History of Pondicherry
Situated on the Coromandel coast, about 160 kms south of Chennai, lies the Union Territory of Pondicherry. The French ruled
this territory for 300 years, and today, it stands as a living monument of the French culture in India. It is bound on the east by the
Bay of Bengal and on the other three sides by the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu. About 150 kilometres south of
Pondicherry, on the east coast, lies Karaikal, while Mahe is situated on the Malabar coast. Yanam is situated in the adjoining East
Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
Pondicherry traces its origin to Saint Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. The excavations near Pondicherry reveal, that a
Roman settlement existed here, 2000 years ago. It was also the site of many a battle between the British and the French, and was
the capital of French India, before it attained its independence.
This restored, attractive, former French colony, exudes a Mediterranean aura with its chic streets, elegant houses, ornamental
gardens and the Hotel de Ville. Being a small and quiet enclave of Tamil Nadu, it has imbibed the Tamilian culture. Apart from the
charming atmosphere, excellent restaurants and cheap beer, what attracts most travellers to Pondicherry is the Sri Aurobindo
Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville, 10 km outside town. The ashram, founded by Sri Aurobindo in the year 1926, has brought
international reputation to this coastal town. The ashram, the spiritual tenets of which combine yoga and modern science is quite
popular within India and abroad.
Festivals of Pondicherry differ from the rest of India, for the French influence still persists prominently here. Masquerade, held in
March - April, is a popular mask festival, during which brilliantly costumed and masked people of Pondicherry, dance down the
streets to the music of trumpets and accordions. During the Eve of the Bastille Day, retired soldiers parade the streets in war
finery, singing the French and Indian National Anthem. French is still widely spoken, and the seaside villas and the cobbled
streets are more reminiscent of the south of France than the south of India!!