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Pondicherry, the ‘Riviera of the East’, is a quaint little city, which retains its French character even 50 years after it merged with the Union. The picturesque drive from Chennai to Pondicherry is 170 km and takes about two and a half hours on the East Coast Road.

The French connection is still visible in the statues of Dupleix and Joan of Arc, the signboards, architecture and the smart red kepis (caps) of the policemen. The oval shaped city with its neatly aligned streets has been constructed on the lines of French influenced Mediterranean town planning. Everything about the city has a leisurely pace including the traffic – the most popular mode being bicycles. The city has an eclectic mix of French and Indian culture. It has a legacy of 19th century churches like the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Eglise de Notre Dame de la Conception, the Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges, the Eglise de Notre Dame de Lourdes and the Chapel of the Sisters of Cluny. There are more than 350 temples in and around Pondicherry, 75 of them dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The Varadaraja Temple and VillenourÕs Thyirukameswarar Temple, both date back to the 12th century. The Car Festival of Thirukameswarar Temple attracts thousands of pilgrims every year.


The Beach: The beach at Pondicherry is a wonderful place to walk and relax. The city ends at the beach with the waves crashing against the rocks. There is one-and-a-half km promenade that offers a delightful view of the beach and quaint buildings facing the sea. On the beach front stands a statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by eight, exquisitely carved monolithic pillars and a War Memorial raised by the French in honour of those who died in World War I. On the opposite side are buildings of French architecture that house restaurants and shops selling intriguing wares like paper lampshades, earthenware, pot pouri and aromatic incense sticks made in Auroville.

The Aurobindo Ashram: The Aurobindo Ashram exudes an aura of peace and harmony. It is a quiet place to reflect and meditate. The Ashram was built with the object of creating an evolution of a higher spiritual consciousness. It has more than 1,500 spiritual seekers from every part of the world today.

Pondicherry Museum: Occupying the premises of what was formerly the Government Library is the Pondicherry Museum, which is a treasure house of antiques. Besides a section on French India with rooms done in typical French style, the museum devotes sections to archaeology, geology, sculpture, bronzes, arms, print, handicraft and art.

Beach Road: The 1.5 km long section is the best entertainment centre of the city. The uncluttered beach is good for bathing throughout the year. It is often possible to spot dolphins gamboling in the sea close to the beach. Various dining and beach-sport entertainment are available.