Attractions of Pondicherry
|» Location :
|» Famous Ones :
||Park Monument, Arikamedu, Ananda Ranga Pillai Mansion, The Statue Of Dupliex, Palace Du Governement & The Pondicherry Museum
|» Other Attractions :
||Beach Road, The Fishing Village & South Boulevard
Vestiges & Monuments
A wondrous history of this place is told by obliging Pondicherrians. As well as the striking grid like street planning buildings and monuments. About the arrival of the European maritime powers of the 16th century the Portuguese the Dutch, the Danes, the English and importantly, the French, setting foot first in 1670.
About the transformation of a tiny fishing village into a grand port city by the 18th century, brave generals, friendly maharajas and even, philanthropic courtesans. And about an undisturbed French rule for 138 years till 1954.
§ Ananda Ranga Pillai Mansion :
Ananda Ranga Pillai was the celebrated Dubash of Dupleix, the governor of Pondicherry, while it flourished under French glory. Pillai's compilation of diaries serves as a storehouse of information on 18th century French India.
His mansion completed sometime in 1738 is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the west side - then known as "natives' quarters." Its architecture represents a curious mix of French and Indian styles.
§ The Statue Of Dupleix :
This is Pondicherry's tribute to Francois Dupeix, whose able governorship came to an end in 1754. However, French recognition came about a century later, when, in 1870, they paid homage by commissioning two statues - one in France and the other in Pondicherry.
The 2.88m tall structure was erected over six carved ornamental granite pillars at the Place Du Republique. It now stands re-stationed overlooking a children's park at the southern end of the promenade, now named Goubert Avenue.
§ Park Monument (Aayi Mandapam) :
The most beautiful public space in town is the green and shaded Government Park, in the heart of Pondicherry. Standing smack in its centre is Aayi Mandapam. Built in Greco-Roman architecture, unsinfully white, during the reign of Napoleon III -Emperor of France.
It bears the name of Aayi - a 16th century courtesan. Who razed down her home and replaced it with a reservoir. To appease a passing king, angry at having mistaken her candle-lit residence for a holy place. It was from this lake that Napoleon's men quenched their thirst, some 300 years later. Napoleon, charmed by the story, ordered a monument to Aayi.
§ 19th Century Light House :
The early sea-farers to Pondicherry were guided by a beacon kept burning on the red hills (Gorimedu), about 5-km west of the town. The now-abandoned light house standing on the edge of the sea near the Place Du Gouvernment was lighted for the first time on 1st July 1836. The light was placed upon a masonry tower, 29m above sea level and was visible upto a distance of 29-km into the sea. In 1931, a revolving lantern replaced the fixed light. It fell into disuse with the commissioning of the new light house in 1979.
§ Place Du Gouvernement :
The Place Du Gouvernement is a brilliant example of town planning in Pondicherry. Comprising the 18th century "Palais Du Government" - now the 'Raj Nivas' (not open to the public) - and the old tribunals - now housing the Legislative Assembly - along with a neat three-sided line-up of other handsome buildings.
At the centre, surrounded by a well-tended garden, stands the water monument, sculpted to commemorate the introduction of good drinking water for the population. Latin and Tamil inscriptions bear out the story. Some exquisitely carved monolithic pillars, brought to Pondicherry from the Gingee Fort after its capture in 1751, adorn the place.
§ French War Memorial :
No visit to Pondicherry is complete without a free wheeling stroll down the peaceful Promenade Goubert Avenue (locally known as Beach Road), where one will find this elegant tribute to the uniform. It gets prettily illuminated during a solemn ceremony every 14th July, Bastille Day.
§ The Statue Of Joan Of Arc :
A lasting, triumphant image of the heroic French damsel Jeanned'Arc, is frozen in marble, within the garden laid out in front of L'Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges.
» In The French Quarters
§ Hotel Lagrenee De Meziere, 1774 : Once a private house, this place has now become a workshop of the religious order of Saint Joseph De Cluny. One can put his head in the gate and have a look at magnificent early colonial architecture and equally beautifully embroidery.
§ Le Grand Hotel D' Europe : Opened in 1891, this hotel has got a classic look and is closed to the public.
§ Lacee Francais, 1826 : Lacee Francais, still educates hundreds of young Pondicheriens in French. One has to take permission from the office walking around the old courtyard to see photographs of colonial Pondy in a fine old building.
§ L'ecole Francaise D'extreme Orient : Meaning, the French institute of the Far East whose two handsome buildings are almost diagonal to each other at an intersection, one specialising in Indology, the other in History and Archaeology.
» In The Ashram Quarter
§ The French Consulate General : This place is open to French nationals. The whole facade and shape of the building have changed over the years, but it still retains some elements from the 18th century.
§ Le Foyer Du Soldat : This place is the legion hall for retired soldiers from Pondicherry who served in French wars in Europe and the colonies. The building looks perky enough with its proud Tricouleur or tricolour (red, white and blue flag) but the veterans must be getting on!
§ L'institut Francais : As the gate is generally open, one may walk into the courtyard and have a quiet look around. They have a very old Ganesha statue. If one has a professional interest in Indian civilisation, history and society, in ecology, or in environment and development in South and Southeast Asia, one may pick up the institute's information materials describing current activities.
§ The Pondicherry Museum : The Pondicherry museum is located in the former Law Building, which was refurbished in 1997. The museum is worth seeing as a building and for some of its exhibits.
On the ground floor, the major attraction is the central space with 3 curious transport mechanisms - a coach, a palanquin (sedan chair) and a pousse-pousse, which required two attendants, one to steer and one to push and some stupendous furniture. The bronze gallery displays the images of gods and goddesses together with a wide collection of temple lamps, used across different dynasties down centuries.
Pre-Christian relics which one will find here, such as remnants of Greek and Roman amphora jars, pieces from the Tsung Periods in China and beads made from glass and precious stones were dug out from the Arikamedu site, just south of Pondicherry.
The Geology Room is hard to warm to; more interesting is the attached shell and fossil room. The museum sells a book on Pondy sea snails, which has very attractive pictures. The Foyer and Courtyard display various stone statues, and for children a fossilised tree trunk. In the staircase to the upper floor are burial urns to stimulate the imagination. The only reasons to climb the stairs are the air and the view from the terraces.
Timing: 10.00am to 5.00pm, closed on Mondays and Holidays.
§ The Bharathi Museum : The Bharathi museum was home to a Tamil poet and nationalist. Bharathi (1882-1921) was a political and social activist who found refuge here from the British in 1908. He freed Tamil poetry from forms that, while beautifully rich and terse, had kept it the preserve of the few. An anthology of his works in French can be read at I' Alliance Francaise and one can buy it at the Romain Rolland Library because unfortunately for non-Tamils who wish to know more about the poet modernist, the inscriptions and material in the museum are exclusively in Tamil.
§ The Bharathidasan Museum : The Bharathidasan Museum is the former house of a renowned Pondicherry-born poet (1891-1960) who was a follower of Bharathi (hence his name). He wrote poetry, plays and film scripts on such issues as support for Dravidian or south Indian culture and the rights of women, and in opposition to superstition and casteism. One of his plays "Picirandear" was translated into French and is occasionally on sale in Pondy.
§ Ananda Rangapillai : The house of the famous Ananda Rangapillai (1738) is at the busy "backside" of the Big Market. It is a splendid attraction and is easily accessible to the public. Similarly, the 18th century mansion of Kattukara Appavupulle on Nehru Street is a must visit but it bears no trace of its former beauty.
Tour Packages of Pondicherry