Pondicherry has now been renamed as Puducherry in 2006. It is affectionately known as Pondy. It is a blend of spiritual aura, French colonial heritage, Tamil culture, virgin beaches and the cosmopolitan flair of many nationalities in a small but varied city. Pondicherry was designed on the French grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets.
We were planning to visit Pondicherry since long. This time the plan materialized. En route to Pondicherry, we reached Chennai airport via Kolkata from Ranchi. We took a cab from Chennai airport for Pondicherry. We had our hotel reservations at The Promenade. It is on the Promenade beach in Pondicherry.
From Wikipedia, I gathered that the name Puducherry means New Hamlet in Tamil, the local language. During the colonial period the name was changed to Pondicherry. Pondicherry was widely used for a long time to refer to the region. In 2006, the name for the state and the capital city officially reverted to Puducherry.
The City of Pondicherry have recorded history after the advent of the Colonial Powers like the Dutch, Portuguese, English and the French. Though nearby places like Arikamedu, Ariyankuppam, Kakayanthoppe, Villianur, Bahur which were annexed by the French East India Company over a period of time and which became the Union Territory of Pondicherry after Independence have history predating the Colonial History.
During ancient times, it is known as Poduke or Podukai. Ancient Greeks referred to this place as Poduke and Aryans referred as Vedapuri. A marketplace named Poduke or Poduca is recorded as a Roman trading destination from the mid 1st century. The area was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the 4th century. The Cholas of Thanjavur held it from the 10th to 13th centuries, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. The Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all the South of India in the 14th century and lasted until 1638, to be supplanted by the Sultan of Bijapur. The French acquired Puducherry in 1674 and held control, with occasional interruption from the British and Dutch, until 1962, when it was incorporated into the Indian Union.
The approach to Puducherry from Chennai is through East Coast Road running besides the Bay of Bengal. The road runs parallel to the sea and one can enjoy the beautiful Bay of Bengal while driving through East Coast Road. We had our lunch at Mahabalipuram, another ancient township, on the coast of Bay of Bengal. There are several ancient caves with paintings etc.
Pondicherry is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South India. The city has many beautiful colonial buildings, churches, temples, and statues which, combined with the systematic town planning and the well planned French style avenues, still preserve much of the colonial ambiance. There are several beaches here. There is also Sri Aurobindo Ashram, where Sri Aurobindo spent his last years.
There is an old lighthouse just across the beach. Although abandoned, but it is still a landmark of the town. The Gandhi statue is the prominent landmark of Pondicherry on the sea beach.
Puducherry still retains much evidence of it being a French settlement. It is surrounded by Tamil Nadu from three sides. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian.
We had a nice, pleasant three day stay at Puducherry.