Pondicherry – spiritual beach destination of India

Pondicherry – with its mesmerizing natural beauty, old French flavor and Indian form of spiritualism is one of the prime tourist destinations of South India. Seen by many as a spiritual destination and a centre for Yoga and Meditation, this well planned town near Chennai is also endowed with immense natural beauty, distinctly visible in its palm-fringed beaches, scenic fishing villages and serene backwaters.

Also known as Puducherry, this spiritual beach town has retained its old French flavor visible in the well-laid gardens, magnificent churches, historical monuments, magnanimous mansions, and clean and wide roads. Pondicherry is indeed a perfect family holiday destination which has everything that helps one to relax and enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.

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War memorial and Gandhi statue at Pondicherry beach

Where is Pondicherry?

Pondicherry is a Union Territory town, located along the Coromandel Coast of Bay of Bengal at a distance of about 160 km to the south of Chennai.

About Pondicherry

Now known as Puducherry, this spiritual beach town used to be a French settlement due to 281 years of French rule. With a 32 km long coastline on the Coromandel Coast, this well-planned French Boulevard town is a perfect family holiday destination with something on offer for everyone. Wheather you are a nature lover or a water sports lover or a student of Yoga or simply wants to relax and rejuvenate, Pondicherry has it all.

Often referred to as ‘The French Riviera of the East’, this beach town with a colonial past has over the years evolved as a centre for Yoga and Meditation in South India. Apart from its immense natural beauty this well planned beach town is acclaimed throughout the world for Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the world-class Auroville city and the internationally acclaimed Yoga centers. Disciples or followers of Sri Aurobindo from all over the world visits Pondicherry, as it is the place from where Sri Aurobindo started his spiritual journey through yoga and meditation.

The golden sea shores, the exclusive sunset cruises, the enchanting moonlit dinners, splendid seafront resorts, wondrous opportunities and facilities for water sports centre, handy harbor and blissful lagoons have made Pondicherry one of the most popular and preferred tourist destination for those in quest of a relaxed and leisurely holiday.

Pondicherry Sightseeing

Pondicherry has a number of places that are reckoned as great sightseeing spots. An account of some of them are given below:

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Pondicherry is almost synonymous with Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Of all the people who visit Pondicherry, there is hardly anyone who has not visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram. In fact a major portion of the tourist visiting Pondicherry is here to visit the ashram of Sri Aurobindo and to have a firsthand experience of the teaching of this great poet, visionary and prophet of the twentieth century who lived here from 1910 till his death in 1950.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the saddle of peace. Founded in 1920, it is the residence where the Sri Aurobindo and revered Mother Mirra Richard, popularly known as Maa, spent the most part of their life. Spiritual teachings of Sri Aurobindo and his idea of practicing ‘Integral Yoga’ to achieve higher state of life to experience true happiness and peace left a deep impact not only on Indians but also on foreigners. Even today his vision and ideals continue to draw people from all over the world. The ashram is open to one and all and anybody can join it. It gives importance to self practice. Collective meditation, exhibitions and video programmes are the activities which can be enjoyed here. Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and Mother (Maa) is an important visiting place for tourists.

Auroville

Situated at a distance of about 10 Km north of Pondicherry town and lying very close to Coromondal coast is the international township of Auroville. Envisioned as a Universal Town by Mirra Alfassa, the celebrated “Mother” of Sri Aurobindo Society, the project work of this unique international township began on Wednesday 28 February 1968 and is still going on. Mirra Alfassa, “The Mother”, who was an equal spiritual collaborator and companion of Sri Aurobindo from 1924 till his death in 1950 initiated the concept of Auroville where people from different nationalities, faiths and beliefs, can live in peace and harmony without being discriminated on the basis of colour, creed and politics.

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Matrimandir in Auroville of Pondicherry

Despite being referred to in travel and tourist literature, Auroville is not a typical tourist place, but visiting this unique town of international flavor and watching people from 43 different countries living in the city is an experience, hard to miss out. To witness the co-existence of people of different culture and nationalities in a self-supporting township, with the vision of realizing human unity is an experience in itself.

The Peace area at the centre of the town is an important attraction for tourists. Constituted with the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states, the Peace area is characterized by three main structures, – Matrimandir, the Amphitheater and the Banyan Tree. Another main feature of this city is that many countries constructed permanent pavilions, reflecting the customs, beliefs and culture of their respective countries.

To experience the magic of Auroville, just click HERE.

Matrimandir

The geographical and spiritual heart of Auroville is a modern architectural marvel, with a globe as high as 30 meters and a lotus-shaped foundation urn. Outside is plated with gold, while the inside is stark white with a gigantic crystal in the center. Conceived by “The Mother” as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s inspiration for perfection”, Matrimandir has a 70 cm crystal ball in a gold mount and glow with a single ray of sunlight directed on the globe from the top of structure. According to “The Mother”, this represents “a symbol of future realization.” Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure serenity and tranquility of the place so important for meditation.

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Crystal ball inside Matrimandir of Auroville in Pondicherry

Check with the visitor center if you’re interested in seeing the inside of the temple, as the rules are very strict. Casual day visitors are encouraged to go first to the Visitors Centre , which is open daily (except on Diwali and on Pongal day) from 9:00 to 17:30, and offers information, exhibitions, a video viewing facility, a cafeteria and shopping facilities. Visitor Centre has an excellent cafe with daily specials and a wide range of Indian and European food including great vegetarian food, drinks and desserts.

There are a lot of activities always going on in Auroville, like Yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing medicinal practices and courses. The variety gets wider during the visitors’ season (December to March), such as attending the classical Indian dance performances of young virtuosos organized by Auroville Cultural Exchange. There are a plethora of social, economic, environmental, agricultural projects going on regularly. Many of them welcome tourists and many tourists welcome the opportunity to spend a week or more volunteering to get a much more intimate look at what goes inside Auroville.

Special mention must be made of the Solar Kitchen, which is the main cafeteria and most popular place to eat inside Auroville. Everyone pays the same price, irrespective of how much he actually eats. The food is really yummy and it’s a great place to met people! Upstairs you can find the cafe La Terrace serving coffees, salads, sandwiches and changing international dishes. Try the delicious mushroom pasta with egg and don’t miss out on the amazing ice-cream. It should be noted that both La Terrace and the Solar Kitchen do not accept cash. One must apply for a guest card at the visitor’s centre, fill it with credit, and pay using that account.

Beaches of Pondicherry

With 45 Km long coastline, Pondicherry has a number of beaches characterized with many backwater lagoons and estuaries and vast stretch of swaying palms. The virgin beaches of Pondicherry with the golden yellow sand and turquoise blue waters are ideal for sunbathing, swimming or simply strolling on the golden sands. Almost all the beaches in Pondicherry have cafes, resorts, cottages, and bars, which add to the charm of the place.

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Picturesque Serenity beach of Pondicherry

1.5 Km long Serenity Beach with a picturesque sea front graced by an impressive statue of the Mahatma set amidst eight exquisitely carved pillars and a wonderful war memorial commemorating the soldiers who lost their lives during the World War I, is the most prominent of the beaches of Pondicherry. The Lighthouse and the 284 meters long New Pier located south adds to the further charm of the beach.

Palm fringed Plage Paradiso Beach, also known as Paradise Beach is located at Chunnambar, about 8 Km away from Pondicherry towards Cuddalore Main Road near the mouth of the backwater. Wheather taking a sunbath or collecting shells or simply taking a leisurely stroll or indulging in various water sports, this beach has all the elements to be a preferred tourist destination.

Another beach of Pondicherry that occupies a place of eminence as a tourist destination is the Karaikal Beach. Apart from being a virgin beach it is an excellent place for watching the rising sun. Magnificent view of the slow flowing Arasalar River stretching out to the sea is simply breathtaking. The boating club on the beautiful backwaters of the River Arasalar provides motor and rowing boats to the tourists.

The beautiful Mahe Beach is a rare virgin beach of Pondicherry bordered by the wooded line of palm trees. This unpolluted picturesque beach is fast gaining popularity. The natural growths of palm trees mark the fringes of the beach and creates a mesmerizing effect on the visitors of the beach.

Botanical Garden

The truth behind the saying that, “the tour of Pondicherry is incomplete without a trip to the Botanical Garden”, can be felt once you visit this beautiful garden. This sprawling garden spreading over an area of 22 acres is one of the finest botanical gardens in the country. Established by C.S. Perrotet in 1826, this Botanical Garden has for long been one of the hottest tourist spots of Pondicherry.

The garden encloses a wealthy and diverse collection of plant species from many parts of India as well as from abroad. It also has a large aquarium displaying many sea living organisms including variety of fish flora. The Botanical Gardens situated in the center of the city provides a cool retreat during hot summer days. Each and every tree or plants of the garden are labeled with scientific, common and Tamil names for the convenience of the tourists and students of Botany as well. Other attractions of the Botanical Garden include Children’s toy train, six fountains, a dancing musical fountain and a Japanese rock.

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Botanical garden of Pondicherry

Other prominent sightseeing destinations of Pondicherry includes, Eglise de Sacre Coeur De Jesus (also known by the name, Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus it has all the characteristics of a Gothic Church with interior having a wonderful mix of both European and Indian architecture), Thirunallar Temple (this 7th century A.D ancient Siva temple is also famous for idols of Saturn, Sri Pranambigai, Sri Thiagarajar and Sri Vinayagar), Villianur Temple (this 15 m tall temple in the form of a chariot at a distance of about 10 Km from Pondicherry is dedicated to Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswarer and is unique in the sense that , it is normally taken out on a procession during the Brahmotsavam, which is basically the annual festival of Pondicherry) and a quite a few others.

How to reach Pondicherry?

By Air

Though Pondicherry has an airport with facilities for the landing of small aircraft like Dornier, Cessna, etc., it is not available for public use presently. Chennai International airport at a distance of about 135 Km is the nearest airport of Pondicherry. Chennai Aiport has excellent connections with almost all cities of India and direct connection to Europe, USA, Middle East and South East Asia.

By Rail

The nearest railhead of Pondicherry is Villupuram at a distance of 32 Km. Local trains operate between Villupuram and Chennai regularly. Villupuram is well connected to Trichy, Madurai and Chennai. There are a few passenger trains and express trains running daily to Chennai Egmore Railway station. There is a weekly express train service to Bhubaneswar.

By Road

Pondicherry is well connected with major cities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka by National and State Highways. Frequent bus services are available from Pondicherry to places like Thanjaur, Trichy, Chidamabaram and Coimbatore. Private tourist buses ply from Chennai, Madurai and Bangalore to Pondicherry. Number of Non AC Semi Sleeper, AirBus, A/C Volvo buses ply between Cheannai – Pondicherry and Bangalore – Pondicherry.

Where to stay at Pondicherry?

Being an important and popular tourist destination, Pondicherry offers a wide range and variety of staying options. On one hand there are a number of star category hotels and on the other hand there are a good number of cheap and budget hotels. Guest houses run by Sri Aurobindo Ashram are also a good and budgeted staying option. Only a few of the hotels are listed below. Note, that these are not recommendations, rather information and suggestions.

Hotel Annamalai International

This luxurious 3 Star hotel established in 2001 is located in the heart of the city. This centralized air conditioned hotel with 70 (4 suites, 20 Executive Rooms and 46 Standard Rooms) well appointed rooms equipped with the most modern amenities is undoubtedly one of the best hotels of Pondicherry. Exclusive veg kitchen, multicuisine restaurant, swimming pool in terrace floor, bath tub in every room, Wi Fi internet and unmatched hospitality are some of the other features that make this one of the most popular hotels of Pondicherry.

For booking this hotel contact at – 0413 – 2247001 / 02 / 03 / 04 / 05 / 06.

To know more about this hotel and to avail its online booking facility, click HERE

Hotel Mass

Located at a distance of about 1 Km from the Pondicherry Railway Station, this 3 Star hotel with 112 centrally air conditioned rooms is known for its hospitality. Six restaurants with a variety of cuisines, five Banquet Halls to accommodate guests numbering between 70 and 400, a 24 hr coffee shop and a bar of international standard are the other highlights of the hotel.

To book this hotel, contact at the phone number : 0413 – 4207001 (11lines). To know more about this hotel and to avail its online booking facility click HERE.

Hotel Promenade

This luxurious 5 Star luxury boutique hotel overlooking the Bay of Bengal lies along the beautiful Boulevard beside the old lighthouse. With 26 Deluxe Rooms, 11 Deluxe Sea-Facing Suites and 1 Presidential Suites, this brilliant French style hotel with distinct modern interiors also has some of the best known food and beverage places in Pondicherry. Rooftop restaurant Lighthouse, offers the most amazing views of the majestic Bay of Bengal apart from its tempting barbeque and grill menu. Round the clock restaurant Blueline, offer its guests a good range of authentic Oriental and Mediterranean dishes. Risque, an exotic lounge bar with a fine selection of wines, beers and other liquors. The bartender here can also get you some exotic cocktails and mock tails. Some nice flavors of coffee are also served here. Swimming pool overlooking the mesmerizing Bay of Bengal, in-room reflexology and spa massages and every room equipped with modern amenities including, Wi Fi internet, a mini bar, a tea and coffee maker are some of the other features that make this hotel unique.
To book your rooms in this hotel, contact at the phone number : 0413 – 2227750

Hotel Atithi

This 4 Star deluxe luxury hotel situated close to the scenic beach in Pondicherry stands tall with a majestic presence. With fabulous exterior and exquisite interiors Hotel Atithi offers international standard of amenities and services with traditional hospitality. With 60 well-furnished rooms, including 38 Standard Rooms, 19 Superior Rooms and 3 Luxury Suites it is an ideal choice for both the discerning leisure and corporate clientele. Multi-cuisine restaurant Le Boulevard, serving a gamut of appetizing delicacies and the stylish bar Just White, with a wide range of quality drinks and snacks are one of the best in the town. Roof top swimming Pool, mini bar at every room and personalized services are the other amenities provided.

To book rooms in this hotel, contact at : 0413 – 2345000. For all the more information on Hotel Atithi you can log on to the hotel website by clicking HERE.

Hotel Le Dupleix

Situated in the heart of French Pondicherry, Hotel Le Dupleix is an easy walk from the beach, the park and the central shopping area. This designer hotel, initially constructed as the residence of the Mayor of Pondicherry in 18th century was later converted to a beautiful paradise of comfort and colonial heritage. 14 luxuriously appointed air conditioned Suite Rooms, each with its own characteristic features are well-equipped with modern amenities. The Governor’s Lounge, first lounge bar of Pondicherry with a full range of cocktails and imported wines coupled with sophisticated decor is unique and surprisingly beautiful in every turn.

To book rooms in this hotel, contact at : 0413 – 2226 001 / 02 /03 / 04 / 05. For all the more information on Hotel Le Dupleix you can log on to the hotel website by clicking HERE.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

For budget travelers as well as for travelers on a spiritual tour, guest houses run by Aurobindo Ashram are the best option of staying. There are a number of guest houses situated within a mile of the main Ashram building where Ashram offers accommodation. Strict rules of cleanliness and conduct apply in all the guest houses with a ban on liquor, smoking, eating non-veg. Also note that there are no phones or TVs in the rooms, nor is there any provision for room service, also most close their gates at 10.30 p.m.

Some of the prominent guest houses under Sri Aurobindo Ashram are :

Park Guest House – Situated on the picturesque beach of Pondicherry with a nice lawn, this guest house provides complementary Indian breakfast. Prior booing is a must. To book and to have more detailed information, contact at : 0413 – 2224644 / 2233644.

Cottage Guest House – Situated at Rangapillai Street, this budget guest house under the control of Sri Aurobindo Ashram is indeed a clean staying option. Prior booking must be done, if you don’t wish to be disappointed. To book and to have more detailed information, contact at : 0413 – 2233610.

New Sweet Home – Situated at Rue Dupuy Road this is another conveniently located guest house of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. For prior booking, contact at – 0413 – 2233635.

New Guest House – Situated at Rue Romain Rolland Road, this is a relatively newer guest house of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. For booking, contact at : 0413 – 2221553 / 2233634. You can also e-mail your queries at : newguesthouse@gmail.com

Sri Krishna Guest House – Situated at 29/31 Rangapillai Street, to the west of GPO, this large and clean hotel is a good budgeted staying option. Both, air conditioned and non air conditioned rooms are available at a relatively cheaper price. This hotel is always in great demand. So, prior booking is a must. For booking related queries and other queries, contact at – 0413 – 2334477.

Few other good hotels in budgeted category with good and hygienic staying options are :

Hotel Corbelli – This centralized air conditioned hotel of budgeted price at Mission Street can be booked at : 0413 – 2225301 / 2225302.

Raj Residency – With air conditioned suites and rooms, this is an ideal staying option at a reasonable price. For booking, contact at : 0413 – 220220.

MangoHill – Situated at Old Auroville Road, this spacious and clean hotel located on hills of planted with Mangoes and Cashew trees and swimming pool and facility like spa is another good staying option. For booking, contact at : 0413 – 26554 91 / 92 / 93.

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About the Author: Hi! friends, travelling is my passion and my only hobby. High mountains to deep seas, lush green forests to barren deserts, holy places to sites of historical importance, - every beautiful place attracts me the same way. I want everyone to feel the same and so through my writing I intend to take you all to a virtual trip to all those lovely places that I have visited.

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  1. nilanjan banerjee says:

    helpful information.thnx

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