Travelling to Pondicherry
Pondicherry -Ancient Origins
Pondicherry in South India, as we know it today, was developed by Francois Martin who was appointed the administrator in 1699. This ancient place is associated with the legend of the great sage, Agastya Muni. It was called Vedapuri and a Sanskrit university thrived here in the 9th century. The Arikamedu area near the town has brought to light a 2000-year-old Roman settlement.
Pondicherry has a unique atmosphere because of its French connection. It is like no other place in India and offers delights for the mystic as well as the traveller who seeks to discover the many faces of India
Beautiful Beach and Colourful Cops
The beach is beautiful and unspoilt, the sea good to swim in. The beach front which has seen some fierce Anglo-French battles has statue of Mahatma Gandhi beneath an ornate shelter and a beautiful war memorial built by the French in tribute to the soldiers who perished in World War 1.
Policeman here wear very French 'kepis' . A 3-km long esplanade skirts the town and the clean streets which bear French names, were well-planned by the original French architects.
The Aurobindo Ashram is the main attraction in Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo, the poet-philosopher with a brilliant academic and political career, founded the ashram to help mankind reach the zenith of his evolution through spiritual exercises and yoga, combined with physical activity and productive work.
Thus, every one of the ashram's inmates from different countries, must work in some way or the other in the ashram's various departments: international school, hand-made paper factory, automotive and electrical shops, bakery, printing presses, etc.
In the spotless and silent hall of the ashram, inmates serve you wholesome food at reasonable rates.
The ashram grew under the guidance of, and was most profoundly influenced by, French-born Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother. She was an accomplished painter and musician who began experiencing psychic phenomena from a very young age. Today, Sri Aurobindo and The mother rest beneath a marble tombstone which is always covered with fragrant tube roses and pink lotus blooms. Devotees mediate and pray here, touching foreheads and palms to the marble.
Futuristic Auroville in Tamil Nadu
Auroville is 7 km away across the Pondicherry border in Tamil Nadu. The 'City of Dawn' is a futuristic, tranquil green settlement of several communes. It is dedicated to the ideals of human unity. An experiment in international living, it was established in 1968 with the co-operation of many nations (whose soils are found here) and the impetus provided by The Mother.
It is a self-sufficient settlement with its own fruit orchards and herb gardens, schools, etc., with some very interesting modern architectural styles.
The clean lines of the Bharat Nivas are unusual, to say the least. Angles pierce the sky. The boutique sells in-house products like garments, pickles, jams, jewellery, leather goods and much more at affordable rates.
'The Last School' is another modern experiment in architecture, but the most fascinating of all is the Matrimandir, a spaceship-like sphere rising from the dipping earth below. An organ plays somewhere in grand and haunting strains of melody. Further through the trees can be glimpsed the sea.
Auroville stretches across 800 acres. It is divided into five zones, representing work, dwelling, education, society and the world.
How to Get to Pondicherry, When to Travel
Nearest airport is Chennai (Madras), air-linked with major Indian cities and has international connections with South-east Asia. From Egmore Railway Station in Chennai, Pondicherry is an overnight journey. By road, state transport and private buses from Chennai take about four hours. For most of the year, the Directorate of Tourism conducts daily sightseeing tours in and around Pondicherry. The only time of year not optimal for traveling in Pondicherry is the summer months.