Pondicherry is the capital city and the largest city of the Indian union territory of Puducherry. It is a former French colony is one of the best places to get a glimpse of colonial heritage with its lanes having small yellow-walled houses along with French cafes serving delicious steaks.
2 to 3 days is ample time to visit Pondicherry. As such the days will most likely be split between two activities.
1. Visiting Auroville
2. Everything Else
I reached pondicherry by train from bangalore and it took me about 45 minutes to locate my AirBnB stay which was in AvvaiNagar located about 9km from pondicherry railway station. My host aravind had the first floor spick n span for us and we i.,e Me, mother and sister just crashed on the beds for an hour; the overnight journey from bangalore is very tiring. Ola and uber while functional are too helpful if one is in the residential part of pondicherry. Aravind advised us to tour pondicherry using rented two wheelers. We took an auto and reached a bike renting store.
“Sri Dhanam two wheelers” located near the main bus stop offered an Avenger and pleasure, 400 INR each. The bikes were not in good condition but overall experience of touring pondicherry on bikes is totally worth it; so highly recommended to do this. We rented the bikes for two days. Ensure to check for scratches/dents before hand though.
1. Aurobindo Ashram
Our first stop was Aurobindo Ashram which houses Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s samadhis. The place was incredibly crowded with line almost 100 meters long. There is no entry fees and line moved fairly fast. There is not much to “see” per se ; just soak in the calm atmosphere, pray and buy few books. If one is looking for a long term commitment to the ashram though, I believe folks at the ashram are always happy to help out. Spend 30 mins here
2. The Vinaygar temple
The Vinaygar temple is present in the guide books as sightseeing spot. It is located very close to the Aurobindo ashram. As such the architecture is “ok” although not good enough to be called a sightseeing spot. Of course one always visit a temple. Spend 10 mins here
3. Pondicherry Museum
Located 5 mins walk away from the Vinayagar temple is the pondicherry museum. I think many people skip this spot but it is worth a visit.Housed inside is a gallery with sculptures and has the remains of archaeological findings from the Arikamedu Roman settlement. The museum also has a collection of rare bronzes and stone sculptures from the Pallava and Chola dynasties. Spend 45 minutes here.
4. Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
I never realized that the church is right in front of the railway station and it is a beauty. Not very large though; and since I was here on christmas eve, it was decorated with colorful lights. It is an oriental specimen of Gothic architecture. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and saints of the Catholic Church. I went in just to soak it all in and was out in 10 mins.
It was almost evening and time to head to the beach, the rock beach i.e and the one closest to my location. In addition, rock beach is located smack dab in the middle of most happening street in pondicherry, the beach road and promenade. The weather was amazing and there was a lot of crowd at the beach. In addition, rock beach road also has another 4 of the so called ‘sightseeing spots of pondicherry’ within a few minutes of walk away from each other. In all fairness, none of these are ‘impressive’ per se but a quick visit is fine nonetheless.
1. The Statue of Dupleix
2. The Gandhi Statue
3. The old lighthouse
4. The French was memorial.
and of course the rock beach itself.
All of our travels were quite easy thanks to rented two wheeler and Google Maps. So this method is highly recommended.
Auroville is located about 10kms from pondicherry city center and is probably the primary reason why most people even visit pondicherry. It is an experimental multi ethnicity cultural township envisioned as a place where people world over can congregate to find peace. Many people come to auroville for a temporary stay and engage themselves in activities like yoga, medidation, Sustainable living, Organic farming etc; getting away from the modern vices so to speak.
1/2 litre of petrol was sufficient to get me to auroville. Ample car parking is available for a minor parking fee. The Auroville visitor center is located about 1 kilometer’s walk from the parking lot.The highlight of auroville for the lay person would be a visit to Matramandir. The Matrimandir can be viewed as a large golden sphere which seems to be emerging out of the earth, symbolising the birth of a new consciousness. It is truly a master piece of architecture. From what I know, special permission is needed to visit the inside of matramandir where people medidate.
The free tickets to view Matramandir from a distance are available at the visitors center. We were told that we would need to procure the tickets a day before visiting matramandir but that was not so; they were given to everyone on arrival. The auroville visitors center also two cafeteria serving up some quick chats for the ones hungry from the long walk. The Matramandir itself is located another 1 km away; the elderly can take a motorized cart to the destination but others have to walk the way.
Matramandir is a sight to behold, even from far away. The golden dome shining in the sun light will surely make you want to go inside the structure. We spent about half an hour here and then another an hour or so to get back to the city.
Rest of our time in the evening was just spent in taking in sights and sounds of pondicherry. Overall 2 days was enough to cover pondicherry and the visit was worth it.
Recommended places to eat at Pondicherry
1. Cafe Xtasi known for their excellent woodfire thin crust pizza
2. Indian Coffee House known for their old world charm and excellent south Indian cuisine
Recommended places to stay at Pondicherry
1. We stayed at Aravind’s guest house which we found via AirBnb