Pondicherry

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Pondicherry

A tiny fishing village Puducherry had turned into a grand port city by 18th century. Pudu Cherry (Pudu means in Tamil ‘New’ and Cherry means ‘City’). In course of time it became Pondicherry. According to the tradition, the town was once upon a time an abode of scholars well versed in the Vedas and hence came to be known as Vedapuri. During the days of Ottakoothar  and  Kambar  in the 11th and 12th centuries, Puducherry was known in its shortened form as Puthuvai.

The known history of Puducherry dates back to the beginning of our era. Excavations at Arikamedu, about 7 kms to the south of the town, show that Romans arrived here to trade in the 1st Century AD. The trade included dyed textiles, pottery and semi-precious stones. The findings are now displayed in the Puducherry Museum. Ancient Roman scripts mention one of the trade centres along the Indian coast as Poduca or Poduke, which refers, historians affirm, only to the present Puducherry.

Prior to this period no historical record is available. The "Bahur Plates", issued in the 8th century speak of a Sanskrit University which was here from an earlier period. Legend has it that the sage Agastya established his Ashram here and the place was known as Agastiswaram. An inscription found near the Vedhapuriswara Temple hints at the credibility of this legend.

History is available from the beginning of the fourth century A. D. when the Puducherry area was a part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram. During the next centuries Puducherry was occupied by different dynasties of the southern India. The Cholas of Tanjavur took over, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the thirteenth century. After a brief invasion by the Muslim rulers from the North, who established the Sultanate of Madurai, the Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all the South of India and lasted till 1638, when the Sultan of Bijapur began to rule over Gingee.
In 1497 the Portuguese discovered the route to India and began to expand their influence by occupying coastal areas and building harbour towns in more than 6100 KM of coast-line of the India. They established a factory in Puducherry at the beginning of the 16th century, but were compelled to leave later by the ruler of Gingee, who found them unfriendly. After that the Danes shortly set up an establishment, and likewise the Dutch. The latter had set up trading posts in Porto Novo and Cuddalore. The French, who had trading centers in the North, Mahe and Madras, were invited to open a trading centre in Puducherry by the new ruler of Gingee to compete with the Dutch.
In 1673, February 4th, Bellanger, a French officer, took up residence in the Danish Lodge in Puducherry and the French Period of Puducherry began. In 1674, Francois Martin the first Governor, started to build Puducherry and transformed it from a small fishing village into a flourishing port-town. The Dutch took over and fortified the town considerably in 1693. But four years later Holland and France signed a peace treaty and the French regained Puducherry in 1699. In the 18th century the town was laid out on a grid pattern and grew considerably.
Governors Lenoir (1726-1735), Dumas (1735-1741) and Dupleix (1742-1754) expanded the Puducherry area and made it a large and rich town. But ambition clashed with the English interests in India and the local kingdoms and a period of skirmishes and political intrigues began. Under the command of Bussy, Dupleix's army successfully controlled the area between Hyderabad and Cape Comorin. But then Robert Clive arrived in India, a dare-devil officer who dashed the hopes of Dupleix to create a French Colonial India. After a defeat and failed peace talks, Dupleix was recalled to France.
In spite of a treaty between the English and French not to interfere in local politics, the intrigues continued. Subsequently France sent Lally Tollendal to regain the French losses and chase the English out of India. After an initial success they razed Fort St. David in Cuddalore to the ground, but strategic mistakes by Lally led to the loss of the Hyderabad region and the siege of Puducherry in 1760. In 1761 Puducherry was razed to the ground in revenge and lay in ruins for 4 years. The French had lost their hold in South India.
In 1765 the town is returned to France after a peace treaty with England in Europe. Governor Law de Lauriston set to rebuild the town on the old foundations and after five months 200 European and 2000 Tamil houses had been erected. During the next 50 years Puducherry changed hands between France and England with the regularity of their wars and peace treaties.

Only after 1816 the French regained permanent control of Puducherry, but the town had lost much of its former glory. Successive Governors improved infrastructure, industry, law and education over the next 138 years. In 1947 the English left India for good, but it lasted till 1954 when the French handed Puducherry over to an independent India.
On November 1, 1954, the French possessions in India were de facto transferred to the Indian Union and Puducherry became a Union Territory. 280 years of French rule had come to an end. But only in 1963 Puducherry became officially an integral part of India after the French Parliament in Paris ratified the Treaty with India.
Puducherry became a Union Territory, not as a separate State. A Union Territory (UT) has its own government but falls directly under the Central Government in New Delhi. Though a UT may have an elected Chief Minister and cabinet members, laws and legislative regulations made in these areas have to get sanction or need to be ratified by the Central Government (Centre).
The Centre is represented by the Lt. Governor, who resides at the Raj Nivas at the Park, the former palace of the French Governor.Puducherry still has a large number of Tamil residents with French passports, whose ancestors were in French Governmental service and who chose to remain French at the time of Independence. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French Period, there is the French Consulate in Puducherry and several cultural organisation, and even the Foyer du Soldat for war veterans of the French Army.  
Of the cultural organisations the French Institute, the Alliance Francais and the Ecole Francais d'Extrème Orient are noteworthy.

How to reach :
The closest airport is in Chennai, which is around 135 kms from Puducherry (approx. 3 ½ hrs. journey by bus/car). Chennai has excellent connections with almost all cities in India and direction connection to Europe, USA, Middle East and South East Asia. Trichy airport is 220 kms away. Bangalore (320 kms) and Madurai are the other nearby airports.

The nearest rail station is at Villupuram on Chennai – Madurai rail route

The express buses takes 3 ½ hours to reach Puducherry from Chennai. The tourists may take the buses coming by the East Coast Road via Mahabalipuram, instead of the National Highway; since it is far more scenic with shimmering sea to give you company most of the way.

There are several buses to Puducherry from places like Chidambaram, Villupuram (nearest Rail station), Thanjavur, Trichy and Coimbatore. Especially private luxury buses are connecting Puducherry with other major cities in Tamil Nadu and Bangalore.

Main attractions:

Sree Aurobindo Ashram is at Rue de la marine, less than 2 km from the railway station as well as bus stand. Sree Auribindo born on 15 Aug 1872 in Kolkata and later went to England for higher studies, after returning to India he joined the Freedom Movement in Bengal and also put into imprisonment. Due to lack of evidence, he was released from the jail. In 1910, he went to French Pondicherry in search of spiritualism and there he founded a centre for Spiritualism and Yoga and attained enlightenment. The ultimate mission of the Ashram is to shape up the entire human race into a self developed. After his death on 5th Dec 1950 he was buried under the Seva-tree in the courtyard of the house where he lived. Sree Ma passed away on 17 Nov 1973 and her mortal body was laid on the upper part of the double chambered tomb of Sree Aurobindo.

In 1952 Sree Aurobindo International Education Centre, the first International University, the first of its kind in the world was founded at Pondicherry by Sree Ma on the basis of Sree Aurobindo’s ideas of education.

For more details, please log on to http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/

 

Aurovelle: The City of Dawn is the realized dream of the disciples of Sree Aurobindo and its founder was the Sree Aurobindo Society. Auroville divided into 4 zones, covering an area of 50 sq km is on Pondicherry –Chennai Rd 10 km to the N-West of Sree Aurobindo Ashram. The main attraction of Aurovelle is Matri Mandir, 30m high and shaped like a globe. Under the cool shadow of the 120 yrs old Banyan Tree (Divine Tree), the unique Mandir built by the French architect Roza Andhdra in memory of Mahaluxmi, Mahasaraswati, Maheswari and Mahakali stands as the central attraction of Aurovelle. The Matri Mandir without any electric connection is lit up by a 600 kg crystal – the biggest of its kind in the world, imported from Germany, deflecting the sunlight reflected by 2 glasses. The Amphitheatre Auditorium is adjacent to the Matri Mandir, speeches reaches 3000 audience without the help of microphone. It has also a big library to conduct researches on Indian languages.

Sea Beach: The calm and quiet and colourful sea beach of the Bay of Bengal runs along the eastern side of the city. There is a War Memorial to commemorate the soldiers during the World War-1. The light house 29ft high seems to touch the sky. The palace has become the Governor House today and the Roman Rolland Library founded in 1827 is to the north. There are more than 350 temples in Pondicherry, Manakula Vinayak Temple at Rued’ Orleans. The Bahu’s Temple is 25 km from the city. At Viliyanur Temple of the 12th century, here the deity is God Tirukameswar. And there are quiet a number of Churches at and around Pondicherry.
8 km from the city is the Chunnamber Boat House, i.e, the water sports complex at the back water of river and sea where boating may be enjoyed.
At Pondicherry there are two buses stands one is Muffasil (Suburbs) Bus Std to the S-West of the city is opp the Botanical Garden and the Express Bus Std on the Villupuram Rd (NH-4A) is another ½ km from the B.Garden. The Rly Stn is on the southern outskirts of the city.


 


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