The beautiful and serene town of Pondicherry often called as the “The Europe of India” was a French colony till 1954. The town architecturally has a rich cultural heritage, owing to the colonial structures as well as Tamil influences in many buildings. Some of the major tourist attractions include:
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh founded the ashram in 1926. He was an Indian freedom fighter and philosopher. It is an immensely popular ashram, whose main tenets involve harmonic collaboration of yoga as well as science. It is a place to experience a different spiritual ambiance and the tranquility.
Mirra Alfassa, a Parisian follower of Sri Aurobindo was known popularly as ‘Mother’. She conceived the idea of Auroville or the “City of Dawn”. Situated 8 km from Pondicherry, Auroville is an experimental township founded in 1968. It is meant to be a universal town, where irrespective of nationality, or race, people of all countries will be able to live in peace and harmony. On the inauguration ceremony in 1968, soil from 124 countries was placed in a lotus shaped urn and mixed to symbolize oneness universally. This project was endorsed by Indian Government and UNESCO. Matrimandir occupies the center of the town of Auroville. A Huge golden globe, Matrimandir contains a meditation hall, which provides a unique spiritual experience.
It is situated in Bharathi Park. This structure is a visual reminder of the allure of French architecture. This also functions as the emblem of Government of Pondicherry. It is very fascinating to explore the story behind its conception, about why it was built and why it was named after a courtesan by the same name.
Pondicherry Botanical Garden
Previously known as “Colonial Park”, this botanical garden was created in 1826. It has some 1500 rare species of plants. The park also has musical fountains which operate during the weekends. The gates of the park have heavy influences of French architecture. There is also a children’s train within the garden’s premises. It is a popular place among nature lovers.
Temples: There are many historically significant and famous temples in Pondicherry. Located on MG Road, and dating back to 600AD, Varadaraja Perumal Temple is perhaps the oldest temple in Pondicherry. The temple has clear Dravidian influences in its architecture. Mankula Vinayaka Temple dates back to before the French rule in Pondicherry. Kanniga Parameswari temple which is also located on MG Road is worth mentioning too, mostly owing to the mixture of Tamil and French architecture.
Churches: Immaculate Conception Cathedral on Cathedral Street was built in 1692. Housing an orphanage, it is one of the first churches in Pondicherry. Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is popularly called Sacred Heart Church. Situated on the South Boulevard, it is an exemplary structure depicting the oriental and gothic influences. It is dated back to 18th century when it was built by French Missionaries. Events from Christ’s life and various other saints, is depicted in stained glass panels. These glass panels are known for their uniqueness and stunning quality.
This museum and its various collections give a sense of the immensely rich and varied history of Pondicherry. The installations in the museum showcase the cultural past of this region and its people, it includes art influenced by Pallavas, Cholas as well as Vijaynagar dynasties. It is a treat for the history lovers.
Ousteri Lake, located some 10 km from Pondicherry, it is situated in beautiful surroundings. The natural scenic beauty makes it a delightful place for boat riding, and also bird watching. This lake is also dwelling place for many migratory birds.
Serenity Beach: Located in the northern part of Pondicherry, this beach as the name suggests is known for its tranquil and peaceful surroundings. The unspoiled beaches, the pristine waters and the calming waves make it the perfect spot to introspect and to get away from the speed and sounds of a busy city life. The beach is lined with palm trees, and a walk down the beach in moonlit nights is a memorable experience. The beauty and the serenity palpable on this beach make it an idyllic tourist destination.
Promenade Beach: Around this beach, a 1.5 km long promenade is a must visit place for tourists. Many of the most popular landmarks of Pondicherry are situated alongside the seafront. These include the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Dupliex, the war memorial, old lighthouse among others. Surrounded by eight granite pillars, is the 4 m high statue of Mahatma Gandhi. There is also a marble statue of Joan of Arc, which is situated in front of Church of Our Lady of the Angels. It was erected in 1923. A 2.8 m tall statue of Joseph Francois Dupleix (a popular French Governor) was erected in the 1870s at the southern end of park. French War Memorial on Goubert Avenue was built in 1971 to honor the soldiers martyred in World War I.
Other Beaches include Mahe beach, Karaikal beach and Plage Paradiso Beach. All these beaches are remarkable for their undisturbed beauty and the quiet and calm which permeates every visitor. Lined with palm trees, the golden sand and the deep blue of the water all create a soothing and relaxing ambiance. Karaikal beach also offers various water sports. Chunnambar is very popular as it provides various water sports activities, a definite attraction for the more daring and adventurous of the travelers. Kayaking, canoeing, boating, sailing etc are offered here.
The golden yellow of the sand and the deep blue of the sea make the beaches in Pondicherry a beautiful site. From sunbathing to swimming or simply relaxing in a calm ambiance, these beaches have something for all kinds of visitors. These beaches provide a calming ambiance, though that does not mean that they are ill equipped to deal with the tourist traffic. Cafes and other amenities are available for the tourists easily. A quiet and calm comes over one upon looking out towards the magnificence of sea and the vastness of sky, the rejuvenating waves and the golden sands.
Pondicherry is a stunning and serene location for travelers looking for a place away from hectic modern life, a place that is wrapped in beauty and tranquility.