The Pondicherry Experience

There are many sites which give all the basic details about Pondicherry...its location (160km south of Chennai on the Bay of Bengal), its history (the French connection), Its Architectural Heritage and its spiritual significance (Sri Aurobindo Ashram) and about our neighboring global community of Auroville.

However, we would like to share with you some special, off the beaten path experiences, that Pondicherry has to offer.
For those who stay with us, we have curated tours for each of these experiences.


Time can stand still in Pondicherry and if you so wish, you could have nothing on your agenda other than just soaking it all in. That's PERFECT! In that case, read this...

If you are coming just to drink and 'party', hoping for active 'night life', Pondicherry has some cafes and bars to let your hair down. Kariappa House however with its quiet spaces, amidst a residential quarter, is not.

However, if you are someone who wants to know more about the place and its people and what makes it tick, then you may want to know a bit of our history before you arrive. 

To make it convenient for those who want to know more about Pondicherry, we will take a journey along Pondicherry's hostorical past, starting from the 1st century AD down to present day and mark significant events which have left something behind for us to now see and explore. The links will connect you to more information provided by other blogs and sites (the best possible ones we found on the subject). Some of the locations are technically in Tamil Nadu but if they can be visited easily from Pondicherry, they are included here. You can visit all these places on your own but we do organise meaningful accompanied tours to some of the nearby places so ask us for details.

This journey will thus include our Architectural, Natural, Cultural and Spiritual Heritage....all of which we celebrate during the Pondicherry Heritage Festival every year,

PRE COLONIAL ERA

Ancient Greek documents mention Arikamedu…. Excavations at Arikamedu, an archaeological site located just 7 km from Pondicherry in the south, indicate that Romans traded (fabrics, clayware and semi-precious gemstones) with this region during the 1st Century AD.
Some of these objects are now exhibited in the Puducherry Museum.
The place is just a pile of rubble now but if archeological sites are something that interest you...then you must visit.

Southern India was ruled by the Pallavas from the 4th to the 10Century AD.
The most significant long lasting contribution of this dynasty was the Shore Temple
of Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram), which is in Tamil Nadu but is on the way as you drive down from Chennai to Pondicherry. 
Definitely worth a visit if you do not mind throngs of tourists who visit this UNESCO  Heritage Site.

It is possible to do a day trip from Pondicherry as well,

The Chola Dynasty ruled most of South India and parts of Sri Lanka and South-East Asia between the 9th and 13th centuries AD,
Arts, crafts and music flourished under the Cholas whose reign is considered to be the golden age in the history of this region and one of their oldest Moolanathaswami temple can be seen in Bahour, where the walls of the temple have been engraved with details about their governance in that district.


The Thirubuvanai temples nearby are also great examples of Chola temples.

The Cholas did much more than build temples and some of the water bodies and irrigation systems of this region can be attributed to that period.
Bahour is called the Rice Bowl of Pondicherry because of the huge man-made lake which irrigates the paddy fields of this region. There are many ancient folklores connected to these lakes.

We organise the following curated tours:

1. Half day: Chola temples (Bahour, Thirubhuvanai)+Ayyanar Shrine. 
2. Half day: Bahour temple & villages and lake tour+ Ayyanar Shrine (Rice Bowl Tour)
3. Fullday: Tour to Gangaikondacholapuram Temple + Veeranam Lake (Picnic lunch Tour)

The Pandyas of Madurai succeeded the Cholas and expanded their kingdom. There was significant sea trade between the Pandyan kingdom and the ancient Mediterranean world, as well as China. Texts even refer to the Pandyan kings having Roman guards.
The Pandyas excelled in both trade and literature. They controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls known in the ancient world. Tradition holds that the legendary Sangam were held in Madurai under their patronage.

Madurai is a 5.5 hrs drive from Pondicherry and the Meenakshi Temple there is a must visit because the details on the Gopuram are the best of its kind.

It was probably during the time of the Pandya rulers that the The Nagarathar or Nattukkottai Chettiars, who were salt traders, were encouraged to settle down in the Chettinad region by the Pandyan Kings, to make the most of their trading skills.
Today, the Chettinad region (about 5 hrs from Pondicherry) consists of the most amazing Chettinad mansions, which are mostly falling apart.


Definitely worth a two day trip from Pondicherry specially if vernacular, almost extinct, architecture is of interest... the antique market & the cuisine is a bonus. 

The Vijayanagar empire rose to great prominence over the entire Deccan plateau as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to ward off Islamic invasions from the north. Its power declined after a major military defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the combined armies Muslim sultanates and by 1646, the Bijapur Sultanate had taken over
The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi in Karnataka. Since their capital was far away from the Pondicherry region (700km), there is nothing significant of this empire to see around here.

Pondicherry briefly came under the Sultanate of Bijapur when they captured the Gingee fort from the Nayaks of the Vijayanagar Empire. 
The fort, about 1.5 hr drive from Pondicherry, has a colorful past of being invaded and owned by several rulers and dynasties, including chatrapati Shivaji in 1677. The British, in the meantime, wanted to set up a trading post here but the French had already arrived in Pondicherry by then and they took over in 1750 but the fort was finally handed over to the British in 1761.


Its an interesting place to go and explore on a day trip from Pondicherry.

Then came the French, the Dutch and the English....they left behind certain legacies, the contribution of the French being the most.
Present day Pondicherry is an inertesting mix of many influences and that is what makes it unique.

To see and experience the town of Pondicherry which has evolved from these influences, enter through the link below

COLONIAL ERA

Until the arrival of the French in 1674, Pondicherry was a small village, a weaver's centre. For the next 20 years, under the command of Francoise Martin, the French were able to set up a factory and to build a fort, and attracted craftsmen and traders thus making this place a fairly large and prosperous settlement.
However, at the time of the Duth invasion, there was no urban town planning. During the Dutch occupation, they were the ones to plan a large new town, to the western side of the Fort, with geometric blocks and streets intersecting at right angles.
The planning was done to distribute the population according to communities and professtions.
The French continued to follow this plan and improved on it. 
This area is now called the Boulevard Town and is now broadly categorised as French Quarters, Tamil Quarters and Muslim quarters.

Dupleix was one of the most successful of the French Governors from 1742-1754 but Pondicherry was razed to the ground during the seige of 1761 by the British and no trace remained of all the splendours of Dupleix's time.
In his honour, Dupleix's statue now stands tall at the south end of the Promenade.
Due to the constant battle between the British and the French, it was a disasterous situation from the military point of view. 
It was then decided to rebuild the fortification and during the short periods of French occupation, bastions, gates and parapets were renovated. 
Renovations were again carried out after 1816 once Pondicherry was ceded back to the French, and thus the Canal was extended northward in1827 and the Grand Bazzar, was opened in the present site in 1826.

ARRIVAL OF GREAT MINDS
SPIRITUAL AGE


Sri Aurobindo was a revolutionary leader from Bengal who had a spiritual experience while being incarcerated by the British. He came to Pondicherry and soon, with his spiritual collaborater Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother, established the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. 
This is NOT like other Ashrams in India. There is no proselytizing and it is not meant for casual visitors. To understand what Sri Aurobindo and The Mother started, one needs to read their works and follow their path in everyday life.

INDEPENDANCE & LATER

It was only in 1962 that Pondicherry became a part of India and an Union Territory.
However, unlike the British, the French had integrated with the local population in a manner that till date, French culture, language, food, education, research etc continue to be a part of Pondicherry's every day life. Pondicherry residents had been given the option to choose their citizenship hence many locals still consider France their home.


Auroville is a Global township, a city of the Future, envisioned by the Mother and recognised by a special Act of the Indian Parliament. It is 10km from Pondicherry. Definitely worth a visit more for its ideals than just the Matrimandir.

How to get here

Where to eat

Where/What to shop

Things to do