Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, is the capital and largest city of India’s Union Territory of Puducherry. The city is located in the Puducherry district on India’s southeast coast, guarded by the state of Tamil Nadu, with which it happens to share the majority of its culture, heritage, and language. Pondicherry is a well-known tourist destination. The city has several colonial buildings, churches, temples, and statues, which, along with the town planning and French-style avenues in the old part of town, help to keep much of the colonial ambiance. Here’s a guide for you if you’re planning a vacation to pondicherry or a little getaway!!
Pondicherry places to visit
Scuba Diving in Pondicherry
Pondicherry offers an incredible scuba diving adventure off the country’s East Coast. A dive into the sea will allow you to see lovely natural coral reefs and other exotic life forms such as manta rays, kingfish, sea snakes, lionfish, butterflies, crustaceans, moray eels, and many more. Aside from that, if you’re lucky, you might even see whale sharks, sharks, dolphins, and turtles. You can also choose to dive at an artificial reef and enjoy the thrill of the activity, making Pondicherry an alluring diving destination. The best months to visit are February-April and September-November.
Air: Pondicherry does have its own airport, and air travel is becoming increasingly popular. The airport is located in Lawspet, and a new terminal was recently inaugurated, with flights from Bangalore and other major cities scheduled. However, if you want to dive into the sea, SpiceJet is the only airline that has flights to Pondicherry via Bangalore.
Rail: Pondicherry has its own railway station and is well connected by a broad gauge railway line to a five-way junction at Villupuram and Chennai. There are express trains that run between the Union Territory and neighboring cities and states.
Road: Pondicherry is well linked to national and state highways via a well-developed network of roads and infrastructure. With a total road length of 2552 km, one can easily reach the location by road from either Chennai, which is 150 kilometers away, or Bangalore, which is 309 kilometers away. State and private bus services operate on a regular basis to and from Bangalore.
Aurobindo Ashram, located in Pondicherry’s White Town, is named after its founder, Sri Aurobindo Ghosh. The foundation of this ashram was laid on November 24, 1926, when he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry, surrounded by his disciples from all over the world.
This ashram was founded with the intention of assisting people in attaining moksha and inner peace. The majority of visitors from all over the country visit the ashram to gain spiritual knowledge and experience. The ashram by far is one of the richest in the world.
Furthermore, the ashram has no branches and only exists in Pondicherry. The day this ashram was established is recognized as the founding day of the ashram, which Sri Aurobindo described in his writings as “less created than grown around me as its center.” Mirra Alfassa, an Aurobindo disciple, was instrumental in the establishment of the ashram. She took care of the Aurobindo Ashram shortly after Sri Aurobindo Ghosh’s death in 1950 and was known as the ashram’s ‘Mother.’
At the moment, the Ashram has over 500 devotees, 500 students enrolled in the democratic progress school, and 1300 patients. All of these people live in Ashram’s main building, which is made up of a series of interconnected houses. These houses are within walking distance of the ashram. Some of Ashram’s facilities, such as the library and the main building, can only be accessed after gaining a gate pass from the Bureau Central or one of Ashram’s guest houses.
In addition, the ashram has a spiritual center comprising four houses occupied by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo at different points in time. There is also a samadhi in the courtyard under the frangipani tree, where Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s bodies were buried. Every day, people come to pay their respects by laying flowers on them.
- Collective meditations at Aurobindo Ashram- 7:25 PM – 7:50 PM on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (no pass required). On Thursday and Sunday, from 7:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., there will be a group meditation at the playground (accessible to Ashramites and people residing in the guest houses only)
- Meals served in the dining hall
- Breakfast is served from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
- Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
- Dinner is served from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- (Available after obtaining a pass from Bureau Central.)
- Bureau Central’s Exhibition and Video Programs – An exhibition of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s writings is being organized as an introduction to their lives. It also gives a valuable overview of Ashram and the daily tasks carried out within it. Except for Sunday, a video presentation depicts Sri Aurobindo’s life and literary works, as well as the Mother, flowers and their relevance, the Ashram, and much more.
- Tours – Autocare Services offers two tours per week at 8:15 a.m. to see the Ashram and other departments associated with the Ashram. Auroville is visited at 2:00 PM. Because first-time visitors are not permitted, the Auroville trip doesn’t quite wait for the meditation (from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM) at the Matrimandir.
The best way to experience the Aurobindo Ashram is during the winter months when the weather is mild and not too humid. The months of November to March are the most favorable. In addition, the 15th of August, Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, is a very hectic time of year for visitors to the ashram.
It is located in eastern Pondicherry, close to the Bay of Bengal. It is located in Southern Madras at a distance of 160 kilometers. To get to the ashram, one can easily take a cab or take a local bus that runs at regular intervals.
Plage Paradiso, also known as Paradise Beach, is located in Chunnambar, near Pondicherry town. This is a small, isolated beach adorned with golden sand. To get there, take a ferry from across the backwaters, which takes about 20-30 minutes. There are a few shacks along the main entrance to the beach where you can get fresh coconut water and simple snacks – but don’t expect fancy street food. The beautiful ferry from the boathouse is part of the fun of getting to the beach – the backwaters just on way to the beach are green and densely forested.
The backwaters are especially clean and green after the monsoons. While on the ride, you can see a lot of birds, and photographers will love to have the opportunity to get some great shots. Because the currents in the water are strong, it is not advisable to go deep in the water. Paradise beach is a great place to go early in the morning to see the sunrise on the eastern coast. A wide range of water sports facilities is also available. Travelers can also try their hand at fishing, as fishing rods and nets are readily available for rent.
- Photographic expression: For those who enjoy landscape photography, the beach is deeply a paradise. Even on the boat ride to the beach, there will be plenty of inspiring sights to photograph. The mangrove forest on the river banks transforms into a lush green blanket of leaves, especially after a rainstorm. The dark blue water of the Chunnambar river can be seen trying to enter the sea at the the’sangamam’ as you get closer to Paradise beach.
- Participate in a Sport: When you get to the beach, it’s a great place to hang out with your friends and play beach football, cricket, or volleyball. The beach’s fabled soft sand makes it an ideal location for sports.
- Take a stroll: Take your sandals off and walk the length of the beach.
- Consume: On the beach, there may be a few vendors who sell hot ‘bhajjis’ and coconut water or soft drinks. Set up a good spot on the sand and munch on some of these local treats while gazing out at sea.
- Take in the Sunrise: On a clear day, you can see different shades of blue straining to the horizon and beyond. And if you’re at the beach at dawn, nature will put on a remarkably colorful show for you, a sensory feast.
The winter season, from November to March, is a great time to visit paradise beach for these activities. In October and November, the retreating monsoon can bring heavy rain to the area, so it’s best to avoid going to Pondicherry during this time. Start taking an auto from the city center to the Chunnambar boathouse, which is about 7 kilometers south of the main town. After this, you can take a ferry for 30 rupees and arrive at the beach in 20-30 minutes. These boats run every 20 minutes and are extremely convenient.
Please keep in mind the departure times of the last ferries; you must return from the beach before sunset. The current ferry schedules are displayed at the boathouse, and you can snap a picture of the schedules on your phone while walking to the beach.
Arikamedu, a half-hour drive from the French colonial town of Pondicherry, is an ancient Roman trade center obscured from the eyes and ears of ordinary Tamil tourism. It was named after the Tamil word ‘Arikanmedu,’ which means ‘eroding mount.’ There is little known about any Indo-Roman ties in the Before Christ era, but extensive proofs were unearthed with the discovery and excavation of Arikamedu.
From the first century BC to the second century AD, this port town was occupied by Romans, Cholas, and French, and it was a well-known maritime center. Arikamedu’s glass bead manufacturing factory is known as the “Mother of All Bead Centers in the World.”The first excavations in Arikamedu were conducted in the 1940s, and they have continued ever since.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s institution was the most inspiring of these. The town currently consists of only two perpendicular walls that have been left open and the French Jesuit Mission House, which was built in the 18th century. In addition, mango and coconut trees can be found in this area. The site also contains numerous amphorae bearing the marks of Roman schools such as VIBII, Camuri, and IITA.
Arikamedu began as a fishing village and was later transformed into a brick-built harbor town. This occurred as the trade began to grow. The ruins of the so-called famous port city can still be found today.
Aside from maritime trade, the city conducts domestic trade with Kaveripattinam, Alagankulam, Musiri, and Suttukeni. Wines in amphora jars, cups, and plates made of red Roman clay pots, olive oil, and ceramic products are among the imports in the port town.
The months of October to March are the best months to visit Arikamedu because the weather is mild. Because it is not a frequently visited location, the site may not be on the map routes of travel agencies. So, if you want, you can hire a car for this purpose separately. You can use GPS to guide the driver if he does not know the exact location. It is only 4 kilometers from Pondicherry and will not take long, but finding the gate may be difficult.
Auroville is located in Tamil Nadu, about 15 kilometers from the city of Pondicherry, and was established in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, a disciple of Aurobindo and affectionately known as the “Mother” of the Sri Aurobindo Society. This location is the embodiment of tranquillity and serves as the ideal retreat for those seeking peace. The way to experience Auroville ashram is to simply sit in one of the cafes and talk to some of the residents about their life in the city. Auroville dubbed the “Universal Town,” is an exploratory township where people from all cultures and traditions come to live together in peace.
People from 124 countries, including Indians from 23 different states, gathered in a marble urn with some of their native soil brought from their homelands. This township is currently home to over 2,800 people of over 195 different nationalities. The Aurovilleans, as they are known, live together on the principles of peace, harmony, sustainable living, and the Mother’s philosophy of ‘divine consciousness.'” Auroville is a culture yet to be invented,” they say. Because Auroville is a planned township, it attracts people from all around the country and the world. There is a mix of Tamilians, Bengalis, Russians, Koreans, and British people.
As a result, the culture is a mingled one. You will hear folk village music and be able to attend a ballet class. It has both cars and bullock carts for transportation. There are jazz concerts as well as Vedic recitals. Auroville celebrates all kinds of holidays, such as Diwali with firecrackers and Christmas with rum cakes. Some people dress casually in t-shirts and jeans, while others prefer dhoti-kurtas.
There are a plethora of restaurants and cafes in this area. It has a lot of opulent restaurants, not in terms of the prices they charge, but of the cuisines they serve. This is kept in mind to accommodate the huge amount of foreign tourists who visit Auroville each year. The Solar Kitchen and La Terrace are the most popular restaurants. There are a variety of cuisines available here, ranging from delightful Italian to traditional South Indian dishes. Auroville is a foodie’s paradise.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of Pondicherry’s most sacred and religious sites, is located 2.5 kilometers south of the Pondicherry Bus Station on the town’s south boulevard. This church, one of 21 in India and the only one in Pondicherry, was founded by French missionaries in 1908 and was elevated to the status of Basilica in 2011. The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of Pondicherry’s most beautiful Catholic churches, showcases Gothic architecture. Biblical words in Latin can be seen engraved on the entrance door, as well as images of Jesus and Mother Mary. Holidays such as New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, and Easter.
The stained glass panels of the edifice depict the lives of Christ and the saints of the Catholic Church. The church hosted centennial celebrations from 2008 to 2009, and it was during this time that postal envelopes and a one-of-a-kind postal stamp were released. The church is Pondicherry’s first basilica, the sixth in Tamil Nadu, the twentieth in India, and the 50th in Asia. Thousands of people visit the Sacred Heart Basilica in order to find peace. If you are planning a trip to Pondicherry, this beautiful church is a must-see because it will seclude you and transport you to a world of serenity away from the fast-paced life of the city.
The Basilica measures 50 meters in length and 48 meters in width. In the aerial view, there is a Latin rite cross shape at a height of 18 meters. The church also has beautiful stained-glass windows, two spires, and a large exterior. The glass windows are surrounded by terracotta crafts. The interiors are massive, with a mix of moss green, milky white, and scarlet, and 24 columns holding the entire structure together.
Within the church, there are 28 glass paintings of saints associated with Jesus’ sacred heart, including Joan of Arc. A statue of the Madonna, draped in a blue sari, is also located on the right side of the altar. Since its construction, the church has undergone numerous modifications, including the addition of a Parish Hall, a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes, and an Adoration chapel.
The best time to visit the church is between October and March when temperatures range from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius. Avoid visiting during the summer months of April to June because the weather remains hot. The timings for the Mass prayers are Monday through
- Saturday: 5:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 6:00 p.m.
- Sunday: 5:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. (English), 6:15 p.m. (Tamil)
To reach: North of the city center is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is close to the Pondicherry Train Station, making it easily accessible. To get to and from the church, one can take public transportation within the city.
The Botanical Garden, a popular tourist attraction in Pondicherry, was founded in 1862 by C.S. Perrott. There are several exotic varieties of rare plants in the garden, as well as an aquarium. This diverse collection of plants was gathered from all over India and the world. The aquarium is a fascinating place to visit because it houses a varied selection of aquatic organisms as well as fish flora. The various fishing methods used in coastal areas are also displayed here.
The Lighthouse is among Pondicherry’s most notable landmarks. Pondy, the French Riviera of the East, has two lighthouses, one old and one new. Whereas the former is no longer open to the public, the latter provides visitors with an incredible bird’s eye view of the city.
During the nineteenth century, the only landmark for mariners arriving in Puducherry/Pondicherry was the Red Hills, which were located 3 kilometers west of town. The French intended to construct a lighthouse to provide visitors from the sea with a clear view. Following this, the old lighthouse was built in March 1836 under the supervision of L. Guerre. After years of operation, it was discontinued in 1979. The current Lighthouse, which is one of Pondicherry’s most popular attractions, was built the same year. The 157-foot-tall tower hosts a variety of cultural events, music festivals, and commercial activities.
With the passage of time, the difference in architecture between the two has become quite noticeable. The new lighthouse’s foundation is a two-story circular structure rather than a simple rectangular one. Not to mention the fact that the former one was much shorter than the one we see today. Despite their differences, both have been an important part of the city tour. After the older one was deactivated, the one that now stands tall was able to gain a lot of fame. As a result, you may notice a lot of foot traffic over here. To add to that, it’s a great place to take some amazing photos, so keep your camera ready.
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