Copyright : 2008, Hotel Surguru
The Town of Pondicherry
French dreams of an Indian Empire started here. Though they also ended here, in the scattered territories of the Union Territory of Pondicherry there remains what little there is best of the French influence in India. And that makes the territory, especially its headquarters, Pondicherry, unique, something quite different from the rest of India

The Union Territory of Pondicherry comprises of 4 coastal regions - Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe. Pondicherry and Karaikal are situated on the East Coasts in Tamil Nadu, Yanam in Andra Pradesh and Mahe on the West Coast in Kerala.

The town of Pondicherry is the Capital of this Union Territory. It is on the east coast about 162 kms south of Chennai (Madras) located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal.

Like most ancient cities, the origin of Pondicherry was buried in legends. It could have been the mythical 'Podhigai' said to have been the sacred abode of the legendary Sage Agusthia or it could be-the now forgotten 'Vedhapuri', a settlement of scholars well-versed in the Vedas.

Excavations in the Arikamedu area near Pondicherry have brought to light the remains of a trading port which had connections with the Greek-Roman world more than a century before the down of the Christian Era. You can see the glorious remains of Arikamedu excavations in the Archaeology section of the Pondicherry Museum.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Established by Sri Aurobindo, a revolutionary turned poet, a philosopher and later developed by the Mother, the Aurobindo Ashram has grown into a center for the practice of Integral Yoga, a seat of learning and a training ground for sadhana. The activities of the Ashram include agriculture, industries, art and culture. In the main building of the Ashram is the Marble Samadhi where Aurobindo and the Mother have been laid to rest and the houses they lived in. The Ashram has been created with another object than that ordinarily common to such institutions", Sri Aurobindo wrote, "not for the renunciation of the world but as a center and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life which would in the final end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody a greater life of the spirit."

Important days in the Ashram
21 Feb - The Mother's Birthday 29 Feb - Descent of the Super mind 24 Apr - The Mother's final arrival in Pondicherry 15 Aug - Sri Aurobindo's Birthday 17 Nov - The Mother's withdrawal from the physical body 20 Nov - The Mother's Samadhi Day 24 Nov - Day of Realization 05 Dec - Sri Aurobindo's withdrawal from the physical body 09 Dec - Sri Aurobindo's Samadhi Day

Government Square
The XVIII Century Palais du Gouverneur (now Raj Nivas) the old Tribunal now housing the Legislative Assembly, the cercle de Pondicherry, the hospitals, the Ashram Dining Hall, the UCO Bank are all lined up to form "Place de Gouvernement" (Government Square), with a monument Aayi Mandapam at the Center of a well laid garden. Some exquisitely carved monolithic pillars adorn the "place". These pillars, ascribed to the XVII Century were brought from Gingee to Pondicherry after the capture of its fort in 1751.

Beach
Pondicherry's beach is pristine; its golden yellow sand is unpolluted, the continental slope is gentle and safe. Pondicherry has a lovely beach, 1.5 kms. long, where one can relax, sunbathe, swim or take a stroll along the promenade. The beach has historical connections too. These beach have witnessed some of the fieriest Anglo-French battles. On the sea-front are two important monuments a) Statue of Mahatma Gandhi set amidst eight exquistely sculptured monolithic pillars and b) the War Memorial raised by the French to honour the soldiers who died in World War I. The Light house and the 284 meter long new pier are further south of these monuments.

The Pondicherry Museum
Located opposite to the Government Park, the Museum provides a glimpse into Pondicherry's rich past and present. The Sculpture gallery contains some specimens of Pallava and Chola art from Pondicherry and Karaikal. The Archaeological section displays a collection of the famous findings from Arekamedu, like Roman pottery, burial urns, etc. The French Gallery is the most interesting part of the museum which has an office and drawing, dining and bed-rooms with furniture typical of French India. The other sections of the museum are on geology, bronze images, arms, handicrafts and art. The Museum brings back to memory the glorious past of Pondicherry from the days of the pre-Christian era down to the present day providing glimpses of the art and culture of the people of this region during the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar days.

Barathi Memorial Museum
Subramaniya Bharathi, Bharathiyar to all, was a Tamil poet-patriot who arrived in Pondicherry in 1908 a fugitive from British India. The Free French air brought out the best in Bharathi and some of his finest patriotic and romantic compositions were born here. Bharathi's home No.20, Easwaran Dharmaraja Koil Street, is almost a place of pilgrimage today for the Tamil people.

Barathidasan Memorial Museum
Kanakasubburatnam, another great Tamil poet, was born in Pondicherry and assumed the name Bharathidasan, meaning `disciple of Bharathi'. He lived in No.95, Perumal Koil Street, another place of cultural pilgrimage. Bharathidasan's poems compare with Bharathi's in literary achievement and patriotic fervour.

Raj Nivas
This grand palace-typically French - was once Dupleix's home. Today, the exquisite building, with its beautiful lawns in front decorated with sculptures, is the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry (not open to Public).

The Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Pondicherry was created in 1826. When the garden came under the control of the eminent botanist Perottet "rare and interesting plants" were procured from Calcutta, Madras, Ceylon and Reumian and introduced. Now it is having a proud collection of 1,500 species.

Manakula Vinayagar Temple
The shrine dedicated to "Manakula Vinayakar" existed even at the time of the arrival of the French in Pondicherry in 1673. This Ganesh temple is situated on MV Street. Every Friday, people gather here to seek divine blessings for their new ventures.

There are about 32 temples in Pondicherry. Of these Manakula Vinayagar temple, Sri Vedapureeswarar temple, Kamatchiamman temple and Varadarajaperumal temple are famous.

Cathedral churches
French missionary zeal in the XVII and XVIII Centuries saw a number of grandly embellished churches built in Pondicherry. The Church of Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Cathedral, the Eglise de Notre Dame A'es Angles are particularly noteworthy.

Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus
This church on the South Boulevard is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is noted for its Gothic architecture, stained glass corridors and panels depicting incidents from the life of Jesus Christ.

Boat House, Chunnambar
Facilities for boating are available at a Boat House, on the River Chunnambar 8 kms from Pondicherry. The backwater and the lush greenery on both sides of Chunnambar provide an ideal setting for boating. Boats are available on hire on all days of the week. A most enjoyable hydroplane and facilities for boating and fishing make this an ideal site for relaxation and picnic. In coming days, this place will have a guesthouse and a restaurant which are presently under construction.

Jawahar Toy Museum
The Jawahar Toy Museum is located in the old Light House building near Gandhi Maidan. Here toys and puppets from different parts of India are on display.

French Institute
Established in 1955, it is a research center for Indian languages and culture. The Scientific and Technical section prepares vegetation maps, maps of soil types, geology and litho logy of India.

Auroville
Auroville is described as the city of Tomorrow where an attempt is made to replicate on much larger scale the experiment that is being carried out in Sri Aurobindo Ashram for the evolution of a new society envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother where people could live "freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority that of the Supreme Truth, a place of peace, concord, harmony". Under the Mother's direction it was launched in 1968 with the co-operation of many nations.

The small township of Auroville or the City of Dawn was designed by a French architect, Roger Arger. It is an entirely new concept in education and urban living. There are about 40 odd settlements located around a central focus called the Matrimandir. These settlements are engaged in a variety of activities, including afforestation, farming, education and handicrafts. The total area of Auroville is about 50 sq km. No local transport is available inside the township. A conducted tour of Auroville from Boutique d'Auroville, 12 Nehru Street, Pondicherry, takes interested visitors around settlements of Auroville.

Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.

This was the first public message The Mother, founder of Auroville, sent into the world in 1965. Three years later, at the inauguration ceremony of Auroville on 28th February 1968, youth from 121 countries and 23 Indian States placed a handful of earth from their homelands in a lotus-shaped urn, symbolizing the creation of a city dedicated to peace and a hopeful future for humanity, a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity. (Auroville Charter)

Today, Auroville is an expanding community of about 1,200 people from India and from 30 countries around the world (demographics). Located in a backward rural area of the Villupuram/Ramaswamy Padayatchiar (formerly South-Arcot) District of Tamil Nadu, South India, it is surrounded by 13 villages with a population of approximately 30,000 people.

As a place of unending education and constant progress (Auroville charter), Auroville has grown since 1968 into a community with multifarious activities, in many of which it has made impressive achievements.

Auroville received the unanimous endorsement of the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1983 (more). Governmental and non-governmental organizations in India and abroad have funded various development programmes. Donations have also been given by foundations in Europe and the United States (list of non-private sponsors), by Auroville International Centers and private donors from all over the world. The Aurovilians themselves have made a major contribution of resources and energy to the Auroville project.

The late Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, described Auroville as "an exciting project for bringing about harmony among different cultures and for understanding the environmental needs of man's spiritual growth. In 1988, the Government of India passed the Auroville Foundation Act to safeguard the development of the International Cultural Township of Auroville according to its Charter. Under this Act, an independent legal body, the Auroville Foundation, has been established with a Governing Board chaired by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and an International Advisory Council headed by Dr. Ervin Laszlo. In his presentation of the Act before Indian Parliament, Shri P. Shiv Shanker, Indian Minister of Human Resources Development, said: "Auroville is to be looked upon as a vision which has a great potentiality and this can be of tremendous service to our country and the world at large."

Arekamedu
It is about 20 km from Pondicherry town. Recent excavations at some sites in Arekamedu have unearthed Roman coins, wine jars, etc establishing it to be the earliest Indo-Roman trading center (around 2nd century AD). Further evidence points to a Buddhist stronghold.

Mailam Murugan Temple
It is about 50 km from Pondicherry town. There is a Murugan temple atop a hillock. The Panguni Uthhiram festival held in March-April attracts devotees in large numbers.

Mandagupattu
It is about 50 km from Pondicherry town. This is the location of the first Pallava cave temple for the Hindu trinity-Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Called Lakshitayatana, it was built during the reign of Pallva King Mahendra Varaman I.

Ousteri Lake
It is about 15 km from Pondicherry town. A popular picnic spot on the Pondicherry-Villupuram route.

Tiruvakkarai
It is about 30 km from Pondicherry town. Large fossil bearing areas fenced in to create the country's first National Fossil-Wood Park here. These petrified trees lying scattered on low mounds and stream sections, date from the Cretaceous Age (100 million years ago) The Chandramouliswara Temple, a monument of great architectural grandeur dating back to the Chola period, is an added attraction. Every Pournami (Full Moon Day), people gather here to worship Goddess Kali.

Mahabalipuram
World famous for its shore temples, Mahabalipuram, was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. 58 kilometres from Madras on the Bay of Bengal, this tiny sea side village is set in a boulder strewn landscape. Tourists are drawn to this place by its miles of unspoiled beach and rock-cut art. One of the most beautiful monuments of Mahabalipuram is the Shore Temple, a beautiful soapstone structure on the sea shore, and another, the huge carved rock panel 27 km long "Arjuna’s Penance " depicting animals, deities and panchatantra fables. This rock brings to life an ancient form of narration.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Capital : Pondicherry
Area : 492 Sq.Km.
Population : 807,785
Principal Languages : Tamil, French, English
Urbanization rate : 64.05%
Literacy rate : 75%
Per Capita State Income at Current Prices(Rs.) : 3,777
No. of District : 4
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