Pondichery: World without borders

I visited Pondicherry during my visit to Andaman Islands. If you are planning for Andaman Islands, have time at hand and are looking at some options in addition to beaches, then Pondicherry is an alternate. Pondicherry is a union territory, located on the south-eastern coast of India. Pondicherry is easily accessible from Chennai, a 3 hour drive on the scenic East Coast Road (ECR). Pondicherry is well connected to some of the major cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi. Pondicherry tells you about divinity and yoga, human unity and nature.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community located in Pondicherry. The Ashram is located in the eastern part of Pondicherry. “The Ashram”, consists of an interconnected block of houses, including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother lived for most of their lives. A library, shop and museum are inside the Ashram but the main attraction is the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in the garden area of the ashram. Daily thousands of visitors come to the ashram. Use of mobile phones and cameras is not allowed inside and silence is the word to be experienced.

Sri Aurobindo, evolved a method of spiritual practice called ‘”Internal Yoga”. This practice aims at not only liberating a man’s consciousness but also transforming his nature.

Image credit: (Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

French War Memorial

A war memorial dedicated to the residents of French India, who died for the country during the World War I. The memorial is decorated and illuminated yearly on Bastille Day (14 July) in honor of the soldiers from the colony who took part in World War I.

French town (colony)

Just outside the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we took a bicycle tour of the French Colony. A bicycle is the mode of transport used by the local residents of the town. If you are confident of riding a bicycle, I will suggest taking a bicycle tour in Pondicherry.

While on the tour one can see typical French colonial style of buildings, with compounds and high walls. Painted in shades of yellow, blue and white these buildings look vibrant and are a favorite destination among travelers and photographers. A theatre and a school can also be seen. Several old houses have now been converted into heritage hotels/ restaurants. Beautiful masonry and architectural styles can be seen at the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Angels. This church is well maintained from outside and inside.

Promenade beach

This ~ 1 kilometer-long stretch in Pondicherry, starts from War Memorial and ends at Dupleix Park on the Goubert Avenue. It is also known as Rock beach. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi is located on the beach front of Pondicherry. Just opposite to the beach is “The Promenade”, hotel one of the options that can be considered for accommodation.

Auroville and the Matrimandir

A visit to Auroville and Matrimandir lasts about 3 to 4 hours or more depending on your interests.

Auroville

The idea of Auroville, was conceptualized by the Mother (Mirra Alfassa). The idea was to build a universal town, where men and women from all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony. They are free from the boundaries of countries and politics. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity. One can see grand old banyan trees inside the Auroville. As you walk towards the Matrimandir, various values and principles of Auroville are displayed.

Auroville is located at a distance of ~14 km from the city. No entry fee for Auroville, but it is mandatory for visitors to watch an introductory video of the Auroville and Matrimandir.

Matrimandir

A walk to Matrimandir from the Auroville is approx. 1 km. The name ‘Matrimandir’ means literally ‘Temple of the Mother’. The Matrimandir seen as a large golden sphere emerging out of the earth, symbolizes the birth of a new consciousness.

The spacious Inner Chamber in the upper hemisphere of the Matrimandir is completely white, with white marble walls and deep, white carpeting. In the centre sits a pure crystal-glass globe which suffuses a ray of electronically guided sunlight that falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere. This luminescent globe radiates natural lighting in the Inner Chamber.

Things to note – Auroville and Matrimandir

More information about Auroville and Matrimandir can be obtained here. Mobile phones, bags and cameras are not allowed beyond the viewing point. Young children under 10 years are not allowed beyond the viewing point. To meditate inside the Matrimandir, one has to obtain prior permission. Booking can be made by going personally, a day ahead of your scheduled visit. Normally permission is given for the next day, unless there are too many visitors. The visitors are allowed to meditate for 15 minutes, inside the Matrimandir.

There are several cafes inside Auroville and a variety of cuisine is served.

Important points – Pondicherry

Itemdescription
Number of days to planA minimum of two days
WeatherHot and sunny most of the year. Cotton, loose fitting clothing recommended. Dress a little conservatively.
Things to doTake a bicycle tour to explore the White Town of Pondicherry.
One can visit Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple and Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
FoodSeveral options for food and wide variety of cuisine is available. Villa Shanti is one of the popular multi-cuisine restaurants. Surguru near the Aurobindo Ashram is good option for vegetarian food.
AccommodationSeveral options are available. The Promenade, is just opposite the beach and at a fantastic location. Le Chateau is another option.
Best time to visitCan be visited all year round. Personally, I feel that time from November to mid March is very good. Time around Christmas and New Year will be good to see, traditional festivities.

*** Travel experiences before the COVID-19 Pandemic