Information on all aspects of Pondicherry including geography, history, government, districts, business, economy, travel, rivers, education, food, arts, culture, music, dance, festivals of Pondicherry
Introduction to Pondicherry
Pondicherry has been derived from the Tamil word Puducheri signifying 'the new settlement'. It was a French settlement that comprised Pondy, Yanam, Karaikal, and Mahe. Amazing is the fact that different districts of Pondicherry fall under different states.
The capital Pondicherry is situated in the state of Tamil Nadu at a distance of around 200 km from Chennai. While Karaikal is also a part of Tamil Nadu, Mahe is located in Kerala, and Yanam is in Andhra Pradesh.
There is a strong influence of French culture on Pondicherry town, especially on it's architecture, a result of the centuries-old relations this place maintained with France. Today, Pondicherry is more famous because of its relation with Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo selected this peaceful and harmonious place to make his abode in the second decade of 20th century and remained there until his death.
Geography of Pondicherry
The Union Territory of Pondicherry extends from Latitude 11056' in the North to Longitude 79053' in the East. Pondicherry comprises four coastal regions namely Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam.
Pondicherry and Karaikal are situated on the East Coasts in Tamil Nadu, Yanam in Andhra Pradesh, and Mahe on the West Coast in Kerala. It is still not known that why, French and British limited their territories in the intermingling manner, making Pondicherry a peculiar case for territorial jurisdiction.
Pondicherry more or less is a flat land with no hills and forests. Interspersed with parts of Cuddalore and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu, the Union Territory of Pondicherry presents a picture of scattered parts. Main soil types are red ferrallitic, black clay, and coastal alluvial.
Brief History of Pondicherry
There are evidences of the Pallava, Chola and the Vijayanagar empires around the city. What is interesting are the relics of Arekmedu, the famous archaeological city with a port through which major trade was conducted with the Roman Empire. It is through this port that India used to export silk, spices, even birds, lions, elephants to the Roman Empire in exchange for gold. In the 16th century, the Portuguese first arrived here and then the following century the Danes made an appearance. In 1673, the French arrived. Till then, Pondicherry was a weaving and fishing village. The French quarters started along the sea and extended to the south, all along the sea. The city slowly emerged with the fort at its center. The town planners tried to implement this grid system methodically. It required the reconstruction of many houses, mostly those of the Tamilians. It also required the strict implementation of regulations. In all, it took the French almost a century to implement the plan - that of the present concentric pattern with the fort at the center and boulevards surrounding it. It has, however, expanded beyond the boulevard in recent years.
Today, some adjacent areas, which were previously villages, have been included within the city limits. Around the 1760's, the British destroyed the city including the fort. When the French reoccupied it, most of the buildings were reconstructed but not the fort. In the latter part of the 18th and early 19th century, Pondicherry again fell into British hands and all construction activity came to a standstill. Most of the present day buildings came up in the 19th century, which also marked the advent of water supply in the city and the railway link with British India. By the 20th century, the city had expanded to include many neighboring villages, although few changes were made in the inner city. This French colony became a part of the Indian Union in the early 1950's, with the French voluntarily relinquishing control. Today, the Union Territory of Pondicherry includes the other three French enclaves of Karaikal (in Tamil Nadu), Mahe (in Kerala) and Yanam (in Andhra Pradesh).
Government of Pondicherry
Pondicherry is a Union Territory, A Union Territory has its own government but falls directly under the Central Government in New Delhi. Though a UT also has an elected Chief Minister and cabinet members, laws and legislative regulations made in these areas must get sanction or be ratified by the Central Government (Centre). The Centre is represented by the Lt. Governor, who resides at the Raj Nivas at the Park, the former palace of the French Governor.
Economy of Pondicherry
The Union Territory consists of four separate geographical areas, viz. Pondicherry and Karaikal near Tamil Nadu, Mahe in Kerala and Yanam in Andhra Pradesh. The economy of each of these four sub-units is related to its hinterland in the respective state, and has little to do with the rest of the Union Territory as such. This is particularly true of Mahe and Yanam, which are economically integrated with Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, and cannot be said to have an autonomous existence. Even in the case of Pondicherry, the land area is noncontiguous, since there are several enclaves of Pondicherry within Tamil Nadu. Consequently, the Pondicherry economy can be characterized as an "open" economy with flows of virtually all factors of production including natural resources, labour, capital and technology. Land and water management in Tamil Nadu affect Pondicherry and Karaikal. Karaikal is located in the delta of the Cauvery, and is directly dependent on the flows in the Cauvery. Similarly, both surface and ground water use in the proximity of Pondicherry would affect availability. Agriculture and land use cannot be conceived in isolation from the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Financial flows to Pondicherry occur not only from adjoining states, but also from different parts of the country in various forms for investments, services, etc. As mentioned, there are also flows from outside the country due to both remittances from NRIs and pensions paid by the French Government.
Pondicherry Travel Information
People visit to Pondicherry to see Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the capital, where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for the most parts of their life. Other places like Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam are also known for their strong French connections and create a nostalgic effect on the visitors. The ashram was founded in 1920 when Sri Aurobindo reached Pondicherry, a French colony and put in place his ideas of peaceful community. The ashram, for long, was run by his French companion Mirra Alfassa, universally known as the Mother. Each member of the Ashram is free to mediate the way and by the course he follows and there are no rituals, obligatory practices, and systematic instruction. The ashram is a diversified community with more than 1200 members out of which 400 are the students of Centre of Education. To support the administrative system of the ashram, it has various departments to look after basic needs of the members. More than that there are farms and gardens, printing press, libraries, and a number of small-scale industries. The ashram houses the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the mother and open to everybody for fixed hours every day.
Pondicherry Museum situated in the Government Park, has a very good sculpture gallery and a section of archaeological finds from the Roman settlement at Arikamedu. There is also a French section charting the history of the colony. The objects include the four-poster bed in which Dupleix is believed to have slept. There is also a superb collection of the snail shells from the Pondicherry Region. Promenade a lovely beach within bike range from the city center in the north is a pleasant surprise. Much better than most of the town beaches and with few spectators and 1.5 km long promenade. The beach and the Promenade are the most delightful part of the city and a stroll, sun bathe, and swim enhance the quality of experience. On the beach front are located many sites such as a statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by eight exquisitely carved monolithic pillars, and a war memorial. Bharthi Museum is located 20 Eswaran Koil Street, the place where the legendary Tamil poet lived after arriving here in 1908 in search of refuge. Bharthidasan Memorial Museum is situated at Perumal Koil Street where Kanaksubburatnam, a disciple of Bharthi lived. He changed his name to Bharthidasan, meaning the disciple of Bharthi and his home is now the second important place of literary pilgrimage in Pondicherry. Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is another attraction for tourists. Built in the Gothic style, this massive church is one of the most beautiful churches in Pondicherry.
Education in Pondicherry
The literacy rate in Pondicherry is much higher at 81.49% as compared to the all India average. The male literacy rate is 88.89% while the female literacy rate is 74.13%. Pondicherry house many reputed institutes of higher education and research. Jawaharlal Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) is one of the country's leading centers of medical education and research. It has attached 850 bed hospital. The Alliance Francaise and the French Institute are dedicated to keeping the French tradition alive in Pondicherry. The Alliance Francaise conducts French language classes and arranges French cultural programs. Pondicherry Government is giving special emphasis to IT education. Computers and Internet access is made available to all institutions down to middle schools.
Update: Pondicherry has 8 Medical Colleges, 5 Engineering Colleges, 1 vetenary college, 1 agriculture collage, 1 dental college, 1 law college, 2 polytechnics, 1 fashion technology college, 1 nursing institute, 4 Government Art and Science College, 3 Private colleges, 1 Tourism college
Food of Pondicherry
Particularly fresh seafood is no problem in Pondicherry. In fact, the city is full of small, modestly priced hotels and restaurants that serve French and South Indian delicacies. But it is the Ashram Cafeteria, which is the major attraction for its simple and wholesome meals at the lowest price.
Arts and Culture of Pondicherry
Like most other southern states of India, ethnicity of the majority of people in Pondicherry is Dravidian. They speak Dravidian languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. Amongst other crafts, it is beautifully crafted dolls and toys made from terracotta, papier-mache, and Plaster of Paris that make the union territory of Pondicherry almost a byword in the south. T
he dolls made in Pondicherry are famous in surrounding areas as Puducheri Bommai (dolls from Pondicherry). Another famous craft of this area is bronze casting that dates back to the 8th century AD. Puja lamps made from five metals and known as kamatchi villakku are prized items of prayer with a large number of families in South India. Then there is handloom cloth in traditional designs, hand-woven carpets, hand-woven woolen pile carpets, hand printed textiles (both Kalamkari and batik), cane furniture, handmade paper, and hand rolled incense sticks from the Sri Aurobindo Society.
Music and dances of Pondicherry are mainly extension of southern styles of classical music. Major dance forms are Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi while Carnatic style of music is the prevalent musical tradition.
Despite its French character, Pondicherry is quintessentially Indian. The zest for festivals here is much the same as elsewhere in the country. Mascarade or the Mask Festival is held in March-April when costumed merry-makers parade the streets - the French version of holi in North India. On Masimagam, the full moon day of Magam in February-March, idols from various neighbourhood temples are taken out for immersion in the sea. The seafront is lined with thousands of people keen to watch the spectacle.
Festivals of Pondicherry
Indo-French war pageantry is presented on the eve of Bastille Day, a French commemoration. International Yoga Festival is held at Aurobindo Ashram in the month of January every year. Other important festivals of Pondicherry are Sani Peyarchi Festival, which is organized once in every three years, and Panguni Uthiram in the month of March-April every year.
Last updated on Thursday, 30 November 2023.
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