Pondicherry – The Indo French City.
“Pondicherry booking done for three nights- Club Mahindra from October 14-16,” my Dad’s message flashed on my mobile while I was travelling back home from college after an exhausting exam.
The trip came to me as a surprise. Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) was always on my list, but this was a sudden plan. We flew to Chennai on October 14 early morning. This trip was a much-needed break from college with all its tiring assignments and projects.
We landed in Chennai at around 7 am. The usual tourist circuit that is followed is: Chennai- Mahabalipuram-Pondicherry. We didn’t have time to cover Chennai, so it was just a transit for us. Our plan was to cover Mahabalipuram and reach Pondicherry by evening. We had called for a private pickup from the airport. There are tourist buses also available from Chennai to Pondicherry. We took the ECR (East Coast Road) which was unbelievably beautiful. It is a coastal route bordered by beautiful backwaters, trees and the sea. We were looking forward to some yummilicious South Indian breakfast and so, avoiding the Chennai traffic, hit a nice restaurant in Mahabalipuram. We flattered ourselves by consuming Idlis, Ghee Dosas, Set Dosas and Pongal with hot sambar and three types of chutneys at Hotel Annapurna – a typical highway hotel.
We reached Mahabalipuram (now known as Mamallapuram) at 10 am. I had done a good amount of research on the place before going, so it was easy for us to look around. Nevertheless, we hired a guide. It is always better to hire a guide while visiting historical places. Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a collection of various sites, including the iconic Shore Temple, Arjuna Penance, Mandapams, Pancha Rathas, Tiger Caves and the Butter Ball. The guide showed us around the magnificent place. The place is truly an architectural wonder. The stuff that grabbed my attention the most were the beautifully carved monolithic structures and Krishna’s Butter Ball.
We couldn’t stay in Mahabalipuram for a long time, because it was getting hot and we were exhausted after our early morning flight. We reached the picturesque Club Mahindra resort by late noon. The resort is approximately 20 km away from the main Pondicherry city. It is a huge and beautiful beach resort. After checking in, we decided to go for a walk at the beach. The beach is breathtaking – clean and peaceful. The only sound one could hear was of the vigorous, yet peaceful waves.
For the next day, I had booked a cycle tour for my Dad and me. Pondicherry is famous for its heritage cycle tours. There are various agencies conducting the tour but the most popular is that of Sita Cultural Center. The tour started at 7 am and went on till 10:30 am. We cycled across the Tamilian quarters, the Muslim quarters, the Ashram quarters and finally the French quarters. The whole city is divided into these four quarters. The quarters have a colour scheme. While the Tamilian and Muslim quarters are generally colorful, the French quarters are mostly yellow (the iconic yellow Pondicherry buildings) and the ashram quarters are grey and white, symbolizing peace. As we cycled through this beautiful city, it felt like we had entered an entirely different world. The tour ended with a breakfast at the center itself.
My Mom joined us later, and the same day we covered the The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. This church is a must-visit. We also visited the iconic Aurobindo Ashram, The Rocky Beach -also called as The Promenade, and The Paper factory. We rounded it up with a tasty French brunch at Bakers Street. We returned to the hotel after having a nice walk around the French quarters. It is astonishing how there are still French settlements in India. They have managed to keep in tact the French culture and still be a part of the Indian culture.
The next day early morning we had a nice swim at our resort’s beach. Our plan was to visit Auroville. It is an experimental community dedicated for human unity. It was an hour’s drive. We couldn’t participate in most of the activities as we didn’t have a whole day to spend and moreover everything had to be prebooked. But it is a beautiful place with lots of trees and wooden houses.
We viewed the Matrimandir (meditation center) from the outside and left for Thiruvannamalai, a small religious town located 3.5 hours from Auroville.It is known for the Annamalaiyar temple (Shiva temple), Sri Ramana Ashram and the Arunachala. My Dad urged us to visit the town as we got done with Auroville earlier than we planned. We visited the ashram and the temple. It was a pleasing
However, it became dark when we started back. The highways did not have street lights and it started raining heavily. We were scared to death. The drive was risky, but Thank God! we managed to reach Pondicherry safely.
On our last day in Pondicherry, we spent the morning walking around the resort, trying segways and beach bikes. I just didn’t want to go back from this exquisite city. The city really did win our hearts with its beautiful people, clean air, splendid beaches, the French colonies and amalgamation of the French and South Indian cultures. We drove back to Chennai, had a delicious South Indian meal on our way back, and bid adieu to this magnificent city. I certainly don’t mind visiting Pondicherry again.
Diksha’s Must Recommended
1. Shop for Mahabalipuram’s stone and granite sculpture.
2. Don’t miss the ECR route- It is very calming.
3. Pondicherry Cycle tour by Sita Cultural Centre.
4. French snacks at Baker’s Street.
5. Lunch at Le Cafe, White Town.
6. South Indian delicacies at A2B Adyar Ananda Bhavan.
7. Aurobindo Ashram Street.
8. Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple.