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A Long Weekend in Pondicherry

After a week in Mahabilapuram it was time to move on and we both felt excited to see the popular destination of Pondicherry.

Being a former French colony we had read that their legacy meant good coffee, cheap beer and stylish boutique shops - and Pondicherry did not disappoint.

Rue De L'eveche, a road in the French Quarter of Pondicherry

Café des Arts serves a great French style cup of coffee

A decorative rickshaw combines the Indo-French styles

Much like in Mahabs we spent most of our time enjoying wandering the streets of Pondicherry and watching people go about their day to day business. Although, on the whole, very much a noisy, bustling Indian town, the streets of the French Quarter have a real ‘South of France’ quality to them.

The long promenade is closed to traffic in the evenings which means peaceful, although very busy, walks along the sea front.

The Gandhi Memorial Statue stands tall halfway along the promenade

As woman sells flowers along the waterfront

In stark contrast to the (relatively) quiet streets of the French Quarter, one afternoon we visited the very Indian Grand Bazaar. As normal the colours, smells, noise and endless energy was overwhelming and exciting.

We were also lucky enough to be in Pondicherry for the Hindu celebration of Krishna Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday). Built within the French streets is the Sri Manakula Vinayagar temple, aptly known as the Elephant Temple, and so on the evening of the celebrations we visited.

Outside the main entrance to the temple, seemingly unchained, was a huge Asian elephant. Worshippers bowed heir heads before him, at which he would tap them gently with his trunk. It was both shocking and fascinating.

On our final day we visited the nearby ‘experimental township’ of Auroville. Founded by ‘The Mother’ from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (a Hindi spiritual hermitage) in Pondicherry, Auroville is a community built on the principles of human unity and spiritual progress. Although we found some aspects of Auroville admirable (the idea of working for the community rather than for money), on the whole we left feeling like the community had a few flaws and hypocrisies, and so was probably more of a dreamer’s commune than a realistic way of life.

The impressive Matrimandir. The 'soul of the city', where aurovillians practice integral yoga.

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