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Pondicherry Information - Explore Pondicherry

     Pondicherry is 162 km south of Chennai.  It was the former French settlement.  Even before that, was known as Vedapuri and once maritime trade flourished here.  Roman coins, wine jars and other articles reveal roman connections and its antiquity are considered to be before the Christian era.  It was under the rule of the Cholas, Pllavas and the Vijayanagar kings. Later it came under the Golconda Sultan and the French bought it from him in 1763 and founded their settlement.  Besides Pondicherry another place Karaikal about 150 km south of Chennai on the seashore and Yenam in Andhra Pradesh and Mahe in Kerala also form part of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.  Even after Indian Independence, Pondicherry remained under French rule and only in 1954 was the de jure transfer to India made by France.

     The union territory of Puducherry (more famously known as Pondicherry or just ‘Pondy’) is a place that is blessed with a little bit of everything.  From a piece of ‘God’s own country’ to an enclave set in warm Tamil Heartland to a cozy corner in Andhra Pradesh to a town that still has a generous whiff of its glorious French past, Pondicherry has everything.  This bustling Minneapolis of more than 11 lakh people has a distinct habit of welcoming all, and the proof of this is in the increasing number of tourists every year.  Neat, Pleasant and charming, Pondicherry has a beautiful beach and a sea that is always warm and refreshing.  It has been made world famous by the Aurobindo Ashram and its offshoot, Auroville.  And in what still remains of its French connection, there is a uniqueness that makes it different from the rest of India.

The Administration

     As a Union Territory (UT), Pondicherry has its own government that 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 have to get sanction or need to be ratified by the Central Government (Center).

     The Center is represented by the Lt. Governor, who resides at the Raj Nivas at the Park, te former palace of the French Governor.

The Geography

     The Union Territory of Pondicherry comprises of four coastal regions viz Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam in Andhara Pradesh and Mahe on the West Coast in Kerala.

     Pondicherry is the Capital of this Union Territory.  It is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 162 km South of Chennai (Madras).  There are no hills or Forests in this region.  The main soil types in this region are ferrallitic, black clay and costal alluvial.

The Climate

     As in the rest coastal South India, summers (March to July) are generally hot and humid in Pondicherry, with the temperature routinely touching 40°C in May and June.  Even otherwise, the weather in Pondicherry is hot, averaging between 35°C and 38°C, but cab be delightful too.  Throughout the year, evening sea breezes being relief.

      The Monsoon on the west coast brings temporary relief towards the end of July and in August, which results in milder temperatures and occasional showers which might continue right up to the month of October.  The North West Monsoon in October through December brings coller weather.  The monsoon develops through out this period, peaking in November and occasional quick tempered storms fill the streets for a day or two.

      Winter if it can be called that is from December through February, with the day temperature hovering around 30°C, and the nights pleasant and cool.  This is the tourist season in Pondicherry.

The People

     Main language spoken in the region are Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. English and French are other languages, which are spoken by a considerable number of people.  A Majority of the people are Hindus, there are quite a number of Christians and Muslims, but very few Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists.

     Pondicherry 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 Independene.  Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French Period, there is the French Consulate in Pondicherry and several cultural organizations, and even 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 ‘Extreme Orient are Noteworthu.

Pondicherry Art & Architecture

     Pondicherry – the oval town is divided into Tamil and French parts,  where you can find typical 18th century French mansions and Tamil houses with ‘thinnai’ and ‘thalawaram’- lending their unique charm to picturesque Pondicherry.
The Vysial Street between Mission Street and M.G. Road has the remaining core of Hindu Tamil houses maintaining the earliest fusion with European style.  Some of the houses in this traditional neighborhood of rich merchants are 250 years old.  It has the feature of ‘thinnai’ (a flat-ceiling platform built into the façade and supported by large wooden columns), ‘mutram’ (a central open courtyard surrounded by a colonnaded roofed space) and ‘thalvaram’ (a tiled roof extending from the sloping roof to posts or pillars at the curb, to shelter people from intense rain or shine.

     The 19th Century pale-green and blue-trimmed houses with thick walls in Franco-Tamil-Muslim style can be seen in L’Ancien Hospital (Mailad) Street and Cazy Street.

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