Don’t be surprised if you are greeted with a “bonjour comment ça va?” by a native Pondicherrian, but not to worry, you are still in India, albeit with a French touch.
Away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, the city Pondicherry is a quiet little town located on the Southern Coast of the Bay of Bengal, India. It is mostly referred to as ‘Pondy’ by the locals. The city had its name officially changed to Puducherry in 2006.
The unmistakable French connection, the tree lined boulevards, the quaint colonial heritage buildings, the spiritual sceneries, the endless stretches of unspoilt virgin beaches and backwaters and a surprising choice of restaurants serving a melange of cuisines provide a heady mix of experience that draws travellers from near and far to the city. It is the perfect place to come if you want to take the pace of life down a few notches.
Thanks to its colonial past and laid-back lifestyle, Pondicherry has a special ambiance quite unlike any other city. The French influence combined with the local Tamil culture make for a charming mix. In the “French Quarter” many street names are displayed in both French and Tamil on characteristic blue enamel boards similar to the ones used in France. The broad stone paved roads and colonial buildings of the ”French Quarter” take you back in time to a more tranquil era. Sometimes Pondicherry is romantically referred to as the ‘French Riviera of the East’.
Pondicherry, today, is an extremely vibrant town, it is growing economically and developing in to a major tourist hub. The city is also gaining popularity as a retirement destination owing to its peaceful, safe environment and slow pace of life. Artists, writers and designers too have come to settle here or spend some time. The cultural mix providing them with a good source of inspiration.
Pondicherry is also a spiritual destination, because of the Sri Aurobindo ashram and the nearby located city of Auroville. Sri Aurobindo ashram is one of the most visited ashrams and also a well-known tourist attraction that receives people by the thousands. It was formally established in 1926. Mira Alfassa, better known as ‘The Mother’, came to settle in Pondicherry in 1920 and in 1968 founded the city of Auroville.
The combination of Tamil and French cultures, the backdrop of colonial streetscapes, the spiritual aura and the many people settled here from different Indian states and countries make Pondicherry an interesting and exotic place to discover. There’s something for everyone.