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Pondicherry

Pondicherry (or Puducheri) means ’the new settlement’. It was a French settlement comprising of Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam besides Pondicherry. A unique thing about Pondicherry is that it spreads into several states. While Karaikal is in Tamil Nadu, Mahe is in Kerala, and Yanam is a part of Andhra Pradesh. Situated around 200 kilometres south of Chennai, Pondicherry is today a union territory where the French connection on the architecture and culture of the place is strongly visible—a result of the centuries-old relation with the French power. However, the fame of Pondicherry lies not in its French connection but its relation with the saint-philosopher Aurobindo Ghosh who founded his ashram here. Sri Aurobindo was a political revolutionary who reached Pondicherry in 1920 and established a place for peaceful and harmonious living. Today the ashram is home to nationals from every part of the world who come here to find peace and solitude.

Pondicherry is a planned city unlike most other places in India. All the roads meet at right angles according to the grid system and a long Petit Canal divides the city on the seaward side. The French township is on the sea-facing side while the other is on the Indian side.

Sightseeing:

Sri Aurobindo Ashram:

The ashram was founded in 1920 when Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry, a French colony and put in place his ideas of peaceful community. The ashram for long was run by his French companion Mirra Alfassa, universally known as the Mother. Each member of the Ashram is free to mediate the way he or she prefers; there are no rituals,obligatory practices, and systematic instruction. The ashram is a diversified community with more than 1,200 members out of which 400 are the students of the Centre of Education. To support the administrative system of the ashram, it has various departments to look after basic needs of the members. In addition, there are farms and gardens, printing press, libraries, and a number of small-scale industries. The ashram houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the mother. It is open to everyone for fixed hours everyday.

Pondicherry Museum:

Situated in the Government Park, the Pondicherry Museum has a good sculpture gallery and a section of archaeological finds from the Roman settlement at Arikamedu. There is also a French section charting the history of the colony. The objects include the four-poster bed in which Dupleix is believed to have slept. There is also a superb collection of snail shells from the Pondicherry region.

Promenade:

A lovely beach within bike range from the city centre in the north is a pleasant surprise. With a 1.5-km-long promenade, this is the most delightful part of the city. A stroll, sunbath, or a swim enhances the quality of experience. On the beachfront are located many sites such as a statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by eight exquisitely carved monolithic pillars and a war memorial.

Bharti And Bharthidasan Memorial Museum:

Bharti Museum is located at Eswaran Koil Street, the place where the legendary Tamil poet lived after arriving here in 1908 in search of refuge. Bharthidasan Memorial Museum is situated at Perumal Koil Street where Kanakasubburatnam, a disciple of Bharti, lived. He changed his name to Bharthidasan, meaning the disciple of Bharti, and his home is now the second important place of literary pilgrimage in Pondicherry.

Church Of The Sacred Heart Of Jesus:

Built in the Gothic style, this massive church is one of the most beautiful churches in Pondicherry.

Excursions From Pondicherry:

Auroville:
Situated just across the border in the state of Tamil Nadu, Auroville, about 10 km away from Pondicherry, is a unique experience in itself. The place, also known as ’City of Dawn,’ was founded in 1968 as a tribute to Sri Aurobindo. It is a lush green cover created over 25 years by sheer hard work and dedication. The place is spread over 50 sq. km and has a population of over 900. The Mata Mandir situated in the centre of the town is the spiritual centre with a 30-metre-high globe with lotus-shaped foundation urn.

Chidambaram:
Chidambaram is a temple town situated in Tamil Nadu around 58 km off Pondicherry. The place is famous for its temple complex where the renowned Nataraja Temple is housed. Every year during Mahashivratri in February/March, the temple celebrates the Natyanjali Dance Festival.

Thiruvannamalai:
Thiruvannamalai, situated around 107 km from Pondicherry, is home to the Arunachaleshwara Temple, which is one of the most important Shaivite temples in South India. The ashram of the famous saint Sri Ramanna Maharshi is situated at a distance of 3 km from the temple.

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