BANGALORE: Weekends do not always mean endless visit to shopping malls, theatres, pubs and monotonous settings. Beat the everyday boredom and ennui with a stay at the quiet little town on the southern coast, Pondicherry, known as the The French Riviera, and officially named Puducherry.
There is more of vibrancy, enthusiasm and a sublime tranquillity, which cannot be imagined, is attached to the serene of the town. The street names such as Rue Damas, Rue Romain Roland, Rue Francois Martin, have a vintage connect.
The distinctive French connection, the tree lined boulevards, the quaint colonial heritage buildings, mellow colours of flamboyant bougainvillea bursting over compound walls of courtyards, the spiritual scene, the endless stretches of beaches, and the relative and real silence of ‘Pondy’ absorbs thousands of people from across the world.
The town, divided in a French section and Tamil section, with its respective population and architectural differences, is a photographers’ paradise. Foreign expatriates and French diplomatic corps have carved out a base on the Ville Blanche. Colonial style buildings with long compound walls coloured cream, yellow and grey dominate the French settings, while the Tamil Town the streets are lined by verandahs and extended porches.
One cannot resist the lure of walking through the lanes and by-lanes, shopping for clothes and ornaments for self, relatives and friends. At any time of the day, people can take a stroll on the 1.5 kilometre long promenade running along the beach, or bicycle along the Beach Road and the Mediterranean buildings in the French Quarter.
People from across the world flock to the Aurobindo Ashram, located on rue de la Marine, a couple of kilometre away from the bus stand and the beach, set up in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose, one of India’s greatest philosopher-poets, for spiritual salvation. Ashram is a place where you can get a pinch of the esoteric meditative mood while sitting in front of the Samadhi of divine ‘Mother’ Mirra Alfassa, and Sri Aurobindo.
A little walk from the Ashram leads to Srimanakula Vinayakar Temple, which is more than 300 years old and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The main attraction at the temple is the temple elephant, ‘Lakshmi’, who uses her trunk to bless the devotees.
Yet another attraction is the Auroville, a multi-racial township international township located eight kilometres away from Pondicherry. Auroville personifies peace and harmony and the Matrim andir located at the centre of the village, a temple dedicated to Mother which is used for meditation.
And, not to forget, the liquors are sales tax exempt in Pondicherry, making it much cheaper compared to other places. So, one can get to a different kind of 'divine' world.
Bliss is Pondicherry, Pondicherry is bliss.