Puducherry – the French dominion in India

Step into the confluence of French history and Tamilian culture


April 1, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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Puducherry still mirrors a part of the French culture

The union territory of Puducherry, predominantly called ‘Pondy’, is also notably known as the French town in southern India. As the place was under French rule until around 1954, people here still converse in French and even in English with a French accent. From houses to hotels, restaurants and shops, the French-subcontinental aesthetics here, are hard to ignore.

Been in the French saddle for more than 250 years, Puducherry still mirrors a part of the French culture that the French people left behind after their rule terminated in around 1954.

The colonial history of this place cannot easily skip the eye, whether it is an offhand stroll besides the famous Promenade Beach, where still stands the statue of Francois Dupleix (Governor-General of French India) and some kilometres away is the effigy of Joan of Arc (the heroine of France who is also canonised as a Roman Catholic saint), or a hop down the French colony where you will find justly aligned houses and trees, streets with French names, restaurants owned by French nationals and a fairly good population of local women commuting via bicycles.

The French influence in this Tamilian territory is in fine feathers. Though the primary language spoken here is Tamil, you will come across legion people in the markets and on the streets mouthing French and English with a French accent for that matter. And if you wish to explore the french linguistic influences a little more, then pay a visit to the Eglise de Notre Dame Des Anges church which was built in 1707 and still celebrates mass in French once a week.

The French War Memorial on Goubert Avenue in Puducherry

The French War Memorial on Goubert Avenue in Puducherry for the soldiers who laid down their lives during the First World War

Away from the thrust of city life, Puducherry is comparatively quiet with tree lined boulevards, whimsical colonial heritage buildings, French commercial establishments, endless stretches of unspoilt beaches and a choice of restaurants serving a melange of cuisines.

This beach town is divided into two divisions – French and Tamil, where the older French town could hear a pin drop even on the streets which are clean, with French sign boards, while the newer Pondy is typically South Indian.

Enter into the French Town and all you will see are roads enveloped with colonial style buildings some of which date back to the 18th century, French institutions, boutiques and private houses coloured in hues of cream, yellow, white and pink on long wide streets with beautifully alligned trees and plants.

From houses to hotels, restaurants and shops, the French-subcontinental aesthetics here, are hard to ignore

Moving towards the tourist hot spots, the internationally famous Sri Aurobindo Ghosh Ashram and its offshoot just north of town, Auroville, draw large numbers of spiritually minded visitors every year. Destinations like Gingee Fort, Paradise Beach, Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Jawahar Toy Museum and Le Club, are some places that will give you the feels you would never get in another typical south Indian territory.

Promenade Beach

Promenade Beach

The place is an ideal destination for shopping and aplenty of yoga and meditation activities. Puducherry is fast becoming the favourite shopping destination as it is easy on the purse with low or no taxes. Although it is known for its traditional doll-making, textiles and silks, it is also the birthplace of several world class brands in leather, pottery, aromatics, fashion and handmade paper.

The restaurants in Puducherry are a melange of both France and south India serving a rich variety of French, Indian, Asian and continental food, making the place a perfect mix of modern heritage and spiritual culture, with a predominant historical background that takes one centuries back in time.

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