Pondicherry is a lovely beach holiday couple of hours away from Chennai. Pondicherry is synonymous with its French Legacy and Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram. Auroville, the universal town and an experiment in Human Unity is probably the most interesting attraction here. It is worth visiting Pondicherry just to appreciate some of its magnificent monuments like The Statue of Dupleix, Place Du Government and War memorial, courtesy it’s 300 year French Legacy. Another compelling reason to visit Pondicherry would be its magnificent beaches on the 32 km coastline. Take a leisurely walk on the tree-lined boulevards along the seashore and you will forget all your worries!
The nearest airport to Pondicherry is in Chennai around 135 km away. You can drive down from Chennai on the East Coast Road to reach Pondicherry. You can contact the tourism information center at Goubert Avenue on 0413 - 2339495, 2334575 for any help required in Pondicherry.
Accord Puducherry is in old town and is 6 kms from the Railway station. Rates for double room is Rs 4500. Contact is 08489 977707.
The Promenade faces the Sea and is jusy 5 minutes from the Beach. Rates are 4800 onwards. Contact no is 0413 222 7750
Mercure Hotel is also near the beach. The double room rates are around 2500-3000. Contact no is 0413 2333633
Hotel Jayaram is on Kamaraj salai and 5 minutes from the commercial centre. Rates are 1500-2000 and contact no is 0413 2214311
Bus from Chennai & Bangalore to Pondicherry
Parveen Travels has a non AC 7pm bus from Chennai that reaches Pondicherry by 10pm and charges Rs 310.
Universal has a Volv multi axle AC Seater from Chennai at 11pm which reaches Pondicherry at 1am and charges Rs 450.
KPN Travels has a 9pm non AC bus that leaves Bangalore and reached Pondicherry at 4 am. Fare is Rs 570. Their AC bus leaves at 1030 pm from Bangalore and reaches Pondicherry by 6am.
Sharma Transport runs a AC sleeper service from Bangalore to Pondicherry at 10 pm and he fare is Rs 625.
You can book online on Red Bus or Travelyaari.
The Aurobindo Ashram is where you can begin your holiday in Pondicherry. It was established in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh the philosopher and revolutionary from Bengal, and his disciple Mirra Alfassa popularly called The Mother. The Ashram stands for a philosophy of harmonious living and attracts devotees from across the world. You can visit the tomb of Sri Aurobindo and his living quarters which has been converted into a museum set amidst a beautiful orchid garden.
Auroville was a great experiment in Human Unity. It was conceived as a universal town where people from all walk of life and from across the globe can live in harmony. Its charter was drafted by The Mother and says
1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.
4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.
Auroville caters to diverse human needs be it cultural, environmental, social or spiritual, in a sustainable manner. Designed by Roger Anger the renowned architect, Auroville is an architectural masterpiece highlighted by the magnificent Matri Mandir, a spherical meditation centre. Note that it is not a typical tourist spot and you need to be clear about the purpose of your visit. If you are a casual visitor, you should go to the visitor centre for information. There is a video available here about Auroville. If your interests go deeper and want to experience living in Auroville, then you need to make an appointment at the information desk.
After quenching your spiritual thirst, hit the promenade along Goubert Avenue. It’s the hotspot of Pondicherry city with a serene beach on one side and monuments on the other side. The Serenity Beach wasn’t always this calm and had witnessed some bloody battles between the French and the British! The statue of Mahatma Gandhi and War Memorial are interesting spots to have a look at.
The Anglo-French textile mill is worth a visit. The fabric from the Mill makes for good mementoes.
Manakula Vinayakar temple is more than 300 years old and is the most famous temple in Pondicherry. Darshana timings are from 545am to noon and 4pm to 930 pm. Remember to take the blessing of the temple elephant outside the entrance! It is located on rue de Orleans.
Bibliophiles can head to The Alliance Francais, Romain Rolland Library and the French Center for some interesting books on the history of Pondicherry.
Jawahar Toys Museum is also worth a visit located in the Old Lighthouse building near Gandhi Maidan. It houses toys dressed in various traditional attire representing the culture of different regions of India. There is a fairy land section supervised by Lord Ganesha in puppet form!
The French came to Pondicherry in the 17th century, but its history can be traced all the way back to the 1st century AD. The ancient Greek travel guide “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” refers to a market place “Poduke” which in all likelihood is a reference to Arikamedu, 3 Kms from modern Pondicherry! What is more interesting is that in 1937 Ancient Roman pottery was discovered during archaeological excavations. So Pondicherry must have been a trading port since Roman times.
In 1674, the French set up a wing of the French East India Company in Pondicherry. Despite changing hands between the Dutch and the British, Pondicherry remained a French colony till as late as 1954.
Chunnambar is arguably the best picnic spot around. Located in Ariyankuppam which is 7 kms from Pondicherry, it has the calm backwaters on one side and the wild sea on the other. Stay overnight in one of the tree houses here which provide panoramic views of the never-ending sea. Those who want more action can visit the water sports center and try a hand at kayaking or even hydro planes.