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Holidays for Soul - Pondicherry (Puducherry)

 
 
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Spiritual Holidays - Pondicherry
| Places to see | Places Nearby | Places to Stay | How to Reach |

An erstwhile French colony, Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) with its tree lined boulevards, huge courtyards, the quaint colonial buildings with their hipped roofs and eaves, the gothic churches and of courses the cuisine is the quintessential “French Riviera of the East". However, the city is not just famous for its ‘French Connection’, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the township of Auroville are other attractions that draw a considerable number of people who visit these places not only to sightsee but to attain peace of mind and soul.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Pondicherry is synonymous with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which was set up in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a revolutionary freedom fighter who left politics in favour of yoga and spirituality. In this endeavour he was aided by The Mother who later on went to establish Auroville.  The Sri Aurobindo Ashram was built towards the creation of a new world, a new humanity, a new society, expressing and embodying a new consciousness where the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo based on  a combination of yoga and modern science had an important role to play.

Aurobindo Ashram

According to this philosophy there are no obligatory practices, no rituals, no compulsory meditations or systematic instructions in yoga. Each follower is left free to determine the course and pace of his discipline in accordance with his nature. But the general principle of the yoga is the same for all; one must surrender to the divine principle that it may transform one’s being. This spiritual discipline is called the Integral Yoga and forms the basis of the Aurobindo’s’ philosophy.

The Aurobindo Ashram also houses the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. The Ashram is open during fixed hours every day and visitors can spend time at the samadhi, or visit the various little businesses that the ashram runs. One can take a tour of the ashram where various departments of the ashram are shown. The departments are scattered all over the town, so a sadhak accompanies the visitors. The tour generally starts around 8.15 in the morning and approximately takes 3 hours by bus. There are no tours on Darshan Days and holidays.

All visitors should carry the pass all the time that enables them to attend general talks or cultural programmes organized by the ashram and also use the facilities of the ashram library and reading room. If staying for a longer period visitors can take up some work in an ashram department and do it as an offering. People visiting the ashram can stay in one of its many guest houses.

For more details about the Ashram, visit www.sriaurobindosociety.org.in

Auroville

Located some 8 km from Pondicherry is Auroville or ‘The City of Dawn’ - a unique commune where around 1,000 residents strive to realize Sri Aurobindo’s vision of “a divine life in Matter”. Conceived by The Mother in the 1960s, this unique township was built as a means to accommodate people across nations to live as a community and to achieve the sole objective of human unity in diversity and international understanding.

Auroville

One of the longest ongoing experiment of community living, this township of universal essence has been divided into several zones. At the very centre is the peace area with the Matrimandir or the ‘soul of Auroville’, the gardens, the amphitheatre with the urn containing soil from 128 countries and a lake. Then comes the industrial zone with its emphasis on green industries meant to make the town self sufficient. This area includes the city’s administration and other training centers. The next is Residential Zone followed by an International Zone, a Cultural Zone and a Green Belt zone.

Auroville also offers internships and volunteering opportunity to people willing to work there for more than a month in fields related to ecology, organic farming, renewable energy, appropriate technology, holistic architecture, holistic healing, arts, crafts and personal growth therapies. People visiting Auroville can stay in one of its many guest houses.

Auroville is situated 150 km south of Chennai and about 10 km north of Pondicherry town. Regular buses ply from Chennai to Auroville. For more details about Auroville visit www.auroville.org

Places to see in Pondicherry

Spend some time at the beautiful virgin beaches of Pondicherry viz., the Paradise Beach, Serenity Beach and the Auroville Beach while taking a stroll along the 1.5 km long promenade which will take you past the seaside park with the statue of Marquis Joseph Francois Dupleix as its main highlight.

For the religiously inclined, Pondicherry too has its share of temples, mosques and churches.  The churches of Pondicherry are known for their French architectural style which is best represented in the white and brown neo-gothic Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with its stained glass paintings and beautiful marble decorations.

Church of Our Lady of Lourdes

The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Church of Our Lady of Good Health and Church of Capuchins hold the distinction of being one of the first churches in Pondicherry. While the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes is inspired by theBasilica of Lourdes, the Church of Our Lady of Good Health (4 km away) is notable for its freestanding Crucifix displayed upon the altar and brightly painted wooden images set on shelves in the side walls. The Church of Capuchins on the other hand now houses an orphanage. The Greco-roman Cathedral of Notre Dame de Agnes bears a strong resemblance to the one in France and is famed for its rare oil painting of Our Lady of the Assumption said to be a gift from the French emperor, Napoleon III.

Manakula Vinayagar Koil

Besides churches, there are a number of temples in Pondicherry. Some of the temples worth visiting in Pondicherry include the 300 year old Manakula Vinayagar Koil dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The temple has a golden spire and its walls portray forty different forms of Ganesha. The Varadaraja Perumal Temple dating back to 600 AD is the oldest temple of Pondicherry. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, in the form of Varadaraja is built in the typical Dravidian style. The temple has brightly colored ‘gopuram’ and sculpted pillars. The Vedhapureeswara Temple also known as the Eashwaran Koil is dedicated to Lord Shiva while the Kanniga Parameswari Temple dedicated to Goddess Shakti is famous for its unique blend of French and Tamil architecture. As opposed to these temples, the Temple of Kamatchiamman dedicated to Durga is different from the others by virtue of its lack of colour and ornamentation. While all these temples are located within the town itself, the Sri Gokilambal Thirukameshwara Temple is located at Villianur some 11 km from Pondicherry. Dating back to the Chola period, the temple is a marvel of Chola architectural style and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It also has two shrines of Murugan and Devi.

Meeran Mosque

The Jamai Masjid with its distinctive architecture and swaying palm trees is another important landmark in Pondicherry. The 350 year old Meeran Mosque, said to be the oldest mosques of Pondicherry is built as per the Islamic style and houses the graves Suubhi Errai Perriar Mullah and Meeran who built this mosque. The other famous mosques include the Kuthbha Mosque and Mullah Mohammed Mosque.

Other notable places worth seeing in Pondicherry are the French War Memorial, the Old Light House, Aayi Mandapam, Lycee Francais, the statue of Joan of Arc, the Puducherry Museum, and Ananda Ranga Pillai House.

Places Nearby
Things to do
  • Weave through the old town, explore heritage buildings
  • Spend some time in Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Visit Auroville
  • Join heritage walks organised by INTACH

One can also explore the nearby places around Pondicherry. Just 7 km away is Arikamedu, well known for its excavations that trace the country’s trade linkages with the Romans way back in the 1st Century AD. Chunnambar (8km) is good for a boat ride. Mandagapattu, 60 km away is famous for its 7th Century Pallava style Cave Temple. Gingee, 68 km away is a historic city famed for its massive fort and palace ruins.

Gangaikondacholapuram (88 km) is the famed UNESCO world heritage site known for its magnificent ‘Brihadeshwara Temple’ while Chidambaram (58 km) is known for its Nataraja Temple as well as for its sculptures and massive structure.

Places to Stay

From small budget to up-market luxury hotels, from ashrams to beach resorts, Pondicherry provides a wide range of accommodation to suit the budget and taste of every traveller visiting Pondicherry. Visitors can also stay in the various guest houses which are run under the aegis of Auroville (Ph: 0413-2622704). The Aurobindo Ashram also has a few guest houses and it is recommended that one should book in advance (Ph: 0413- 2339648). For more check hotels in Pondicherry

 
How to reach

By Air: The nearest airport is in Chennai, 135 km from Pondicherry.

By Rail: Villupuram is the nearest rail junction which is well connected to places like Chennai, Madurai and Trichy.

By Road: Pondicherry is well connected to its neighbouring towns. There are frequent buses from Chennai’s new bus stand in Koyembedu to Pondicherry.

Check Driving Directions from Chennai to Pondicherry

Best Time to Go: The best time to visit Pondicherry is December – February though the monsoons too have a charm of their own.


About Pondicherry: Pondicherry Information & Fact File
Altitude 32 meters above sea level
Temp
Summer 40 (Max) & 24 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Winter 30 (Max) & 21 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Best time to Go December - February
Monsoon July & also from Mid October – Mid December
Summer March – June
Winter December – February
Clothes Light cottons in summer as well as in winter
Nearest Airport Chennai, 135 km away
Nearest Railway Station Villupuram, 36 km away
Bus Station Pondicherry
Hospital & Doctor

Govt. and Pvt. Hospitals at Pondicherry are fully equipped to handle medical emergencies.

Places to see Beaches, Auroville, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Varadaraja Perumal Temple…
   
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