Showing posts with label TRAVELOGUE-PONDICHERRY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TRAVELOGUE-PONDICHERRY. Show all posts

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pondicherry's Architectural Split

French rule got over in the late 50’s itself, but the architecture marvels created by them are still standing beautiful and influencing the current day town’s plan and architecture. All the streets are retaining their French names even today; Many restaurants, shops, and even government buildings still carrying the french names and their influence.

In the colonial times, the city was divided into the White town and the Black town, interestingly, this can be still perceived in the architecture.

The White Town (popularly known as the French Colony), is by the sea side, all the buildings are inspired by French Architecture. They are all usually in yellow or orange in colour., which makes the whole experience of walking around them remarkable.
As soon as we move a little further, we can see the buildings that are Franco-Tamil and which mark the Tamil Quarter. The Tamil Quarter of Pondicherry is a place where cultures not only met, but melted.

Many Churches and houses are standing tall as the evidence for the harmonious blend of the two contrasting architectures, recognizable by the columns and the fine detail of sculpting on the wood.
It was fascinating to see the changing look of the buildings.Walking around these streets itself is a feast for the eyes!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Auroville: Beach, Gardens & Matri Mandir

We started the day-2 with Auroville. When I searched Auroville in my phone Maps app, I was bit shocked to see that the destination arrow didn’t settle at any particular coordinate , it was keep expanding to a large area. Then I understood that Auroville is not a single location, it’s almost a township, which is scattered over little forested, little semi-urban, and some beach areas. For someone new to Pondicherry, it is bit difficult to pinpoint exactly where the Auroville is .

Auroville Beach:
First we stopped by the Auro beach., is on the way to Auroville Village -  is right across the East Coast Road, ~ 8 kms from the Pondicherry town. This is one of the raw /open beaches in Pondicherry area, is not so big, not so clean, almost nil maintenance…, but still this is one of the beautiful beaches..

The coast of Auro beach looked little different – with some unique golden and volcanic black sand, on the shores of crystal clear deep blue sea. People were taking bath and enjoying dives on the roaring sea. We spent almost two hours playing with the splashing waves and relaxing on the shores. Witnessed the scenes of fishermen getting in to the sea for fishing and coming back with loads of fresh fishes on their nets!!!.. Clicked some really nice snaps to preserve our memories of Auro beach, before we pack-up to the Auroville Village.

We enjoyed our time over there, but this beach really needs a lot of improvement. There’re no shops over there, except a small stall frying fish and some bhajjis - which was anyway not hygiene enough. The local fisherman and visitors have made the beautiful beach as dirty as possible, Get to see lot of sea shells and polluted wastes lying here and there. It badly needs some maintenance, else soon it will loose all the visitors.

Auroville Village:
After reaching the Auroville village campus, we first headed to the Visitor's Center to know about the history of Matrimandir and Auroville, there were displays in pictures, videos and in small model structures . They directed us to a walking path to the viewing point of the matri madir (we didn’t plan to get into the mandir, it requires prebooking). The walk path is almost a kilometer long amidst a thick garden(I would call it as a forest, its that thick!)

Auroville Gardens:
When they asked us to walk the 1+ kilometer from visitor centre to Matrimadir, we felt terrific, but after walking through the gardens only we understood their intention of making us to walk. The Matrimadir is surrounded by 12 unique gardens, which were thought and designed by the mother-  herself. Each of these 12 gardens indicates 12 flowers symbolizing 12 human qualities/significance. Walking through all these garden was quite informative and some thought provovking!

Garden Names: Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Light, Life, Power, Wealth, Utility, Progress, Youth, Harmony, Perfection
Matri Mandir:
Finally, we are at the viewing point of the matrimandir. What a beautiful view it is..The golden globe Meditation building (my daughter’d have called as a giant Ferrero Rocher :) surrounded by beautiful gardens was very pleasant. We did not attempt to enter into the Mandir, my small kid may not allow us to sit silent inside the meditation hall. So we just enjoyed the outside view, read the history of the place and the 500 years old banyan tree beside the mandir.
To read a Brief History of Matrimandir’s Conception click here

There was no need to walk back, free shuttles dropped us back at the visitor centre. Spent some time on the information centre, shopping area , café and drove back to Pondicherry town, after a slight lunch in between.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Paradise Beach - Truly a Paradise in Pondicherry

After lunch & nap at hotel, we started to Paradise Beach at around 3PM. It is around 8km from the Pondicherry town on the Pondy-Cuddalore Highway , is located at the place where River Chunnambar  meets the Bay of Bengal, which makes the Paradise beach as a typical Island. We took an auto rickshaw and reached the boat house in 20-30 minutes.

We had 2 options of boats to select with – one a superfast water jets and the other one is normal ferry. I am not a superfast lover and moreover our kid was with us, so we went on with the normal ferry. The boat journey was roughly around 20 minutes on the backwaters to reach the Paradise beach. The low tide back waters with greeny coconut and palm trees on the banks, was such a scenic beauty and treat to the eyes.
Wow!!! We are at the Paradise beach, welcomed by a lovely long shore fringed with Coconut trees and natural huts, shadowing pristine blue sky and sparkling sea waves at the sun shine….what a nice and clean beach (you may see a little littering here and there, but still I would call it as the “cleanest”, by Indian standards :P ) The sand itself was so white and fine; each grain of it can be seen through the crystal clear water of the sea.

Here, the sea is not so deep or rough, it was very safe to play – even for my 3 year old kid. We spent so much time splashing water around the waves and racing on the shore. Sat under the huts on the shore and relaxed for some time, while enjoying the sea along with the snacks that we’d brought :)

They said 2 hours is the max.time one could stay at the beach, but it was an odd-day, there’s not much crowd over there. We’re enjoying the waters till the security guards whistle for the last return boat of the day, at around 6PM. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, felt so refreshed. Will never miss the paradise beach, whenever I come to Pondicherry again.

Paradise Beach is truly a paradise, it’s the best of our Pondicherry trip !!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pondicherry Archaeological Museum

Pondicherry’s Archaeological Museum is very close to the Aurobindo Ashram. So right after the Ashram visit, we walked into the Museum.

With such a great cultural history behind the place, we thought this museum would give us a tremendous experience. But sadly it’s not and we’re little disappointed. It’s not about artifacts, I believe the museum houses quite a reasonable collections from the excavates of Arikamedu and fair amount of diversified local cultural representation, the museum building itself is a 100+ years old rich depicting French-Roman architecture. But, what goes wrong is the poor display and maintenance of the rare treasures :(

The museum starts with a display of centuries old pottery debris and burial urns unearthed from the Roman settlement in Arikamedu. There’s collection of old coins, paintings, stones, sand from different parts of archaeological places around there. It also features a stunning show of antique swards, armors, and arms dating back to the ancient Chola and Pallava dynasty of Tamil History.

One unique think that I liked here, was that we could walk through a typical house setup of the colonial era. They have set-up a model living room, bedroom, dressing room, kitchen, dining rooms of the typical French house with the vintage furniture and artifacts collected over the years, that fairly show an idea over ​​the lifestyle of old French people. On the terrace there is a display of century old carriages , trailers and palanquins, which add-up little more worth to the visit.

It took all of just 30 minutes to cover the entire museum. Nevertheless, If history interests you, it’s worth paying a visit. I loved it!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

You can’t write about the Ashram in a single post, you need a complete dedicated blog to comment about Sri Aurobindo, Mother and about their Ashram at Pondicherry. Here, I have just scribbled my experience of visiting the center of meditation – their Samadhis.

I have been here for the second time, but felt the same fresh feel and bliss. We walked through the beautiful small garden filled with lovely flowers and greenery, onto the "Samadhi" of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The Samadhis were decorated with fabulous flowers and looks so serene.

Once we reach the Samadhi’s and sat in front of them.., believe me the time flew by like anything. I don’t know how to meditate..., I wasn’t doing anything over there..., I was just sitting in the meditation place closing my eyes, but and somehow I felt like lost in a dream ( Is that what others call as meditation?). It was such a peaceful place, except the chirping of the birds , nothing could be heard off!!!. If you’re regularly practicing meditation, you’ll feel definitely great.

You need to be completely silent inside the ashram premises, cannot speak once after you leave your footwear out and entered into the ashram. Kids below 3 aren't allowed. Photography isn't allowed inside. There's one book-shop, in case you want to read/buy some spiritual books. It’s not so big campus,

If you’re there to just to tour, It will take just about 15-20 minutes to take a look at around the complete ashram. If you’re there to sit and meditate, you may end-up spending hours infront of the Samadhi’s itself !.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Pondicherry

No Pondicherry travel & travelogue can get complete without mentioning about the famous “Manakula Vinayagar Temple”. This is one of the ancient temples in Pondicherry. The temple has a 500 years old history to track on…It was constructed before the French came to Pondicherry, records mention the existence of the temple even before 1666.

Manakula Vinayagar temple is devoted to Hindu God Ganesh. In Tamil (local language of Pondicherry & Tamilnadu), the word ‘Manal’ means “Sand” ; and the word ‘Kulam’ refers to “Pond”. Years before there’re no other building between the temple and the sea,  it was entirely surrounded by sea sand. So the people of Pondicherry called the Ganesh as Manal Kulathu Vinayagar., which later became “Manakula Vinayagar”

According to Hindu Sasthra (Ganapathy Agamam), the Ganesha is called by sixteen different names depending on his different forms and this god facing the east side near Bay of Bengal is to be called as “Bhuvaneshar Ganapathy”; but the name “ Manakula Vinayagar” has become so popular than the original name “Bhuvaneshar Ganapathy”. The outside wall of the temple depicts various forms of the Ganesh god structures with its timelines and locations, through pictures and sculptures.

I heard that this is the only Ganesh temple where Ganesh’s wedding to Siddhi & Buddhi, is celebrated grandly. Also, this is the only temple where the lord Ganesh stands by 3 legs, which is a very rare feature, haven’t heard/seen anywhere else. The temple also features a dancing Ganesh called “Narathan Ganapathy” another rare one.

Another attraction of the temple is the beautiful elephant called Laxmi who arrives in the early morning and evenings to the temple premises. She gives her blessings by keeping her trunk on your head., if you give a coin/rupee note to her :)

The reputation of Manakula Vinayakar is astonishingly great. Not only the local crowd and tourists, but also a large set of devotees from other countries too visit and seek the blessings of Manakula Vinayakar. If you plan for a Pondicherry trip, do plan to visit the Manakulathu Vinayagar temple, which just a street away from the Sea/ Goubert Avenue., just adjacent to the famous Aurobindo Ashram.

Moolavar          : Manakulathar / Bhuvaneshar Ganapathy
Existence          : more than 500 years
Hours               :  5:45 am – 12:30 pm, 4:00 – 9:30 pm
Address            :  Manakula Vinayagar Street, Puducherry, 605001, India
More details     : (Temple’s official website)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bharathi Park & Aayi Mandapam

It’s a government park, named after Pondicherry born poet “Bharathidasan”. This park is just a street away from the beach and middle of the French quarter. It’s also surrounded by many other attractions like Aurobindo Ashram, The museum, Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Light house, Raj Nivas … all within walkable distance from the Park.

The Park is so huge and well maintained too. The lush greens in the park were like a heaven for us to sit and relax on that hot day:) .

The park features a big play area for the kids. Though not maitained well, still they are usable., My kiddo spent some fun time with the slope, Swing, and a few. There are many small, not so ancient statues and sculptures all around the park. The well maintained lawns, neat flowerbeds, and large fountains around the monument adds-up beauty to it.
Park Monument (popularly called as Aayi Mandapam) is located right at the center of the park. Not just the monument is unusual the story behind the monument is also so strange :)

Long back, while the king of Vijayanagar - Shri Krishnadevaraya going through Pondicherry, an amazing fort like building caught-up his eyes. The King thought that the building might be a temple, knelt down and bowed down infront of the building. Soon the King got embraced to know that it was not a temple, it is a house of “Aayi” – a local prostitute.

The King got anger and ordered to hang Aayi and to tore down the house. Aayi begged the king for mercy and she assured him that she’ll demolish the complete building herself. As promised, Aayi routed her beautiful house and dug a large water pond in that place – which is now called as “Aayi Kulam” (Kulam means Tank/pond), about 5 Km from Pondicherry.

Later, during French in Pondicherry, the whole town faced a severe water shortage. All the bore wells gave them only salty water and Aayi kulam was the only drinking water source around. French engineer Monsieur Lamairesse constructed a 5KM long channel from Aayi Kulam and brought water to Pondicherry. The water from the Aayi Kulam became a lifeline for the complete Pondy area.

The then French king – Napolean-III heard the story of Aayi Kulam and was extremely overwhelmed. To show his vote of thanks, he ordered to construct a monument for Aayi at Pondicherry. That’s the milky white monument that we are seeing at the middle of the Bharathi Park - exhibiting the excellence Greco-Roman architecture!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Promenade Beach

Promenade Beach is one of the famous attractions of Pondicherry. It is stretched about 1.2 km and looks out to the sea - Bay of Bengal. We’re lucky that our hotel was located just a hundred meters from the Promenade beach, and we thoroughly enjoyed the time at the Promenade.

The Promenade is the focal point of Pondicherry town; its name came from being the promenade (meaning: a paved public walk along a waterfront) of the French tradition of town. The beach attracts visitors from morning to late night. While in the morning, it’s mostly the health lovers of all age walking up & down the promenade, and the rest of it’s day is also busy, we could see travelers and locals visiting it.

Promenade is not like other regular beaches. It’s completely rocky, you can’t get down into the waters, the government has put big stones to keep the town safe against the big sea waves. Just have pleasant walk all along , sit on the rocks, listen to the music of the waves!!!.

We twice had a leisurely walk along the promenade beach. The 1.2 Km stretch of Promenade has several landmarks: It starts with the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and end with the statue of Dupleix. In between, we could witness The War memorial, the heritage town hall / Customs building, the old light house, and the remains of the old pier...etc. You just walk along the promenade and sure you’ll get soaked in the history of rich colonial past.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Promenade: Statues and Monuments

As I mentioned, the 1.2Km stretch of Promenade beach spots several historical monuments and statues; some of the places we could visit are,

Gandhi Statue: is a 4-meter statue of Mahatma Gandhi, bordered by eight granite pillars, which were reportedly brought from the fort of Gingee Sultans. The open space in front of the statue is being used to host various cultural and commercial activities throughout the year. We’re there on Oct-1st – one day before the Gandhi Jayanthi, so the whole place was getting some nice make over :)
French War Memorial: is just a few meters from the Gandhi Statue. This is a war monument to remember the brave soldiers who gave their life for France, during the First World War. On every French National Day - 14th of July  (Bastille Day) ,  the memorial is superbly illuminated and respect is paid to those brave martyrs. The White tall monument looks elegant and it is good to see that Indians who gave their life were not forgotten (though not for India :( ).
Old Light House: This 19th Century Lighthouse in Pondicherry is a significant landmark. Its exceptional architecture of a round tower has made it a modern lighthouse at the time it was built. The Light house construction was started on 1835 and the first time it was lighted 1st July, 1836. This light house is still regarded as a milestone on French technical achievements in Asia.

Dupleix Statue: Joseph Francois Dupleix was the governor of Pondicherry, and was the key reason for most of the infrastructure development of Pondy. His statue is located at the south end of the Sea-side promenade, covered with dust/dirt and rust, tells a story of poor maintenance :(
Old Pier deck: One of the famous Pier deck of South India is almost washed away by the sea; still the remains of the pier deck adds-up the beauty of the Promenade beach!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Trip to Pondicherry - The "Mini-France" of India

Pondicherry (also called as Puducherry) is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South India. I had been longing to visit Pondicherry again for quite a long time (No.. No.. that’s not the reason, I am non-alcoholic:) ) ; I had already been there in early 2005, but was a bachelor then- came with friends. Now the experience of staying with family is totally different and awesome.

Loved this long week-end, Gandhi Jayanthi followed by Pooja holidays enabled us to plan a good three day trip to the East Coast  - Pondicherry & Cuddalore. Did not get much time for planning and preparation, but was lucky enough to get the train/bus tickets and hotel bookings, in a short duration.

We started from Bangalore on the night of 30th Sep. I never imagined that there’s a train from Bangalore to Pondicherry, that too with perfect timing. It was Dadar-Pondicherry Express, left Bangalore at 11PM and reaches Pondicherry on the next day morning at 7.40AM, on-time.

Here you go, below was our travel itinerary – 2 days full days  at Pondicherry and the last day at/around Cuddalore in Tamilnadu.

The Botanical Garden
French War Memorial
Old Light House
Bharati Park & Aayi Mandapam
Manakula Vinayagar Temple
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Chunnambar Boat House & The Paradise Beach
Moonwalk at the Promenade

Auro Beach
Auroville & Matri Mandir
French Colony
Shopping at Pondicherry
Would like to write about each of the above attractions , food and on travelling experience in separate posts. Hope you’ll enjoy the series of posts TRAVELOGUE-PONDICHERRY

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Botanical Garden: The "Life of Pi" Park is "Lifeless"

Starting of the trip was bit rough and disappointing...

Reason#1: We couldn’t get a rental bike as we planned, we had to completely rely on Auto rickshaws which are unreasonably fared :(

Reason#2: The super-hot weather - It was just 7.40AM in the morning, but the sun was already blasting at 36+ degrees. It’s been long time since we traveled outside Bangalore (where the avg. temp is just ~25 deg.C).

It was very difficult to get accommodate, we literally needed some shadow to rest on . The Botanical Garden is just a few hundred meters from the railway station. So we started our Pondy trip from the Botanical Garden.

This garden is situated at the west-centre of the town and supposed to be one of the best attractions of Pondicherry, but it’s not :(. We could see a few formal French style clipped trees, flower beds, a tiny fountain and a few age old trees. It features even a small aquarium and a "Joy" train ride for the kids. But, it’s too far away from the word “Botanical Garden” :P
This is the same gorgeous garden where the Oscar winning movie "Life of Pi" is made, but unfortunately all those beauty was alive only on the screen. In reality, it needs a lot of maintenance and proper management. No security, No controller, …nobody was there to regularize. The Forest Department of Pondicherry should really focus to improve this place.

Anyway, our intention of the visit was simple, we just needed some shade from the sun. We had our breakfast at the park (food that we had brought; there's no restaurant/canteen inside the park), we walked around the park, clicked a few snaps and moved away to the Promenade …..

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Walk through the history of Pondicherry

I am not a qualified historian, but do have a passion for the history and never miss to read through the history of the new places whereever I go. Below history is the excerpts of my reading from various sources.

I feel, Pondicherry doesn’t have  a long history to track-on. We have records only after the Colonial Age – arrival like the Dutch, Portuguese, English and the French. Though early archeological findings at Arikemedu, have confirmed an ancient Roman settlement at Pondy, the actual history begins with the French only. 
Old Tamil literatures say that, Pondy was one of the leading commercial ports during the Vijayanagar, Pallava, Chola, and Pandya periods. Then Portugese set up a factory but forced to leave by the Gingee Sultan, who was ruling Pondy region at that time. Soon after the Dutch invaded into India and set up their base in Porto Novo, Cuddalore. Gingee Sulatan was not able to fight against the Dutch and he invited the French to take over the Pondicherry   region in AD1673.

This was the key turning point in the History of Pondicherry. From then, The French and Dutch fought many wars over Pondy region and in 1699 the French regained Pondicherry with an amicable deal with the Dutch. As soon as the wars came to end (in 18th century), the town saw a significant growth in economy and Infrastructure, which stays stronger even today.

Many Governors, especially Dupleix laid the foundations for today’s Pondicherry and converted the town into an vital town. But Pondy’s good luck did not run long, since after the arrival of English man - Robert Clive.  Cliver distorted the existing French-Dutch deal and recaptured Pondy area and along with several key  territories like Madras, Arcot, etc. from the French.

Again, in 1765 Pondy was returned back to the French, but it was not permanent. The Britsh and French had several wars, and it was only in 1816, The French could gain stable control over Pondicherry. Even after India’s independence, Pondy was in the control of France and they handed over Pondy to India with certain requests and demands in 1954.From then,the Pondicherry continues as the Union Teritory of India.

The impact of the French is still stays in the town. To a new visitor the French influence is quite obvious. The French names for the streets, the French architectured buildings, French foods, the bicycles on the streets, and very importantly still a lot of French people in the town makes Pondy – truly  a “Mini-France” within India !!!