I have visited Puducherry or Pondicherry as it is better known, twice, both times in December. In 2007 when I had not ventured in the world of blogging and chronicling my travels, I was there during Christmas and last year on the eve of new year. The recent visit was more about seeing the French White Town(read more about French buildings in my post here) and spending time meditating at Matri Mandir at Auroville.
One of the reasons to plan a trip to Pondicherry back in 2007 was spending quality time with old friends on their wedding anniversary but we decided to see the Aurobindo Ashram as well. We landed in Puducherry in evening, two days prior to Christmas. After quick shower and change of clothes, we all sat guzzling beers, remembering our childhood days, pulling each other’s leg, arguing, laughing at silly jokes, teasing…..me and my friend’s wife exchanged recipes, planned for some shopping……..Night seemed too short that day. We almost slept at the break of dawn.
The sun was on top of our heads when we finally woke up with just a mild headache…
The next day we made a short trip to Auroville, bought souvenirs which were hand crafted by residents. The Matrimandir still had some parts of it under construction then and it was not open for public access. However the blessing in disguise was that but we could spend enough time in the shade of the huge banyan tree clicking pictures, which is not allowed now. We had been also able to walk up till the bud shaped urn in the open amphitheatre. Now a person interested in meditating at inner chamber with prior permission can still walk up to the urn and banyan tree but photography is not allowed.
Soon hunger pangs had made us venture in the café at Auroville. The open spaces were being decorated for Christmas. Some kids practiced for a Christmas play. The cute little Santa and snow-men near the decorated Christmas tree formed the backdrop of the kids’ stage.
By evening the entire market area was glittering with multicolored lights. Display boards announcing the ‘Christmas-sale’ peered back at us from every shop. People were in festive mood, street peddlers sold balloons, candies, Santa Claus caps and decorative socks. Every corner already had a Santa Claus ‘ho-ho-ing’ at the passers-by.
The most beautiful sights were the Churches that glittered as if stars really had come down to celebrate Christmas next day.
The 300 year old Immaculate Conception Cathedral, also known as ‘Samba Kovil’ is one of the oldest Churches and popular among tourists in Puducherry. It is the cathedral mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.
The Jesuit Fathers came to the French colony of Pondicherry as missionaries in 1689. They built three churches which were destroyed due to the wars between French and Dutch and later by British. The work on present cathedral began in 1770 and was completed on 20 June 1791. The Church was the consecrated by Bishop Champenois. The Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary, Fest of this Church, falls on the 8th of December. Mass services are conducted in Tamil and English.
Since we were not going inside the church, the next agenda for the evening was a lavish dinner treat to our hosts at a French restaurant….Christmas festivities everywhere had elevated our moods as well but the rush at restaurant brought us crashing down to mother earth……
None of us had remembered to make reservations at the restaurant beforehand….but that is where we wanted to dine so we stuck around waiting for seats to be vacated. It was a long-long wait but the delicious food made the wait worthwhile!
Our short vacation had ended too soon. I had wanted to explore Pondicherry…..its French colonial houses, avenues, promenade, guesthouses, churches, beaches….
The plan to explore further materialized finally nine years later. I still haven’t seen the traditional Indian side of this French town.
I hope the next trip happens sooner.
Till then Au revoir Puducherry !!