The Sacred Delights of Pondicherry's French District

Elephant
Picture by McKay Savage

The preserved French colonial heritage mixed with the local Tamil culture makes Pondicherry a unique destination in India. Not surprisingly, the city, along with the nearby Auroville, attracts a lot of European visitors. It is one of the easiest places to stay in the country and a good place to start for first-time visitors to India, especially if this is a last minute holiday where little preparations have been made. As with everywhere in India, there are a number of temples to be visited here.

But before you reach the temples, most visitors will want to stay in the French district bordered by Sardar Vallabhai/Patel Road in the North, Subbalah Salai on the southern side, Anna Salai in the West and Goubert street in the East, which is right by the Golf of Bengal. In this perimeter there are a large number of accommodations and restaurants in a fair range of prices though do not expect the cheapest prices in India. Probably the best place to stay in terms of price and cleanliness is at one of the Shri Aurobindo Ashram Guest Houses, though these are only available to visitors involved with the ashram during their stay.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The ashram is one of the biggest attractions in the city and attracts a lot of Indian and Western visitors at all times. One can take a tour of the ashram, stay and meditate, shop in the boutique and get breakfast, lunch and dinner for the incredibly low price of 20 rupees (50 cents) any day of the week (including casual visitors who are not related to the ashram). It is not gastronomy, but decent food that nourishes well.

Blessings From Lakshmi

Regardless whether the ashram is your thing or not, be sure to stop by the few temples in the area, including the Manakula Vinayagar temple where one can be blessed by the resident elephant, Lakshmi. With its trunk, it touches the head of people who pass by. Otherwise the numerous colorful and iconographic statues that ornate the high temples are a sight to see.

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