European traders first came to the Indian shores in the 16th century. In the year 1673, a Frenchman, Francois Martin, bought a coastal village from the Raja of Bijapur and it was named Pondicherry. It became a French colony in 1675. Pondicherry belongs to history. It started trade relations with Rome and later became a centre of learning. The sage Agastya is believed to have been lived and taught here. The world famous Aurobindo Ashram stands at the very same place now.
Pondicherry continued to be a French Territory even after India won independence in 1947. It was dissolved in the Indian Union only in 1954. Now Pondicherry has its own legislature and cabinet. Pondicherry is an oval shaped township with roads made at right angles. It is very different from other Indian states. The town is only a few feet above the sea level. Pondy has many lagoons, the major one among them being Ousteri, a calm lake. This lake is a popular place for boating and picnics among tourists.
The Pondicherry town attracts a lot of tourists. The place is a cosmopolitan one where foreigners and local people live and work together in harmony. Tamil is the chief language. Bengali, Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi and English are also spoken. There is a small French speaking population.
Pondicherry has other 3 parts which lies in other states viz, Karaikal(Tamilnadu), Yanam(Andhra Pradesh) and Mahe(Kerala). One can have a variety of dishes from different cultures here like the South Indian food, Eastern and Western dishes in the hotels and restaurants. French cuisine, Japanese and Vietnamese food is available in certain restaurants.
The Ashram was established by Aurobindo Ghose who came here as a political exile from British India. Mirra Richand, the wife of a French diplomat came to India in 1914 and she and Aurobindo established a spiritual rapport with each other. Aurobindo called her the "Divine Mother". She took over the management of the Ashram after her return from France.
The Aurobindo ashram runs a number of institutions in Pondy. The main building of the Ashram is used for various cultural and educational activities. The new town of Pondicherry is said to have built around the ashram. The Ashram has about 2000 inhabitants from different parts of the world like USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, Indonesia and all parts of India. The main Ashram building contains the samadhis of Aurobindo and the Mother.
It was the Mother's dream to develop a city that would belong to the humanity as a whole. This dream city is Auroville.The Mathrimandir (Temple of the Mother) is at the centre of the Auroville. The Auroville was constructed by architects and engineers from different parts of the world. The Auroville accommodates about 50000 inhabitants.
Famous Personalities lived in Pondicherry
Two famous poets also took refuge in Pondicherry. They were Subramaia Bharathi and Bharathidasan. The houses were these poets lived are maintained as memorials by the Government of Pondicherry. Another famous personality associated with Pondicherry is Ananda Rangapillai, the official intrepreter of the Governor Dupleix between 1736 and 1760. The records he maintained were of immense importance to the history of India and are preserved in the Rolland Library.
There are about 350 Hindu temples in and around Pondicherry. Considering the size of the Union Territory, this is a record. The Varadaraja Temple and Thirukameshwar temple are some of the important temples. Right inside the town, on the Rue Orleans Street is Manakula Vinayagar temple which is visited by so many tourists and pilgrims.
The French constructed a number of Churches during 18th and 19th centuries. The notable ones are : Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges and Egilse de Sacra Coeur de Jesus which is the most beautiful church in Pondicherry.
Pondicherry is one of the most important tourist places in South India. It is visited by so many Indian and foreign tourists every year. Pondicherry will be known as Puducherry from November 1, 2006.