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Pondicherry: A tale of two cultures (Day 2)


Tripoto.com
Duration: 2 Days
DAY 2

Next morning started with an attempt to see the sunrise. But sunrises and I have a history. Till date I have never seen a sunrise. It was quite cloudy so I couldn't see the sun rise until it was already up and about.

Photos of Promenade Beach, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India 1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

The promenade was surprisingly empty and extremely clean. There were people actually lying on the street trying to cool off after morning walk. The Promenade houses a Police station which has some antique brass cannons guarding its gate. The police too have an interesting uniform quite different from what we usually see.

Photos of Promenade Beach, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India 1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

There is a war memorial for the soldiers who were martyred in WW II. Further along one can see a park that houses the statue of Joan of Arc. The park is closed for public and hence one has to see the statue from outside. There is an old light house also which seemed ready to crumble down at the slightest knock.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

As I pottered along I came across a park which has a unique history. The local people say, during the 5th century there used to be a Dancing girl's house. The house was so beautifully decorated and smelling of incense that a Chola king passing by mistook it for a temple and bowed at its doorstep. A local person passing by quickly pointed out the mistake. The king was extremely angry and ordered his men to demolish the house and chase away the danseuse. The lady begged to the king for forgiveness and asked the king to reconsider. The king, a little pacified forgave her. She later donated the land for building a water tank and started living in the temple next to the park. In the 1900s this park was the parade ground for French battalions. Later it was renovated and at present it is the greenest part of the White colony. 

DAY 1
Photos of Bharathi Park, White Town, Pondicherry, Puducherry, India 1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

The lush green trees in the park and the gentle breeze seemed to caress my sun burnt skin making me forget all my pain and fatigue. This park is surrounded on all four sides by some massive buildings. The residence of the Lt Governor of Puducherry, the Puducherry museum, the UCO bank and the old General hospital are located around this park.

The second day was fixed for Auroville and Matrimandir. The day began with some heavy breakfast so that our batteries remained charged through the day. We went to Baker Street, an authentic French bakery serving wonderful breakfast. It took some time to understand how to order and get the food. Finally we settled in for some donuts, tarts, sandwich and quiches. All washed down with some great coffee. The unique thing about this place is all their servers speak fluent French. For a chocolate lover and a foodie this place is heaven and a must visit.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

As one moves through the city, one leaves behind the French colony and enters the Tamil section of the town. There is a stark contrast between the ambience. There was a festival going on in the temple and hundreds of people were on the road. I was riding a bike after some 5 yrs with my friend on the pillion. A few skids and bumps brought the traffic cops running towards me. They were extremely nice, helped us cross that stretch of road and waved us off with a smile. The people of Pondicherry are extremely friendly and helpful.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

The road to Auroville is quite long and winding but it's quite beautiful. The road is dotted with villages and roadside eateries. There are lush green trees along the path and a very well made road.

When we reached Auroville we found that it closes early on Sunday. We were quickly sent to the Museum where we were given visitor pass to the viewing area of the Matrimandir. One can proceed for the viewing area only after watching a small video about Auroville. It's a long walk and there are cycles also available if one wants to pump up the heart. Throughout the path, there are stones which explain the 12 teaching of Mother and the essence of Matimandir.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

The viewing area is shaded by huge trees and one can see the gold discs of the Matrimandir which make it so impressive.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

Auroville houses numerous boutiques, handicraft shops, museums, book shops and places to eat. There seemed to be an energy radiating in the place and all around I could see happy faces, as if all the troubles of the world were left outside the gates of the ashram.

My friend was quite eager to visit the meditation centre of Matrimandir but one can only visit it with prior permission which takes 3-4 days.

From Auroville we headed back to the city for a quick tour of Aurobindo Ashram. People often confuse Aurobindo ashram with Auroville. Aurobindo ashram is in the white colony and dedicated to Sri Aurobindo while Auroville is an ashram in honor of the Mother of Aurobindo Ashram.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

The Aurobindo ashram is a nice place to visit. The ashram houses the shrine of Sri Aurobindo and a book store. Most of the Ashram is out of bounds for public. The house has been converted into a museum where the life events of Sri Aurobindo are showcased. One may note that the Aurobindo ashram has a few guest houses on the promenade but booking has to be done well in advance. The guest houses are neat and have a wonderful view of the sea.

We were leaving that night and had the whole evening free so we headed to the Pondicherry Museum. It's not much but one can get a glimpse of the life of the French settled there. 

The French colony is best explored by foot. Massive houses with their high walls and doors contain lovely cafes and hotels which give us a glimpse of the French connection. All the roads are Rue de something or something and all the restaurants have Le and Dupliex in their names. If one has travelled to France one might see the similarities in the architecture of the houses.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

As the day came to an end we headed out to the Rocky beach to find some serenity amongst all the chaos. It was Holi poornima, the full moon rising from the horizon and it's beams reflecting on the sea was mesmerising. It's a memory I would carry in my mind forever.

Photos of  1/1 by Srijani Banerjee

Two lovely days later we were packed up to return to the usual grind.

Pondicherry exemplifies mutual coexistence. A town that beautifully balances two extremely varied cultures - the traditional Tamil life and the quaint French one. A lovely place to unwind and relax even when unbelievably crowded.

It took me a long time to visit Pondy but I am so glad I made it happen. 

The first day of my trip can be explored in  https://www.tripoto.com/trip/pondicherry-a-tale-of-two-cultures-5974bb734f225

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