Puducherry: The Riviera of the East

Gopal Lahiri

Photo Feature by Gopal Lahiri


Puducherry, located at the Coromondal coast of India, is full of echoes that retains its colonial past, the French India. It’s all over in 1962 when French India ceases to exist and but this Union territory is still breathing French in almost every nook and corner. A beautiful and balmy town, Puducherry, erstwhile Pondicherry, brings tourists in droves for its museums, monuments, spiritual pilgrimage, beach and French cafes!


We were almost sailing through the smooth East Coast road and reached Auroville, 10kms away from the main city. It’s almost two hours journey from Chennai.Auroville is a truly international township and people from all around the globe come here to learn the spirit of life through integral education.


The Matri Mandir or the golden meditation dome is the focal point of this spiritual centre. One can walk around under leafy garden, visiting shops selling handicrafts, museums and cafes or collect some plants from the well-maintained nursery.




A visit to the Asram centre at Rue de la Marine was a wonderful experience. Founded in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, it is a vibrant centre having it own farms and gardens, work centres of weaving, batik fabric and other handicrafts, libraries and having facilities for a variety of cultural pursuits. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother spent most of their lives here. Their bodies were there in white marble shrine in the tree shaded courtyard within the Ashram. We visited the various work-centres and collected some beautiful candles



The best part of our trip was the long walk on the main historical promenade along Goubert Avenue, lined by charming colonial buildings. Even though it was a hot day, we enjoyed the sea breeze to the fullest extent. The Mahatma Gandhi statue alongside a statue of Marquis Dupleix and the War Memorial to honours the fallen French soldiers of World War I were located right on the beach and the whitewashed 19th century lighthouse was a true spectacle. The crowd were enjoying the sea breeze as well as the food on the beach side café


The French Institute of Pondicherry was established in 1955 and it is still the most important institute engaging in research on Social science, Ecology and Indology. There is a gorgeous museum inside which has great collection of books, photos, arts and antiques.


Followed it up with a visit to the Notre Dame des Agnes Church, which was located near the railway station and started its life as a small chapel in 1686 and wasmodelled on the lines of the basilica in Lourdes. The elegant architecture with a central dome and elongated columns supplemented by beautifulmulti-coloured windows.

A casual walk through the French colonies exudes charm. The spotless clean streets with names like Rue Romain Rollandand Dumas. Private homes with white shutters and bright yellow facades bedecked with flowers, and cycleson the road, create a very French feel. There are many exquisite sun-filled heritage buildings that have been converted into boutique hotels and cafes.



We were delighted to be at Le de artist café, decorated in French style and enjoyed pot tea, croissant and non-veg crepe.  Villa Shanti was our final spot before leaving for Chennai.It always conjured up images of quiet place and serene look!


There was an open courtyard and many nooks and corners where we could laze around over a glass of juice and hot pakoras as evening light started glowing. We were done!



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