Pondicherry: French Corner in India

Pondicherry is affectionately known as Pondy, and has been officially known by the alternative name Puducherry since 2006. 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.

During ancient times, it is known as Poduke or Podukai. Ancient Greeks referred to this place as Poduke and Aryans referred to 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. By 1850, the British had secured their grip on India. They allowed the retreating French to remain in four small pockets of South Indian territory. Pondicherry was pocket central. The French acquired Puducherry in 1674 and held control, with occasional interruption from the British and Dutch, until 1954 (de jure in 1956), when it was incorporated into the Indian Union along with the rest of French India.

We were planning to visit Pondicherry for 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.


The approach to Puducherry from Chennai is through East Coast Road running beside 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.

We stopped at this motel at Mamallapuram for “Thali” lunch

We had our hotel reservations at The Promenade. It is on the Seaside Promenade beach in Pondicherry.

View from window
Roof-top restaurant

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. 

Promenade beach
Le Cafe – a 24-hour cafe on the beach
Remnants of Old Pier

The Gandhi statue is the prominent landmark of Pondicherry on the sea beach. The 4 m black marble statue of Gandhiji here is his tallest statue in Asia. The statue was constructed by the famous artist Debi Prasad Roy Choudhury. Gandhi Mandapam is surrounded by eight magnificent granite pillars, which were from brought from Gingee, a fort some 70 km away from Puducherry. There’s a tunnel beneath the statue that leads all the way to Gingee, but this tunnel has been closed in the 1960s.

Gandhi Mandapam
A pillar besides the canopy covering Gandhi statue.

There is an old lighthouse just across the beach. Although abandoned, but it is still a landmark of the town. 

A pier
Pier at night
Bay of Bengal at night

Puducherry still retains much evidence of it being a French settlement. It is surrounded by Tamil Nadu from three sides. Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian.

We had a nice, pleasant three-day stay at Pondicherry (Puducherry).

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