The Union Territory of Puducherry comprises the former French establishments of Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam, which lie scattered in South India. Puducherry, the capital of the Territory was once the original headquarters of the French in India, is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal and is about 135 kms. from Chennai Airport. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the three sides by Tamil Nadu. About 130 kms. south of Puducherry on the East Coast lies Karaikal. Mahe is situated on the Malabar coast on the Western Ghats surrounded by Kerala and is about 70 kms. from Calicut Airport. Yanam is situated adjoining the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and is about 200 kms. from Visakhapatnam Airport. The main languages spoken here are Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, English and French.
All the regions of Puducherry were under the French rule for 138 years. On November 1, 1954, the French possessions in India were de facto transferred to the Indian Union and became a Union Territory. But only in 1963, Puducherry became officially an integral part of India.
Pondicherry is a peaceful city. It is referred by names such as 'Quintessence of French Culture', 'India's Little France' and 'The French Riviera of the East'. Still it has the French flavor in it as one can see by the grand colonial mansions, beautiful boulevards, and placid promenades, spellings on sign boards and buildings, names of roads and public places.
Puducherry still has a large number of Tamil residents with French passports, whose ancestors were in French Governmental service and who chose to remain French at the time of Independence. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French period, there is the French Consulate in Puducherry, several cultural organizations and the Foyer du Soldat for war veterans of the French Army. Of the cultural organizations, the French Institute, the Alliance Francais and the Ecole Francais d'Extrème Orient are noteworthy.
The uniqueness of Pondicherry town invariably lies in skillful town planning and Franco Tamil architecture. The town is built on the model of "bastide", a fortified French coastal town of the late 18th Century.
Winter - Runs from December through February. Daily temperature around 30° C and nights are pleasant, even cool.
Summer - From March through July has hot and humid climate. Temperature routinely touching 40° C in May and June. Normally around 35° C-38° C.
How to reach Puducherry -
The closest airport is in Chennai, which is around 135 kms. from Puducherry (approx 2½ hours journey). Chennai has excellent connections with almost all cities in India and direction connection to Europe, USA, Middle East and South East Asia. Trichy airport (220 kms. away) and Bangalore airport (320 kms. away) are the other nearby airports.
Villupuram is the nearest railway junction, which is fairly well connected to places like Chennai, Madurai and Trichy.
Puducherry is well connected to all districts and major towns of various states like Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andra Pradesh. Puducherry is best accessible by road. There are frequent buses, almost every 15 minutes in the day from Chennai (approx. 3½ hours journey). There are frequent buses to Puducherry from places like Cuddalore, Villupuram, Chidambaram, Thanjavur, Trichy, Coimbatore and Bangalore.
Puducherry Culture -
Puducherry people, culture, festivals reflect the social structure of the Union territory. The culture of Puducherry has imbibed various fairs and festivals. Some of these fairs and festivals are religious in nature, while others are cultural and spiritual. Few of the popular fairs and festivals that have religious significance are festival Kinni Radhothsavam in Kamatchiamman Temple, Masi Magam, Brahamothsavam in Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Bastille Day on 14 July, Fire Walking Festival, annual festival at Muthumariamman Temple, 22-day festival in Drowpathiamman Temple and many more.
The International Yoga Festival in January and the Veerampattinam Car Festival are the two famous festivals. Puducherry was the erstwhile colony of France, so the influence of French culture is evident on the architecture, cuisine and lifestyle of the people of Puducherry. The influence of the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are also quite evident on their culture. Puducherry is a popular pilgrimage center where people following various religions come here. Religion and spirituality is imbibed in the culture of the region. In and around Puducherry there are more than 350 temples.
The people of Puducherry are engaged in different types of handicrafts like leather, woodcraft, pottery, metal craft etc. It has a cosmopolitan culture and people belonging to different castes, creed and religions live here amicably. Puducherry people, culture, festivals are the representative of the heritage of the Indian sub-continent. U.T. of Puducherry people speak French and English, along with Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
Puducherry People -
The Union Territory of Puducherry has a richly cosmopolitan culture. Puducherry people speak French and English, along with Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Some of the schools in Puducherry use French as the medium of communication. An interesting fact about the people of Puducherry is that half the population in the region hold dual citizenship of both French and Indian. People of different castes, religions, creed, origin live here happily and enjoy all the festivals together.
The people of Puducherry are easy and happy going. The people celebrate the festivals like Pongal, International Yoga Festival in January, Maasi Magam in the month of March, Maangani Festival in July, Bastille Day on 14 July with great festivity. Puducherry is one of the major educational centers of India and has some renowned institutions like Aarupadai Veedu Medical College, Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Pondicherry Medical, Vinayak Mission's Medical College, Sri Manakula Vinayagar Engineering College, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry Engineering College, Bharathiar College of Engineering and Technology, Sri Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Engineering ans Technology, Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College.
As a result education and learning is very much in the culture of the people who are engaged in education and research. Since Puducherry was influenced by French, the influence of French culture is evident on the architecture, cuisine and lifestyle of the people of Puducherry. Leather, woodcraft, pottery, metalcraft are some of the popular handicrafts in which the people of Puducherry are engaged.
Puducherry Culture –
Puducherry Culture is very rich and diverse. It is a place where the cultural impacts of several traditions have merged to form a cultural in itself. The glorious past is reflected well in the cultural practices of the people of the Union Territory of Puducherry. The dominant cultural practices in Puducherry are mainly influenced and inspired by the traditions and customs of the people of the Tamil origin on one hand and the lifestyle of the French colonizers.
The spirit of the Union Territory of Puducherry lies in this unique fusion. The Puducherry people, culture, festivals together contribute to the lively ambiance of the place. Various fairs and festivals form an integral part of the culture of Puducherry. Several aspects of the daily activities and lifestyle of the people are celebrated in these festivals. There are festivals dedicated to food and handicrafts as well. During the colonial period a tradition of practicing art and crafts evolved in this place. Till date many people of Puducherry work to keep this age old tradition alive.
The local people are involved in making various dining mats, candles, incense sticks, wooden serving mats, screen paintings, batik paintings on clothes, etc. On a trip to Puducherry, the French Rivera of the East you will discover how in the two sectors of the place both the French and the Tamil culture are celebrated and maintained with equal enthusiasm. The presence of two dominant influences have made the Puducherry culture complex but very vibrant at the same time.
Music and Dance in Puducherry -
Music & Dance in Puducherry form a very important part of the cultural life of the people here. Various dance festivals are celebrated by the people of this union territory of India. Cultural programs are organized during the other festivals as well. The music and dance forms of Puducherry are immensely influenced by the rich heritage of the Tamil tradition. Here the classical form of music of South India are celebrated and kept alive with much enthusiasm. The Puducherry people, culture, festivals all remain incomplete without the lively music and dance performances.
In the dance festivals of Puducherry one will get to watch performances of some of the traditional forms like Yakshgana, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Chau, Mohininattam, etc. on the occasion of Shivaratri the Chidambaram Natyanjali Festival is celebrated here every year. Performers from various corners of the country gather to perform in and attend this prestigious festival. The festival was first initiated by Kapila Vatsayan and Nagaswamy in the year of 1981. The Bhairavi is a Carnatic music circle in Puducherry. They organize performances of Carnatic music every month. It is functioning for the last twenty two years. They arrange for both instrumental as well as vocal performances.
They also organize special programs for the children. There are about two hundred and five members of this music circle of Puducherry. There is also a wing of this organization that is totally dedicated to offering lessons and training in art, sculpture, music and dance to enthusiasts of Puducherry culture. The different forms and genres of music and dance in Puducherry thus are celebrated as an important aspect of community lifestyle and social interaction.
Puducherry Architecture -
Puducherry Architecture is one of the most interesting subjects to be noticed and studied about this union territory of India. The architecture here is highly influenced by the culture of the place. An interesting fact about Puducherry is that the city is divided into two quarters. While one is the French sectors the other is the Tamil section. The cityscapes of the two different sectors strongly reflect the lifestyle and practices of the people living in this place.
The architectural styles of the buildings in the two sectors are completely different from each other. There are also some excellent structures in Puducherry that represent the fusion of the two dominant architectural styles of this place. These houses belong to the Franco- Tamil category. In the Tamil section of the city a visitor can notice houses with 'thalvaram' and 'thinnais'. The thalvarams are street verandas with a leaning roof which is supported by wooden posts. Vertical columns and pillars with ornamented parapets are characteristic features of typical Tamil style of houses.
The thinnais are public verandas with masonry seats for guests and visitors. The interiors of the houses in the French quarter are more embellished than the exteriors. French architectural influences are marked by the tall arched windows and door along the with high ceilings. The French houses were generally built with street frontage. The window shades were generally made of wood or light metals. Thus the most interesting parts of the Puducherry architecture are the products of fusion of the two styles. There are some houses in the Tamil streets where the architecture reflect remarkable French influence.
Fairs & Festivals of Puducherry -
Fairs and Festivals of Puducherry are reflective of the cultural heritage of the place. A strong connection with Tamil Nadu, a history of French colonialism, and the influence of Rishi Sri Aurobindo together effects to bestow Puducherry with a plethora of festivals. Puducherry literally indulges in various fairs and festivities throughout the year. Some of the festivals are very unique and interesting, celebrated only within Puducherry.
Puducherry has a population that is a harmonious mix of different religions. Thus the fairs and festivals in Puducherry are also centered around their presiding deity though everybody irrespective of caste and creed takes part in them. Lord Sulramaniar, Muthumariammam and Angalamman are mostly worshiped by the Hindus of Puducherry. Similarly, the Christians take part in the feast of Lady of Lourdes and celebrate St Theresa festival. The Muslims also have their mosques and their respective celebrations. The Pongal festival is the most important festival in Puducherry though their are many other celebrations.
Large number of tourists and people from neighboring areas flock Puducherry especially during the International Yoga Festival, Fire Walking festival and Masquerade or Mask festival. All these festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm by people from all walks of life. Due to Keralite influence in the region of Mahe in Puducherry festivals like Vishu, Onam and Sri Krishna Jayanti are also celebrated with much pomp. Other fairs and festivals of Puducherry include Mangani festival, Mandalam Vilakku, Putha Lanthira, Kandoori festival, Mandolilthira, Sedal, Pandokuloththira, Bhagavathi temple festival, Koyodan Korothithra, Masimagam Festival, Vishnutheertham and Swamikalyanam.
History of Puducherry -
he Portuguese have been here. So have the Dutch, The Danes, The English And the French.
By 18th century this tiny fishing village had turned into a grand port city. The French first set foot here in 1670 and left a part of them when their undisturbed rule finished in 1954. Not much has changed since. The history has become punctuated. The air filled with nostalgia and the present is living up to a heritage that speaks so much. A trip to Puducherry is like a journey in time with a vibrant present celebrating its interesting past. “History goes back to the Roman times, but factually started with the arrival of the French in 1963, who founded the town and built it in its present form, during the two and a half century they occupied it.”
“Puducherry” is the French interpretation of the original name “Puducheri” meaning “new settlement”. Many pilgrims have shared the town’s hospitality on their way to the temple town of Rameshwaram, thus enriching its culture.
Early Period -
The known history of Puducherry dates back to the beginning of our era. Puducherry also had a flourishing maritime history. Excavations at Arikamedu, about 7 kms to the south of the town, show that Romans came here to trade in the 1st Century AD.
The trade included dyed textiles, pottery and semi-precious stones. The findings are now displayed in the Puducherry Museum. Ancient Roman scripts mention one of the trade centres along the Indian coast as Poduca or Poduke, which refers, historians affirm, only to the present Puducherry.
Before this period nothing is known with certainty. The "Bahur Plates", issued in the 8th century speak of a Sanskrit University which was here from an earlier period. Legend has it that the sage Agastya established his Ashram here and the place was known as Agastiswaram. An inscription found near the Vedhapuriswara Temple hints at the credibility of this legend.
History continues at the beginning of the fourth century A. D. when the Puducherry area is part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram. During the next centuries Puducherry is occupied by different dynasties of the south: in the tenth century A.D.
The Cholas of Tanjavur took over, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the thirteenth century. After a brief invasion by the Muslim rulers of the North, who established the Sultanate of Madurai, the Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all the South of India and lasted till 1638, when the Sultan of Bijapur began to rule over Gingee.
Foreign contacts -
Unlike the Arab merchants, who had been sailing the coasts of India since times immemorable, the impact of European contact had far reaching consequences in terms of establishments and in the end the occupation of the entire Subcontinent.
In 1497 the Portuguese discovered the route to India and began to expand their influence by occupying coastal areas and building harbour towns, which soon extended more than 12.000 miles of coast-line.
The Portuguese established a factory in Puducherry at the beginning of the sixteenth century, but were compelled to leave a century later by the ruler of Gingee, who found them unfriendly. After that the Danes shortly set up an establishment, and likewise the Dutch. The latter set up trading posts in Porto Novo and Cuddalore. The French, who had trading centres in the North, Mahe and Madras were invited to open a trading centre in Puducherry by the new ruler of Gingee to compete with the Dutch.
In 1673, February 4th, Bellanger, a French officer, took up residence in the Danish Lodge in Puducherry and the French Period of Puducherry began.In 1674 Francois Martin, the first Governor, started to build Puducherry and transformed it from a small fishing village into a flourishing port-town.
In 1693 the Dutch took over and fortified the town considerably. But four years later Holland and France signed a peace treaty and the French regained Puducherry in 1699. In the 18th century the town was laid out on a grid pattern and grew considerably.
Able Governors like Lenoir (1726-1735) and Dumas (1735-1741) and an ambitious Governor Dupleix (1742-1754) expanded the Puducherry area and made it a large and rich town. But ambition clashed with the English interests in India and the local kingdoms and a period of skirmishes and political intrigues began. Under the command of Bussy, Dupleix's army successfully controlled the area between Hyderabad and Cape Comorin. But then Robert Clive arrived in India, a dare-devil officer who dashed the hopes of Dupleix to create a French Colonial India. After a defeat and failed peace talks, Dupleix was recalled to France.
In spite of a treaty between the English and French not to interfere in local politics, the intrigues continued. Subsequently France sent Lally Tollendal to regain the French losses and chase the English out of India. After an initial success they razed Fort St. David in Cuddalore to the ground, but stategic mistakes by Lally led to the loss of the Hyderabad region and the siege of Puducherry in 1760. In 1761 Puducherry was razed to the ground in revenge and lay in ruins for 4 years. The French had lost their hold in South India.
In 1765 the town is returned to France after a peace treaty with England in Europe. Governor Law de Lauriston set to rebuild the town on the old foundations and after five months 200 European and 2000 Tamil houses had been erected. During the next 50 years Puducherry changed hands between France and England with the regularity of their wars and peace treaties.
Only after 1816 the French regained permanent control of Puducherry, but the town had lost much of its former glory. Successive Governors improved infrastructure, industry, law and education over the next 138 years. In 1947 the English left India for good, but it lasted till 1954 when the French handed Puducherry over to an independent India.
After Independence -
On November 1, 1954, the French possessions in India were de facto transferred to the Indian Union and Puducherry became a Union Territory. 280 years of French rule had come to an end. But only in 1963 Puducherry became officially an integral part of India after the French Parliament in Paris ratified the Treaty with India. In the year 1963, the Parliament enacted the Government of Union Territories Act which provides for Legislative Assemblies and Council of Ministers in the Union Territories. In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 239 of the Constitution of India and Section 46 of the Government of Union Territories Act 1963, the President of India has framed the Business of the Government of Puducherry (Allocation) Rules, 1963 etc..
The Centre is represented by the Lt. Governor, who resides at the Raj Nivas at the Park, the former palace of the French Governor.Puducherry still has a large number of Tamil residents with French passports, whose ancestors were in French Governmental service and who chose to remain French at the time of Independence. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French Period, there is the French Consulate in Puducherry and several cultural organisation, and even the Foyer du Soldat for war veterans of the French Army. Of the cultural organisations the French Institute, the Alliance Francais and the Ecole Francais d'Extrème Orient are noteworthy.
How to Reach Puducherry –
The closest airport is in Chennai, which is around 135 kms from puducherry (approx. 2 ½ hrs. journey). Chennai has excellent connections with almost all cities in India and direction connection to Europe, USA, Middle East and South East Asia. Trichy airport is 220 kms away. Bangalore (320 kms) and Madurai are the other nearby airports.