Pondicherry (or Puducheri) on the east coast of India was a France colony before it became part of India . It remained the capital of French India for about 300 years till it got its independence in 1954.
Pondicherry is famous for Auroville, the Ashram founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo, a Cambridge educated Yogi from Bengal. He was later joined by Mirra Alfassa fondly called Mother, who dedicated her life in carrying on Aurobindo’s work after he retired. The ashram become famous by word of mouth and grew from strength to strength and currently owns 120 buildings with about 2000 people involved in everything from education, to paper-making, to fashion design to publishing and other small cottage industries.
The international community of Auroville, set up by Mother is about 15 kms from Pondicherry and is definitely worth a visit, especially for some special products that you get there. I heard that purchases made here could be send to your destination by normal post from the nearby post office whose staff are very helpful and would pack it for you with hessian and sealing wax. We got some bamboo containers from one of the outlets.
The Matrimandir is the symbolic meditation centre of Auroville. Shaped like a huge golf ball, it is called “Soul of the city” and is located in a large open space . The Matrimandir is open to public viewing by prior appointment.
On the way back to Pondicherry from Auroville we stopped at the La Ferme Cheese. A good place to learn about cheese and how it is made.
The French colony near the beach is something unique and its unbelievable that such a place exists in India. The streets, the houses, everything has retained the old charm, as if time has come to a standstill.
The church (Our Lady of Angels) near Rue Dumas is about 160 years old. I was impressed by the wooden furniture with cane weaving inside the church (including the confessional)
Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple at Villianur is ten kilometres away from Pondicherry. It is noted for its fine architecture. The annual Temple car festival held on full moon day in the month of May-June attracts large number of devotees. The huge chariot is taken out during this time for procession.
I found a lot of neatly cut tree trunks and was wondering about these when the locals told me that they were the causalities of the cyclone Thane which hit Pondicherry.
There was this shop named Cool Cat which served good Filter coffee. In fact I found this shop very clean with good food and reasonably priced items. You won’t miss it as it is bang opposite the popular bakery Hot Breads.
Luckily for us there was a gourmet cum music show that was going on for four days. We got to see the wonderful performance by Krishna Kumar and his Temple Rock band in action.
As Chennai is the nearest international airport, one can fly directly to Chennai and from there Pondicherry is just a three hour drive by car or bus.