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 Pondicherry
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 Places of Interest in Pondicherry

Beaches

Serenity

This beach is ten-minute drive to the north of the town. The ambience is well-captured in its name. It is ideal for a quick dip and for sun bathing.

Plage Paradiso


At Chunnambarm 8kms from the town, along Cuddalore Main Road, lies this stretch of tropical paradise. Flanked by a quiet-flowing creek on one side. You can sail downstream to the sands and pitch up a cozy seaside tent for yourself. Overnight within the tree-houses on the backwater banks provides a relishing experience of the great outdoors. A short, pleasant cruise into the sea from here could reward you with the memorable sight of playful dolphins in natural habitat, horsing around.

Karaikal Beach

Sunrise-watchers can catch their magnificent view over the bay, with the pretty Arasalar river reaching out to the sea. Alternatively, you can canoe or Kayak in picture-book surroundings or have a round of beach volley ball.

Mahe Beach

Twenty two kms south of Kannur, on the northern strip of coastal Kerala lies this bewitching beach strip. From Calicut, you will find this 75kms north of the town, bordered by a luxuriant crop of tall palm and dotted with numerous fishing hamlets.

Yanam River Cruise

Yanam, in coastal Andhra Pradesh, provides a different route to exhilaration. As you enjoy a sunset cruise down the spectacular Goringa Godavari river which winds through rich mangrove forests.
Churches

The Eglise de Sacre Coeur de Jesus, situated on the south boulevard, stands out as an oriental specimen of Gothic splendour. It contains rare and beautiful stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ.

The Eglise de Notre Dame de la Conception Immaculate, on Cathedral Street, was first built in 1692. It took its present shape in 1791.

The Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, in Rue Dumas, is notable for its masonry-which uses the finest of limestone mixed with white of the egg-making for a texture identical to that of white marble. It is modeled on the Basilica at Lourdes, in southern France.

Temples

Villiannur

You can locate the architecturally fine sight of the Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswara Temple, 10kms from Pondicherry. Thousands of devotees converge here for a ten-day annual festival (Brahmotsavam), held during May-June along with the appearance of the full moon. The massive 15m tall temple chariot, basking in finery, is taken out on a procession by a devout crowd. It's a remarkable sight. Besides, the breath-taking Ousteri lake nearby, spread over 10 hectaresm, is home to rare varieties of birds.

Thirunallur Temple

Thirunallar is 5kms west of Karaikal. The sanctum sanctorum of Lord Dharbaraneswara Temple holds Siva as the main deity. However, its shrine dedicated to Saneeswaran (Saturn) which figures in the story of Nala-Damayanti; makes this the most famous Saturn temple in India. The blessings of Saturn are said to be overwhelming, while its wrath causes great misery. The temple hosts a mammoth festival (Shanti peyarchi), each time Saturn moves from one sign of the Zodaic to another.

The Varadaraja Temple

The Varadaraja Temple (12the century) is the most important Vishnu temple in town, located just west of Gandhi Road, off Tyagaraja Street. Here, Narasimha sits behind Venkatachalapathy, the main deity.

Vedapureswarar Temple

This 18th century Siva Shrine in Pondicherry houses stone inscriptions and a swayambhulinga. Recently renovated, the gopuram (tower) is brilliantly colourful.

Karaikal Ammaiyur Temple

Legend says that Lord Siva disguised himself as an ascetic, seeking alms from a lady called Punithavarthi living in Karaikal. Who later, as Karaika Ammaiyar, was destined to find an esteemed place among his 63 saints. An image of this lady saint is housed in a small and beautiful temple erected right where she lived.

Manakkula Vinayakar Temple

Located right behind the Raj Nivas in Pondicherry town, this Ganesha temple has an interesting aside. A neighbouring Frenchman finding the place of worship of nuisance, made several futile attempts to do away with the deity. Still, it kept reappearing. Convinced, he turned an active believer. Therefore, it is also fondly referred to as Vellakkaran (white man) Pillai (Ganesha).

Mosque

Masthan Saheb Darga

Dedicated to Masthan Saheb Syed Dawood Buhari, a Sufi saint who came to Karaikal from Buhara two centuries ago. He died aged 120, in 1829. Various miracles are attributed to him. The over-170-year-old Kandhuri Festival (November) is celebrated in his commemoration. It starts with the hoisting of a huge flag on a pole-reminiscent of a ship and a sea-faring tradition. And winds up, 10 days later with a spectacle of floats lit with electric colours.

Museums

The Pondicherry Museum

On the ground floor, the major attraction is the central space with 3 curious transport mechanisms-a coach, a palanquin (sedan chair) and a pousse-pousse which required two attendants, one to steer and one to push. The bronze gallery displays the images of gods and goddesses together with a wide collection of temple lamps; used across different dynasties down centuries. Pre-Christian relics which we see here, such as remnants of Greek and Roman amphora jars, pieces from the Tsung periods in China and beads made from glass and precious stones were dug out from the Arikamedu site, just south of Pondicherry.

Bharati and Bharatidarsan Memorial Museums

The former is in 20 Eswaran Koil Street where the famous Tamil poet-patriot lived after arriving in 1908 in search of refuge. The latter is in 95, Perumal Koil Street, the home of Kanakasubhuratnam who adopted the name meaning disciple of Bharati which was become the second place of literary pilgrimage.

Jawahar Toy Museum

Jawahar Toy Museum, Goubert Salai, has a small collection of costume dolls (dancers, professions) from different states; a 15 minutes diversion.

The Botanical Garden

The Botanical Gardens (entrance South of City Bus Stand) which was opened in 1826 has a variety of rare and exotic plants and an aquarium with exhibits showing local methods of coastal fishing.

The Government Park

It is laid out with lawns, flower beds and fountains( one at the centre is of Napoleon III period), in front of the Raj Niwas, the residence of the Lieutenant Governor. The park was originally the site of the first French garrison, Fort Louis, destroyed in 1761 by the British.

Monuments

The Statue of Dupleix

The statue is Pondicherry's tribute to Francois Dupleix whose able governorship came to an end in 1754. However, French recognition came about a century later, when, in 1870, they paid homage by commissioning two statues-one in France and the other in Pondicherry. The 2.88 m tall structure was erected over six carved ornamental granite pillars at the Place du Republique. It now stands restationed overlooking a children's park at the southern end of a promenade, now named Goubert Avenue.

Place Du Gourvernement

The Place Du Gouvernement is a brilliant example of town planning in Pondicherry. Comprising the 18th century Palais Du Gouvernement (now the Raj Nivas not open to the public) and the old tribunals (now housing the Legislative Assembly) along with a neat three-sided line-up of other handsome buildings. At the centre, surrounded by a well-tended garden, stands the Water Monument, sculpted to commemorate the introduction of good drinking water for the population. Some exquisitely carved monolithic pillars, brought to Pondicherry from the Gingee Fort after its capture in 1751, adorn the place.

19th Century Light House

The early sea-farers to Pondicherry were guided by a beacon kept burning on the Red Hills (Gorimedu), about 5kms west of the town. The now-abandoned light house standing on the edge of the sea near the Place Du Gouvernement was lighted for the first time on I July, 1836. The light was placed upon a masonry tower, 29m above the seal level and was visible upto a distance of 29kms into the sea. In 1931, the fixed light was replaced by a revolving lantern. It fell into disuse with the commissioning of the new light house in 1979.

French War Memorial

No visit to Pondicherry is complete without a free-wheeling stroll down the peaceful promenade-Goubert Avenue ('Beach Road', locally speaking). Where you will find this elegant tribute to the uniform. It gets prettily illuminated during a solemn ceremony every 14 July, Bastille Day.

The Statue of John of Arc

A lasting triumphant image of the heroic French damsel Jeanne d' Arc, is frozen in marble, within the garden laid out in front of L'Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges.

Aurbindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo began the practice of Yoga in 1905 and 5 years later moved to Pondy from Bengal. And during his 40 years here, he worked out a new system of mind development which he called Integral Yoga. Madame Mirra Richard, a French painter-sculptor who had followed the same path on her own, joined him later. She is now known as the Mother. Together, in1926, they founded an ashram where his belief -"All life is Yoga"- could be put into practice.

Ariyankuppam ( Arikamedu)

A historical site, 4kms south of Pondicherry, which revealed local trade with Romans as early as 2nd century BC. Some even believe that Roman settlements existed here. Moreover, you will find the amazing ruins of an 18th century French Jesuit Mission House here. It was abandoned in 1783.

The French Cemetery At Karaikal

In the French cemetery on Rue de Marche (Market Street), administrators, landlords, port officials, women and children are buried under curious headstones with interest-evoking inscriptions. There is also an aged, tiny chapel within the walls.

Park Monument (Aayi Mandapam)

The most beautiful public space in town is the green and shaded Government Park, in the heart of Pondicherry. Standing smack in its centre is Aayi Mandapam. Built in Greco-Roman architecture, un-sinfully white, during the reign of Napoleon III-Emperor of France. It bears the name of Aayi- a 16th century courtesan, who razed down her home and replaced it with a reservoir. To appease a passing king, angry at having mistaken her candle-lit residence for a holy place. It was from this lake that Napoleon's men quenched their thirst, some 300 years later. Napoleon, charmed by the story, ordered a monument to Aayi.

Ananda Ranga Pillai Mansion

Ananda Ranga Pillai was the celebrated dubash of Dupleix, the governor of Pondicherry while it flourished under French glory. Pillai's compilation of diaries serve as a storehouse of information on 18th century French India. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the west side - then known as "natives quarters." Its architecture represents a curious mix of French and Indian styles.







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