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Pondicherry

Pondicherry or Puducherry, the capital of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, is located along the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal. Pondicherry is also the largest coastal enclave in the Union Territory of Pondicherry, the others being Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. Pondicherry is situated in Tamil Nadu at a distance of about 160 km to the south of Chennai. According to mythology, Pondicherry was known by the name Vedapuri. This place is also believed to be the abode of the revered sage, Saint Agasthya. Pondicherry later came under the rule of various dynasties like the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Pandyas. As per 'Periplus of the Erythraean Sea', Pondicherry had trade relations with Rome during 1st century AD. Roman pottery excavated from Arikamedu near Pondicherry, which dates back to the first half of 1st century AD, also points to this fact. The unique location of Pondicherry captured the attention of Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danes, the English and the French. Pondicherry came under the rule of the French in 1673 and since then

The Union Territory of Pudhucherry (earlier Pondicherry) comprises of the four unconnected, erstwhile French settlements of Pudhucherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. While Karaikal lies 150 km south of Pudhucherry on the east coast, Mahe is on the Malabar Coast and Yanam in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

As you travel down the scenic East Coast road you hit Pudhucherry about 160 kms south of Chennai on the Coromandel Coast. It is bound on the east by the Bay of Bengal and by South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu on the other three sides. Pudhucherry traces its origin to Sage Agasthya. Its shores have also been home to different cultures, from the Romans to the French, who ruled for 300 years.

Today, it exudes a charming picture of a quaint French town with its neat, cobbled streets, elegant houses, policemen with red kepis, quaint signboards, statues of Dupleix and Joan of Arc and pretty gardens. The entire town is divided into the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or White town) and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or Black Town).The Aurobindo Ashram founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926, and Auroville (10 km) with its quiet spiritual experience, draw people from all over the world.

Sightseeing Highlights:
Raj Nivas, the former palace of Dupleix now the residence of Pudhucherry\\\'s Lieutenant Governor, Botanical Gardens, Chunnambar boat house, Bharathi Park, Museum, Romain Rolland Library, Botanical Garden, Anglo-French textile mills, the 400-year old banyan tree at Keezhoor, and the coastal town of Marakanam that was a major port in the 1st Century AD, are all worth the visit.

There are a great many temples (nearly 350) in the vicinity. Do not miss the 7th century cave temples at Mandagapattu (60 Kms), Gingee (68 km) and Singavaram (72 km), the Shatru Malleswaralayam rock cut temple at Thalavanur (16 km from Gingee) and the temple town of Chidambaram (58 kms).

A number of 18th and 19th century churches can also be seen here. Among them are 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.

Activities: Heritage walks cover French and Tamil sectors and the Aurobindo ashram; there is a warm and inviting Pondicherry Beach and a seaside to unwind at after all the sightseeing.

Getting there:
Closest Airport: Chennai Airport
Closest Station: Villupuram Junction
Closest Highway: East Coast Road, NH 45-A