Pondicherry, an atypical city in India

After one month of being infused in the Indian atmosphere, I realise that the place where I’m living at the moment is maybe one of the most particular places in India. Except the fact that I’m staying in Auroville, which is a very unusual and very pleasant international town in the outskirts of Pondicherry, the place of Pondicherry itself is atypical compare to others Indian cities.

Someone special in Pondicherry

An atypical people in the atypical city of Pondicherry

A little geography and history

Pondicherry, which is also called Puducherry (since 2006) or Pondichéry (in French), is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India that is the 4th largest economy among all Indian states.

Pondicherry and Auroville localisation

Pondicherry and Auroville localisation

Pondicherry has known different colonial periods in History, but the French mainly held the control of the city from the year 1674 to the 1st November 1954, when the French government leave all the ancient territories of the French India under the control of the Indian Government. The French colony has given some rights to the Dalits people (the lowest caste) that were forbidden before like the right to wear clothes and shoes in the street, which have been at the basis of a certain social equality emancipation. Therefore, the French government has been regretted at that time of the Independence and is still regretted by some people nowadays. In this regard, the language of Molière is used by a part of the population and Pondicherry benefits from a special treatment especially lower taxes in some goods like liquors, which make also Pondicherry the perfect place to buy souvenirs.

The little city of Pondicherry

The map of the city (see below) demonstrate clearly the colonial influence with its perpendicular and parallel streets. There is three different districts with three distinct ambiances: the French district (the south part in orange) very quiet and calm, the Muslim district (the west part in green) with the delightful Muezzin’s call at 5 am and, finally, the Indian district (the center and east part in green) which is very animated and where driving a motorcycle looks like in a crazy video game !

Pondicherry's Map

Pondicherry’s Map

In others words, Pondicherry is not a very big city and its simple organisation makes the things really easy to take his marks, especially if you are french. There is no magnificent monuments but the entire city has a very special atmosphere. Indeed, you can do some shopping in Nehru Street with its many different stores, get lost in the Grand Bazaar (Goubert Market) with all its exotic sights and smells, drink a coffee with a french croissant in the modern french bakery, enjoy a beautiful walk or a motorcycle ride along the sea’s bay, spend an afternoon at the Government Place with its peaceful park… There is so many different ambiances that you should certainly appreciate the little city of Pondicherry !

A little visit in pictures

Talking, talking, talking… Sometimes, pictures are more representative than hundreds of words ! Am I Right? Anyway, let’s have a real look on Pondicherry !

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Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°1

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°2

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°2

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°3

Rooftop view of Pondicherry n°3

These pictures were taken in the ORSED’s office, in the extreme west part of Pondicherry. Now, let’s go down in the street.

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Bicycles, a common mean of transportation

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A Tuk-Tuk with a driver getting some rest

Sea's  bay in Pondicherry

Sea’s bay by motorcycle in Pondicherry… what a fresh ride in the morning !

An Ambassador car... I am fan !

An Ambassador car… I am a fan !

A cow with a steamroller

A dog among the thousands of stray dogs in Pondicherry

A dog among the thousands of stray dogs in Pondicherry

Each Sunday, the main streets of Pondicherry are agitated with a lot of different stalls in front of the stores for the Sunday Market… It’s time to bargain in this huge mass of people !

Mahatma Gandhi Street

Mahatma Gandhi Street during the Sunday market…

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…there is definitely too many people !

Pondicherry is also a city with very diversified religious cults. For example, when I stayed in the muslim district during my first days, it was really special to be rocked by the Muezzin’s call. I let you discover this inspiring diversity in pictures.

Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple - Ganesh

Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple – Ganesha

Here you can buy some offerings for Ganesh

Here you can buy some offerings for Ganesha

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And you can also marry you ! (Antoine and Claudine, 2 magnificent married Swiss friends)

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Église de Notre Dame des Anges

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de l’Immaculée Conception

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Église de Sacré Coeur de Jésus

Sri Aurobindo's Ashram

Sri Aurobindo’s Ashram

“True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.” ― Sri Aurobindo

The Goubert Market, the famous Grand Bazaar in Pondicherry, where you can fill your grocery basket with a lot of vegetables, fruits, spices, etc.

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Goubert market sight n°1

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Goubert market sight n°2

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Goubert market sight n°3

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Goubert market sight n°4

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Goubert market sight n°5

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“Fresh” Fishes

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Bag of spices in the Grand Bazaar

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A woman confectioning flower necklaces in the Grand Bazaar

Others representative monuments of the french period…

Government Place

Government Place

1914-1918 Memorial

1914-1918 Memorial

During the sunset, you can enjoy the end of your day admiring the sea with your friends.

Sunset on Pondicherry's beach

Sunset on Pondicherry’s beach

When the night is coming around 6 pm, we discover others surprising atmospheres with particular feelings. In these pictures, you’ll see lot of lights mainly because of the 60th anniversary of the Independence Day of Pondicherry (1st November 1954) and of Diwali’s Day (22 October 2014).

The sea's bay of Pondicherry by night

The sea’s bay of Pondicherry by night

The Gandhi Statue

The Gandhi Statue

Chief Secretary - Pondicherry Government

Eduardo front of the Pondicherry Government’s Chief Secretariat

Nehru Street by night

Nehru Street by night

A liquor store and bar

A liquor store and bar

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Sometimes indian people try to help dogs… (This lucky one is called Jimmy)

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… At other times, they try to help homeless people.

To conclude, I think that Pondicherry is a beautiful and interesting city to visit, especially if you are french considering the important french community that is living here. You will not come for visiting magnificent monuments but for living entirely in this atypical city of the South India.

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Pondicherry’s night atmosphere – Antoine Poget

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