After a hectic month of festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja, we wanted to run away from Mumbai. Away from religious rituals, festival dressing and food, and most importantly, Mumbai’s oppresive October sun. We looked forward to our Puducherry break over the extended Diwali weekend. 2 days in Puducherry and 2 days in Chennai was the itinerary.
We promised ourselves a complete relaxing time at Puducherry and did just that. A very small and compact place, this little Union Territory of India draws crowds from all over India and abroad for its French settlements and for the Aurobindo Ashram.
Here’s a list of the places you shouldn’t miss visiting when in Puducherry:
Aurobindo Ashram: Is located on the Puducherry promenade. Visit the Ashram for prayers or meditation, or even to check the various sections of the Ashram. A seperate bulding just minutes away from the promenade houses the samadhi (bodies) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. A place that observes a great deal of discipline and silence, go there in the evening to see how followers flock there for moments of quitetude and prayers.
Puducherry Promenade: Is where every Puducherry visitor definitely goes to. The promenade stretches to about 2 kilometers, is extremely clean and is clear of vehicular traffic fro 6pm to 7 am everyday, making it one of the best promenade walks in the country. Being on the Bay of Bengal, catch some glorious sunrises early morning, or jog along the sea-stretch to shoo away your city-exhaustion.
Puducherry Beach: Let me warn you in advance, the Puducherry Beach is not for swimming or any water sports. Apparently, it is very deep. However, there’s are two picturesque piers there, one, natural and made with rocks, while the other is a long, man-made one. It looked to us that you couldn’t get to the man-made pier. Nevertheless, we frolicked around the natural pier and the adjoining cove where fishermen were busy sorting their day’s catch amidst colourful boats, and we were busy chasing crabs and collecting shells.
Colourful French Houses: They spread along a couple of blocks from the Puducherry promenade, marked by streets that are named ‘Rue XX’, ‘Rue YY’ — denotinf Road number in French! Colorful houses with large courtyards, most of them have been converted to hotels or restaurants or boutiques selling antiques, apparrels. Simply stroll by the streets, nay, ‘Rues’ to get a feeling of how the French lived in India many years ago.
Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Is a few blocks away from the Puducherry promenade. In large grounds, we loved the church for its simplicity and beauty. When there, look out for the birds cage on Church grounds that house some very colourful birds.
Eglise de Notre Dame des Anges: Or, the Church of the Lady of our Angels. You can actually see the Church from the promenade. Made of cement and coloured with orange paint, the Church is not an architectural wonder, but go there if you want to spend some quiet moments. The view of the sea from the Church’s stairs is stunning!
Auroville: Auroville is about an 20-25 minutes auto-ride from the Puducherry promenade. Nestled in greens, here is a township that is home to people of any nationality or religion. Go there to see the Matrimandir, the learning centres and the numerous boutiques that sell products made by the local residents. The tour of auroville can take almost half a day.
If you ask us, Puducherry is a quiet nice place where you needn’t be in a hurry. We mostly strolled around the Promenade area and the French Colonies and saw the Governor’s House, the Park opposite the Raj Bhavan, the Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple, the Romain Rolland Library — simply hop into any of these, other than the Raj Bhavan of course, and hop out to explore Puducherry further.