Pondicherry, nicknamed, as “Pondy” is a union territory, situated on the Coromondal coast about 160 kms south of Chennai. Pondicherry offers an amazing confluence of age-old heritage and modern advancement. The old French flavor is distinctly visible in the well-laid gardens, magnificent churches, historical monuments, magnificent mansions, and clean and wide roads, which still carry french names. Though very small, Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. Pondicherry is where you can find the blend of French colonial and Indian cultures, which is unique in south India and a true one-off for travellers.
The entire first act of Ang Lee’s blockbuster film Life of Pi was shot in the coastal town of Puducherry. The backdrop to many of the sequences in Life of Pi have been shot here. A notable backdrop to one of Pi’s childhood memories are shot near the French Quarter, Aayi Mandapam, an imposing Arc d’Triomphe-style, Napolean III-era memorial, outside the Travaux Publics government building.
Endowed with immense natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, Pondicherry tourism department uses the punch-line “Give time a break” for their advertisement campaign. And that is indeed one of the more attractive features of this city. So relax, put your feet up, switch off your cell phone, and forget all about returning to work on Monday morning. Enjoy a fine meal with a glass of wine, rent a bicycle and take a ride at the promenade, take a walk in the park. Do something new an interesting that you wouldn’t do in the city you live in.
The city has a long and interesting history of trade and war. 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. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East.
In June 1965, the Mother, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, started speaking of her intention to build, north of Puducherry, a “universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
Pondicherry is a great place to look around, take a walk by the sea, attend a cultural program. Mode of transport in Pondicherry, is three ways. You can take the auto rickshaws (which will overcharge you everytime), or rent a bike, or rent a bicycle. The rates are good, there are no hassles, and you can choose the bike you want. You would have to have a license to rent a bike though and pay around Rs.1000 as returnable deposit.