Puducherry (or Pondicherry - its earlier name by which it is still known), is a union territory of India. It lies on the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with a part of it on the coast of the Bay of Bengal (Eastern side), and one part (Mahe) on Arabian sea (western side).
In the 19th century to early 20th century, the region was under the control of the French East India Company, and to this day, vestiges of the French colonial architecture and culture exist in most parts of this region, along with Tamil culture.
Puducherry was formed out of out of four territories that were part of the former French India:
- Puducherry territory
- Karikal (Karaikal) territory
- Mahé territory
- Yanaon/Yanam territory (excluding Chandannagar part)
The union territory is named after its largest district, i.e., Puducherry (Pondicherry until 2006). Puducherry is also referred to as “White Town” – especially some areas which have French colonies (where French people used to live).
Pondicherry is an attractive vacation spot with tropical beaches, and a colorful scene of Tamil traditions intermingled with French colonial architecture and culture.
Some things to do and places to see in Pondicherry are:
- Popular Beaches of Pondicherry and Auroville (like Rock Beach, Promenade Beach, Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach, Mahe Beach, Karaikal Beach, Auroville Beach, Quiet Beach, Reppo Beach, Plage Paradiso Beach, Veerampattinam Beach)
- White Town Promenade
- Auroville – Located a few kilometers away from Pondicherry – Auroville is, by itself, a relaxing vacation spot and has many resorts, retreats, bakeries, beaches and Matrimandir – a golden dome shaped meditation center which is popular with tourists and meditation lovers
- Pondicherry Museum
- Pondicherry (new) light house – It was recently renovated, and has attractive hexagonal interiors and architecture; offers a lovely view of the ocean
- Aurobindo Ashram
- Pondicherry Botanical Garden
- Jawahar Toy Museum
Things to Do
The historic and scintillating town of Puducherry is known for its splendor beaches and beautiful French architecture, but there is much more to it then the commonly known features. For those who are looking for a time out from the hectic and busy work life, Puducherry has a lot in its bag to offer, from historical to religious places, gardens and beaches, adventure sports and boat rides, and much more. If you wish to go past the study of heritage and colonialism, here is a list of the best things to do in Puducherry (Pondicherry).
- Stay Close to Nature at Botanical Garden: One of the major tourist attractions and a must-visit place in Puducherry, the Botanical Garden is home to a large variety of exotic leafy and flowery plants and was founded in 1862 by C.S. Perrott. Along with all the rare plants and trees that have been gathered from across the globe, there is a big aquarium as well where visitors can see some water life.
- Boat Ride at Chunnambar Boat House:
A small village in the outskirts of Puducherry, Chunnambar is visited by tourists for its pleasing surroundings and pristine water bodies that offer boat house rides. The tranquil beach with pristine white sand and the calm water is all one need to take a break from the hectic daily life devour the beautiful view.
- Visit Auroville:
A place known as the experimental township, Auroville is a small-town residing people of all caste, creed, and gender who live in harmony in this spectacular looking place. Take a break from the hustle of the city and relish in the peace and calm of the famous Auroville beach and the small yet soothing and bewitching town which you can explore while cycling
If you are visiting Puducherry with your friends, the most fun thing to do is go Paintballing. Gather some equipment, wear your gears, and shoot your friends in a frenzy of colors. There cannot be a better way to complete a vacation trip then to do engage in this fun activity,
- Bird Watching at Ousteri National Park:
Ousteri National Park is located 10km from the town and is rich in diverse flora and fauna. Take out our binoculars and have a good look at the beautiful variety of birds at the Pondicherry Ousteri Lake. The region is home to many different plant and trees species, which invites a wide range of migrating birds. With its gorgeous setting, Ousteri Lake is a definite visit to have some solitude time.
- Explore the Site of Arikamedu:
Explore the old Roman Centre of trade that been obscured from the eyes and ears of the ordinary Tamil tourism. The town had been populated by Romans, Cholas, and French from the first century BC to the second century AD. The Arikamedu glass bead manufacturing plant is known as the mother of all bead establishments across the globe.
- Admire the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
One of the most sanctified places in Pondicherry, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is just a few kilometers from the bus station. With a spectacular façade and interior, the Basilica of Sacred Heart is the most beautiful looking Catholic Churches in Pondicherry which showcases Gothic architectural features.
- Visit the Ancient Sri ManakulaVinayagar Temple:
The name of the name has been derived from two Tamil words, ‘manal’ which means ‘sand’, and ‘kulam’ which means ‘pond near the sea’. Sri ManakulaVinayagar Temple is a five-century old temple located behind Raj Niwas and dedicated to Lord Ganesh. It houses a large idol of Vinayaka (lord Ganesh) known as Vellakkaran Pillai and devotes from all over the place visit the temple to give their prayers.
- Have Fun Doing Adventure Water Sports:
Puducherry is known for its plethora of water sports at its beaches, and it is an ideal place for someone looking to do something out of the usual. Try the super fun sports such as surfing, scuba diving, karting, snorkeling, and paddle-boarding and make memories for the future to relish.
There are about 8.36 lakhs local people in Puducherry. Most people here speak Tamil. While English is widely understood, French is also understood by some people here.
Among religions, Christianity is predominant in Pondicherry, followed by Hinduism. The place has many churches and cathedrals along with temples and meditation retreats.
Many Christian and Hindu festivals are celebrated in Puducherry, like:
- Bastille Day
- Good Friday
- Aadi Amavasai (new moon day)
- Akshaya Tritiya
- Villianur Temple Festival
- Mothers Birth Anniversary
Pondicherry has an interesting shopping scene for people to indulge in some souvenir shopping. Some popular shopping spots in the region include:
- Cluny Embroidery Center
- Studio Ebony
- Anokhi - The Cotton House
- Auro Woodworks
- Serenity Beach Bazaar
- Kriti Eco Boutique
- Nehru Street
- Goubert Market
- Ma Pondy Cherie
- Nava Vihan
- Auroville Market
The cuisine of Puducherry consists of a mix of dishes with French or Tamil influence.
Some must-try delicacies when in Puducherry and Auroville include:
- Salad Niçoise
- Sweet and Savory Crepes (French style)
- Pal Payasam (Sweet Milk and Rice porridge)
- Soybean Dosai (an Indian crepe)
- Vegan Chocolates
- French Breads, Croissants and Cakes (esp at Bread and Chocolate Bakery at Auroville)
- Mason & Co. Vegan Organic Chocolates and Cocoa products
Pondicherry offers a plethora of experiences for the adrenaline junnkies and adventure enthusiasts – especially water sports and activities. Some interesting things to try in Puducherry are:
- Scuba Diving
Puducherry does have its own regional airport (Puducherry airport), but it is currently not functional for domestic passenger flights. So, the best way to reach Puducherry is to take a flight to Chennai International Airport first, and then take a bus or cab to Puducherry (this could take anywhere between an hour or two, but not more than that).