Travelogues

A Visit to Pondicherry and Auroville

A long-awaited visit to Pondicherry or Puducherry could be materialized immediately after the pandemic got nearly over when I was fed up with the city life of Delhi. The city in the Puducherry district on the southeast coast of India, surrounded by the charm of the Bay of Bengal to the east and the state of Tamil Nadu, with which it shares magnificent culture, heritage, and language that welcomed me with all its serenity and waves, but the fear of Corona loomed large, and the weather was also too humid.

I stayed in Shenbagha hotel (Shenbaga Hotel & Convention Centre) which is around four Kms from the airport and could be reached within 15 minutes to the hotel. The hotel is located in Anna Salai. I was Very close to the beauty of Promenade Beach and Serenity Beach. I visited the beaches before I visited Aurobindo Ashram.

The four-meter square statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Beach Promenade in Pondicherry is the biggest Gandhi Statue in Asia, I was told by authorickshawalla. The eight magnificent granite pillars surrounding the statue were transferred all the way from Gingee, a Fort located 70 kilometers away from Pondicherry.

I would take an auto after breakfast the next day to reach Serenity beach, so serene and beautiful and facing the sea, and penned,

Painful dust 

On the seashore
But for all the beggars
Who have the sea
Not a clean shore and beach
Meant for them.

I wrote this for the dirty unpaid beaches thronged by the poor, and I also made my visits to those, dirty beyond expression.

Pondicherry is best known for its Portuguese-style architectural buildings and streets. The place has an old-school vibe, and the beaches are simply incomparable. The tranquility and serenity hidden in these beaches are unmatchable. These make sure that travelers get to embrace the best of the best. Here are some of the best beaches in Pondicherry.

• Auroville Beach is famous For Surfing
• Promenade Beach – For Beach Yoga
• Paradise Beach – For Backwater Boating
• Serenity Beach – For Sunbathing
• Mahe Beach – For Fishing
• Karaikal Beach – For Canoeing
• Quiet Beach – For Laid Back Vacation
• Reppo Beach – For Relaxation
• The Plage Paradiso Beach – For Bird Watching
• Veerampattinam Beach – For Mesmerizing Sunsets
• Rock Beach – Stunning Sunrise

In the serene beaches, I remembered in dirty attires, fishermen in fishing boats returning in the evening and the women speaks.

"I come from the fisherfolk who live on patience
It is little us for any man to become impatient with the sea."

The sea is vast, in comparison the man is so small but the fishermen every day brave this vastness of the sea.

Pondy is a popular weekend getaway destination from Chennai and is easy to navigate on foot or by bicycle. Long back along with my parents I took Tamil Nadu Express and reached Madras of bygone days. Now I am here on a spice jet flight from the same place, capital of India, the mega-metropolis Delhi.

Water surrounds Pondy as azure blue. Its charm was inevitably impressing and charmed the French.  Mirra Alfassa or the Mother came to Pondicherry, a colony of France and like many others made India their home, A city divided still into white and Black towns didn't make me happy at all though.

Multi-hued bougainvilleas, dilapidated buildings, cathedrals on leafy boulevards and 18th-century colonial buildings color the former French colony of Pondy, which sits on the Bay of Bengal. But it's also now unmistakably Indian, with colorful festivals throughout the year, several mosques, churches, temples and then the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Quiet beaches stretch north and south from town, good for swimming and sunrise and sunset walks.

Goubert Avenue, Beach Rd, White Town, Puducherry, 605001 is the address of Chief Secretariat Government of Puducherry, the main functions of the most populous Union territory are taken here. Facing the Bay of Bengal, not very far from the Mahatma Gandhi statue, the building looks magnificent.

My aim was to visit Sri Aurobindo Ashram and then leave for Auroville.

   

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community or ashram located in Pondicherry. The ashram grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics, being a revolutionary and settled in Pondicherry in 1910. France and British were enemies and thus he selected the French colony.  On 24 November 1926, after a major spiritual realization, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from public view in order to continue his spiritual work. At this time, he handed over the full responsibility for the inner and outer lives of the sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) and the ashram to his spiritual collaborator, "The Mother", earlier known as Mirra Alfassa. This date is therefore generally known as the founding-day of the ashram, though, as Sri Aurobindo himself wrote, it had "less been created than grown around him as its center."

It was very close to  Shenbagha hotel where I stayed for only a few days.

The entire town is divided into 2 sections, the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or 'White town') and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or 'Black Town'). Many streets still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight in Puducherry.

Known to be the former headquarters of the French, White Town borrows a lot from the foreign culture, which is also the highlight of the place. In addition to that, it is known for its elegant but expensive market which mostly comprises of boutiques, high-end brands and personalized goods' stores. The Tamil Quarter (or erstwhile “Black Town”) of Pondicherry sits to the West of the French Quarter. It was separated from the latter by a Grand Canal that bisected downtown Pondicherry, and still runs through the city today. The city indeed is multicultural, diverse beyond words,
In size, the Tamil Quarter dwarfs the French Quarter, being a good 3 – 4 times larger.  In typical colonial fashion, the quarter is further segregated into a Hindu Quarter to the North, and Christian (Catholic) Quarter west and center, and a Muslim Quarter to the South, each of which have their own unique architecture and places of worship.

The most interesting walks in the Tamil Quarter are to be taken along Vysial Street (also known as Chetty Street) in the Hindu Quarter where one can see dozens of historic Tamil residences in good condition.  The city’s Grand Bazaar (also known as Goubert Market) is amazing.
We took a cab from.an unknown shore to teach Auroville in a sultry afternoon. 

But before that we went to Aurobindo ashram and paid tributes to Shri Aurobindo and Mother. Removed the chappals, to and watched French architecture. Carpentry went on in the vicinity and so were weaving. Purchased Life Divine by Rishi Aurobindo and also their Divine photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

French restaurants are still galore in the vicinity. At the vast expanse of the waves of the Bay of Bengal, ferocious sometimes, younger generation sips tea playing music on the ocean shore.

From my hotel it was just 30 mins drive (14.7 km) via NH 332A) to reach Auroville. One has to pay tax as one is moving from Union territory to Auroville, in Tamil Nadu. and Auroville Rd Auroville, the City of Dawn, mastermind of Mother can be accessed through the forests, unfamiliar flora and fauna and among the diverse people, amongst divinity of the souls.

There are battery operated cars, small buses specially for seniors to reach my destination - Matri Mandir- to realize human unity - in diversity. Indeed, Auroville is recognized as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness.

Auroville is a unique experiment where men women from all over the world come and stay and believe in Unity in Diversity. 

Among awesome trees and plant, bushes and thickets I reached Matrimandir. The Matrimandir (Sanskrit for Temple of The Mother) is an edifice of spiritual significance for practitioners of Integral yoga, in the center of Auroville established by The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is called the soul of the city and is situated in a large open space called Peace ... from where the future township will radiate outwards. The atmosphere is quiet and charged, and the area beautiful, even though work continues in the Gardens.

The Matrimandir will be the soul of Auroville. The sooner the soul is there, the better it will be for everybody and especially for the Aurovilians.

Shri Aurobindo tried to bring Super mental age on the planet earth exhausted by overpopulation, cyclones, hurricanes, floods, war and starvation.

As a mystic, poet, creator of Life Divine, extraordinary Savitri in these troubled times Aurobindo's philosophy, Mother's teachings should matter to us the most.

Fortunately, or unfortunately AI Derivative is here to raise our intelligence and consciously naturally or artificially for the good of humanity or bad, only time will tell.


Images (c) istock.com

17-Mar-2024

More by :  Mandira Ghosh

Top | Travelogues

Views: 434      Comments: 0





Name *

Email ID

Comment *
 
 Characters
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.