Pondicherry Knowledge Guide
The history of Pondicherry is recorded only after the arrival of Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonialists. By contrast, nearby places such as Arikamedu, Ariyankuppam, Kakayanthoppe, Villianur and Bahur, which were colonised by the French East India Company over a period of time and later became the union territory of Pondicherry, have recorded histories that predate the colonial period. Poduke or Poduca (a marketplace) was a Roman trading destination from the mid 1st century. Poduca has been identified as possibly being Arikamedu (now part of Ariyankuppam), located about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the modern city of Pondicherry. The area was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the 4th century. The Cholas of Thanjavur held it from the 10th to 13th centuries until it was replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. The Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all of the south of India in the 14th century and maintained control until 1638 when they were supplanted by the Sultan of Bijapur. In 1674 the French East India Company set up a trading centre at Pondicherry and this outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India. Five trading posts were established along the south Indian coast between 1668 and 1674. The city was separated by a canal into the French Quarter and the Indian Quarter.During the Anglo-French wars (1742–1763), Puducherry changed hands frequently. On 16 January 1761, the British captured Pondicherry from the French, but it was returned under the Treaty of Paris (1763) at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War. The British took control of the area again in 1793 at the Siege of Pondicherry amid the Wars of the French Revolution, and returned it to France in 1814. When the British gained control of India in the late 1850s, they allowed the French to retain their settlements in the country. Pondicherry, Mahé, Yanam, Karaikal and Chandernagor remained a part of French India until 1954 when it was incorporated into the Indian Union with the rest of French India. On 18 October 1954 in a general election involving 178 people in Pondicherry Municipal and Commune Panchayat, 170 people were in favour of independence and eight people voted against. The de facto transfer of the French Indian territories from French governance to the Indian union took place on 1 November 1954, and was established as the union territory of Pondicherry. However, the formal de jure transfer of territory agreement between France and India was signed on 16 August 1962.
Pondicherry is a tourist destination in South India. The city has many colonial buildings, churches, temples and statues which, combined with the town planning and French style avenues in the old part of town, still preserve much of the colonial ambiance. While the sea is a draw for tourists, Pondicherry no longer has the sandy beaches that once graced its coastline. The breakwater to the harbour and other hard structures constructed on the shore caused extreme coastal erosion and the sand from Pondicherry's Promenade Beach was permitted to disappear entirely. As a result of the city's seawall and groyne construction, the beaches further up the coast to the north have also been lost. An enormous deposition of sand has accrued to the south of the harbour breakwater, but this is not a commodious beach and is not easily accessible from the city. But recently, the government has been taking steps by constructing a reef and re-dosing sand. The sea is accessible by a small patch of land at the Promenade Beach (Goubert Avenue). Moreover, the beach is one of the cleanest in India and has been selected for Blue Flag certification. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, located on rue de la Marine, is one of the most important ashrams in India, founded by the renowned Freedom Fighter and spiritual philosopher Sri Aurobindo. Auroville (City of Dawn) is an "experimental" township located 8 km north-west of Pondicherry. There are a number of old and large churches in Pondicherry, most of which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of heritage buildings and monuments are present around the Promenade Beach, such as the Children's Park and Dupleix Statue, Gandhi statue, Nehru Statue, Le Café, French War Memorial, 19th Century Light House, Bharathi Park, Governors Palace, Romain Rolland Library, Legislative Assembly, Pondicherry Museum and the French Institute of Pondicherry at Saint Louis Street. Puducherry Botanical Gardens is located south of the New Bus Stand. Chunnambar Backwater resort is situated 8 km from Pondicherry, along the Cuddalore Main Road. This tropical resort is flanked by a creek on one side. Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Devasthanam on Manakula Vinayagar Street is a Hindu temple, which houses Lord Ganesha. Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple was in existence before the French came and settled in Pondicherry i.e. before 1666. Thirukaameeswarar Temple is one of the ancient temples located in a rural town called Villianur (the ancient name is Vilvanallur, from "vilva marangal niraindha nalla vur"),which roughly translates as nice with archery trees is located about 10 km away (towards Villupuram) from Pondicherry. This temple is renowned as Periya Koil "Big Temple". The prime god is Lord Shiva and the prime goddess is Goddess Kokilambigai. There are other Hindu gods such as Murugan, Vinayagar, Thakshanamoorthy, Perumal, Bhramah, Chandikeshwarar, Natarajar, Navagrahah, and 63 Naayanmaars. The pioneers in this temple say that the age of this temple is about 1000 plus years. It is thought to have been built by one of the Chola kings. There is also a huge temple pond. The Ther Thiruvizha procession is celebrated at this temple.