What is your idea of a holiday? Are you the cool careless beach person? Or the classy traveller in you has an upper hand? Whatever it may be, this place has it all! Puducherry, Pondy in short is a perfect holiday destination if you are looking for a pleasant break from your daily monotonous routine.
Located 152 Km from Chennai, Puducherry is a shortcut to paradise. Frequented by crowd from all parts and spectrum of society, Pondy will give you a feeling of bliss. You can find French ladies resting under the cool shade of hotel verandas or tanned Americans holding tourist books and trying to find there way around the place. You can see young Indian couples spending their honeymoon in the company of sun and sand, and if you are watchful enough you might even spot young college brats sneaking booze in the plastic covers of Bata! Yes! Liquor in pondy is very cheap.
Moving on! Puducherry has a classy history. Earliest records of Puducherry dating back to 2nd century show it as a marketplace named ‘Poduke’. Puducherry came to notice only after the advent of colonial powers like French, Dutch, Portugese and English. After a series of annexations and multiple treaties Puducherry officially was de facto transferred to the Indian union in 1954. And only after 1963 it became an integral part of India in its true meaning. A funny thing about Puducherry is that it was captured many times by different European powers but it so happened that every time it was captured, it was returned to France. Due to this the French rule was rather undisturbed thus Puducherry still retains a lot of French attributes like food, architecture and culture.
Talking in political terms, the union territory of Puducherry consists of four districts – Puducherry, Karaikal and Yanam on the way of Bengaland Mahe on the Arabian Sea. This unique geography is a legacy of the French colonial period which had these distributed areas under its influence for a long time.
The French influence can be seen everywhere in Pondy. The streets are in French grid pattern with perpendicular streets cutting each other in right angles. The whole city is divided into two parts, the ‘Ville Blanche’ or the French quarters and the ‘Ville noir’, the Indian quarters. Pretty classy names huh? Well Puducherry is filled with French names, restaurants, villas, hotels and what not, all of them remind you of the French presence there.
Puducherry although has a lot of places, but it can be covered within a day or two. It is a perfect destination for all sorts of tourists. There are churches, beaches, ashrams, museums, eateries, bars, emporiums, antique shops, and what not. Name it and it is there. There are mainly four beaches in pondy: namely, Gandhi or rock beach, paradise beach, serenity beach and Auro beach.
Gandhi beach or the beach road also known as Gaubert Avenue or Promenade runs parallel to the rock lined sea shore in the heart of the city. It is this place where you can actually see the confluence of Indian and French heritage. It is this street where stand the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Francois Dupleix, a French governor of Puducherry stand. A French war memorial is also there in memory of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives in World War 1. There is a lighthouse and an eatery called ‘Le cafe’, open all day. One can enjoy variety of French dishes sitting in a beautiful shade overlooking the endless and the waves crashing by the rocks. Rock beach is at its best in the evenings, when a gentle breeze is present along with a lot of tiny stalls of cheap merchandise. In the nights the walks alongside the beach road will definitely turn out to be an unforgettable moment of life.
To the south of Puducherry lies paradise beach. One can reach here through boat, available at chunnambur boat house as well as motor able road. This beach has clean sand and tricky energetic waves. The chunnambur boat house is located on the mouth of back waters. There are a lot of places to hang around this place if you have enough time.
To the north, lie two beaches, Serenity and Auro. Serenity is a small fishermen beach which receives lesser number of tourists. This is what keeps it cleaner, serene and pure. The sunrise from serenity is a sight never to be missed. Although there is nothing much to do around this place, you can get very cheap accommodations and privacy to spend quality time with friends, family and loved ones here.
Auro beach, the farthest from the town, is located near to Auroville. Auroville or ‘the city of Dawn’ was built with a motto of letting people with goodwill live together in harmony. Here, around 2000 people of different nationalities live together like a community, and engage in agriculture, administration, commerce etc. One can relax under the cool green shades, the serene quiet environment or visit the golden globe shaped ‘Matrimandir’. It is pure golden on the outside and white on the inside with a crystal at the centre.
Parallel to the beach road, is heritage town. It is a network of streets lined with French heritage buildings dating back to the colonial era many of these have been turned to private residences and offices. It is a nice place to spend some leisure time in the evenings. The walks through the criss cross lanes here takes you back to the era of colonial pondy. There are a lot of interesting buildings here if you know about all of them. Lycee Francois, French institute of Puducherry, French consulate, Raj niwas etc are some of them. There is Aurobindo ashram, situated just there. It has different initiatives going on to serve the community.
Puducherry is also famous for its churches. Some of the famous churches definitely worth a visit are church of the sacred heart of Jesus, the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, The church of Our Lady of angels, the statue of Joan of arc etc. There are also a lot of temples here, a highlight being ‘the pyramid temple of Nataraj’ located on ECR. Other places of interest here are Puducherry museum, Jawaharlal Nehru museum of toys, botanical garden etc.
Puducherry has a variety of cuisines and amazing dishes to offer when it comes to food. You can experience all sorts of cuisines including French, Arabian, Italian and Indian of course. I have some personal favourites though, One of them being ‘Le club’. For those who prefer classic dinner in a rich ambience, it’s a perfect place. Although it is expensive but the dishes served are worth each penny. For those who have a low budget quality food can be expected at aforementioned Le café, of the pizzeria called Café Xtasi. It boasts of being Puducherry’s very own pizza heaven. It is famous for serving 63cm size pizza which serves 8. Personally tried I would definitely advise one to try this. It is reasonable and one cannot just get enough of it.
Whether on a college trip or honeymoon, Puducherry offers a lot for everybody. Whether it is the rising sun, the evening breeze, the moonlight reflected on the surface of sea, the peach coloured buildings or the crowded streets of puducherry, it is a beautiful place to visit and then remember for a lifetime. As its motto suggests, it definitely ‘Gives time a break’