Pondicherry Things To Do
Unique in India because of its French heritage, Pondicherry offers a fascinating blend of cultures. The area was actually a French settlement until 1954, and the French influence on the city is obvious, especially in the French Quarter. Pondicherry is a coastal city, and is lined with beaches facing the Bay of Bengal.
If you have come to experience Indian culture, one of the best places to go in Pondicherry is the Manakula Vinayagar Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Ganesh, one of the most popular Hindu deities. Evidence indicates that the temple dates back to 1666; it’s still in operation today, so you will need to abide by all the religious rules to enter the temple. Stories go that when the French settled in Pondicherry, they tried to destroy the temple and remove the statue of Ganesh, but gave up after the statue kept reappearing in the temple each time they removed it.
Another important cultural site to see is the ashram sheltering the tomb of Sri Aurobindo, a mystic yogi and poet who wrote political pieces opposing British rule in India. When the British imprisoned him for a year because of his writing, he fled to the safety of the French government of Pondicherry, where he was able to further his work. The Auroville experimental community was named in his honor by one of his closest followers.
Places to Go
Founded in 1968, Auroville is an experimental community. Visitors are allowed to come to this fascinating place, but will have to obtain a permit from the Visitor Center a day or two before their arrival in order to see everything. To live in Auroville, you must believe in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy, abide by the strict rules of the community, and work towards its well-being. The community strives to be entirely environmentally friendly and is located in a beautiful semi-jungle. You are unlikely to find anywhere else like it in all of India, or perhaps anywhere.
You should also make it part of your itinerary to see the 19th century lighthouse that is one of Pondicherry’s most famous landmarks. Before the lighthouse was built, there wasn’t any signal for the ships coming to busy port of Pondicherry. There is also the Botanical Garden, which was created in 1826. The garden includes a rich collection of exotic and rare plants and also houses an aquarium.
It is not every day on your trip to India that you will be able to go see a Gothic-styled European church, but Pondicherry has two, both built by the French. And be sure to take the time to walk along the beach along the beautiful Bay of Bengal.
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