, Gardens, shopped in the Nehru market and came back to Hotel.

I had my Dinner at the Hotel duParc Restaurant. Being Coastal Town, again tried Calamari & Biryani. I had informed them earlier itself to keep the quantity for one person. Still, stuffed myself to keep the energy up for next day as I always believe, eating to full stomach at night, usually heals the body during sleep.

I found Pondicherry to be very peaceful, wherein one can walk around, taste different cuisines, road side markets etc. It has become my second favourite after Goa for relaxed vacation place. I missed out on Aurbindo Ashram. Maybe next time, also have to taste some savouries from Auroville Bakery, which was on the road to Auroville.

Next day, I left Hotel duParc at 08:30 am, got an auto to the Bus Stand (Rs. 60). I took bus from Pondicherry Bus Stand to move further to Chidambaram.

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