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04 Sep 2020

A Journey Through White Town’s Past

 

Pondicherry is every traveller’s paradise. Whether you’re an artist on the lookout for inspiration, a history buff dreaming of the glorious past, or a passionate wanderer with a thirst for adventure, there’s bound to be a story that excites you in White Town. Pondy is full of fascinating stories as a former French colony, and the French Quarter is the place to go for them! Every stop will be well worth it with a carefully curated experience from our Leisure Host.

 

Start your journey at Église Notre-Dame des Anges

 

Also known as Our Lady of Angels Church, The White Chapel, or Kaps Koil by locals, one look at the unique architecture of this Pondicherry sight, and you'll be dying to know it's history. The original Franciscan Capuchins in India planned this church as far back as the 1700s, and it was finally built in 1855 in the Greco-Roman style by Napoleon lll.

 

Our Lady of Angels Church

 

While based on the famous Notre Dame in Paris and Basilica in Lourdes, this church is uniquely Pondy. It is the only church in India to offer mass in French, Tamil, and English. The nickname White Chapel can be quite puzzling to visitors, however, the original structure was in fact white, coated with a special mix of paint, egg, and limestone. The church only got its iconic blush hue in the 1900s. The statue of France's national hero, Joan of Arc, stands proud between the church and sea and draws visitors from across the world.

 

Learn about French India's part in WWI at the French War Memorial

 

This memorial is dedicated to fallen soldiers of French occupied India, recruited during the war of 1914-1918. Pondicherry offered up 800 brave recruits, 500 of whom were sent overseas, and 75 lost their lives. As governor of French India Alfred Martineau said to the soldiers, "France will never forget those who have come to her during these difficult times. They will be treated like her own children." French officials often visit this piece of shared history to pay tribute.

 

French War Memorial, Rafimmedia / CC BY-SA

 

The monument was erected in 1937 and designed by Gaston Petit, sculptor, and Delafon, architect, to honour the fallen soldiers. A bronze plaque lists their names, and later plaques were added in memory of soldiers who died during WWII, the French War in Indochina, and the Algerian War. On Bastille Day every year, the memorial is lit and decorated with flowers in honour of the soldiers.

 

Visit the Gandhi Mandapam to see the world’s third largest Mahatma Gandhi statue

 

The Gandhi Mandapam is one of Pondicherry’s most notable sights for good reason. It houses the third largest statue of the Father of our Nation, and was built by popular sculptor Roy Choudhary. The statue itself was placed just opposite the Old Pier only in 1965, but the beautiful pillars that surround it made it here a century earlier.

 

Gandhi Mandapam, HH Gallery / CC BY-SA

 

Eight intricately carved pillars surround the statue, and these date as far back as 1866 when they were brought over from Gingee Fort 68 kilometres away. The story takes an interesting turn, calling attention to a tunnel underneath the statue which leads to Gingee Fort according to the legend. However, efforts to explore the tunnel have failed over the years, so the mystery lives on.

 

Enjoy a lesson in architecture at the Raj Niwas

 

Formerly called Le Palais du Governor, the Raj Niwas is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry. The house was initially built in the French Baroque style, used for royal palaces and country residences in France at the time. The garden was an important feature in this style, and was integrated with the architecture. However, it was destroyed in 1761 by the British and rebuilt in the more theatrical, Rococo style in 1766.

 

Raj Niwas Entrance, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France / CC BY, The grand corridors, Raphael / CC BY-SA

 

Open for public viewing, the inside of the Raj Niwas is as impressive as its facade. Ancient artifacts such as antique furniture, brass, delicate crockery and statues bring the past alive.

 

Get closer to divinity at Sri Aurobindo Ashram

 

The Ashram is one of Pondicherry's most well-known, spiritual communities. After reformer Sri Aurobindo left politics, he moved to Pondicherry in 1910 and developed a spiritual practice called Integral Yoga - aimed at evolving human life into divine life. What was originally a small community of disciples soon grew into a large ashram. After Sri Aurobindo handed over control to Mirra Alfassa or ‘The Mother’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram was born. She also established Auroville, and is considered a central figure in Pondicherry’s spiritual activity.

 

The Mother’s symbol at Sri Aurobindo Ashram with 12 petals representing her 12 attributes, Tapanmajumdar / CC BY-SA, La rue François Martin, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / CC BY-SA

 

At present, ashramites live and work in over 400 buildings throughout Pondicherry, and Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the one that started it all! This is a truly iconic sight and should not be missed. It is a deeply important destination for spiritual seekers worldwide.

 

Pondicherry is often admired for its picturesque sights, wonderful food, and slow-paced lifestyle. But a tour through the city’s history is essential to understand where this all began. Impress at your next party, with your deep knowledge of White Town’s history!

 

It’s time to discover Pondicherry through new eyes. Start making your bookings now!

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