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1521 Arrival of Portuguese

1618 Dutch textile trading
1624 Danish establish shops
1664 Colbert founds the French East India Company
1674 French buy the city from the Governor of the Gingee fortress, vassal of the Muslim King of
1686 Establishment of the first trading post on the Coromandel coast
1693 The Dutch retake the city and begin to lay out the streets in a grid pattern
1700 French trading post; the city has its peak with Dupleix
1761 English domination; the city is destroyed
1763 French trading post; the city is rebuilt
1778 English domination
1783 French trading post

1815 French trading post

1954 Transfer "de facto" of French possessions to India
1962 Signature of the Treaty of Cession of French possessions between France and India
1793 English domination


Puducherry's ambience is not influenced or dominated by one fabulous heritage monument or by

amazing natural surroundings, except perhaps the sea. Puducherry itself is "heritage", as a town and
as a conglomerate of different cultural influences. These influences find expression in its architecture
and streetscapes, in its people and visitors, and in a subtle feeling which is peculiarly "Pondy".

The town is planned on a grid pattern from its inception. Cities like Ernakulam in Kerala also built in a
grid pattern were planned and built much later, while its twin-town Cochin had developed at the
same time as Puducherry in a more clustered manner.
The town was divided in a French section and Tamil section, with its respective population and
architectural differences and each with its own particular streetscapes.

In French Town, the roads are flanked by colonial style buildings with long compound walls and stately
gates, behind which life unfolds. The facades have often vertical columns and tall windows and are
coloured cream, yellow and pink.

In Tamil Town, the streets are lined by verandahs and extended porches where its residents would
gather and passing guests would spend the night. The colours here are green, blue and brown, while
the facades convey horizontal and low features.

Sights are manifold with pastel coloured churches and bright temple towers, Joan of Arc's
heavenward gaze vies with the tall carved pillars from Gingee at the seafront, cricket competes with
petanque and the Park becomes a green, peaceful oasis where these complementary contrasts meet.

Puducherry has an interesting spiritual heritage too and is a blend of eastern and western culture, and
of ancient and modern spiritual disciplines. These movements converge in a practical manner in the
twin communities of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville.


The French part of the town was built along the sea on sand dunes. It is characterised by long wide
streets with stately colonial styled buildings. The residential buildings are comparatively simple, solid
yet varied. They have flat roofs, an inner courtyard with garden and colonnaded porticos serve a
double function of protecting from sun and rain, and serving as a transition space to the rest of the

The public buildings usually are surrounded by a large fenced-in compound. At times French models
were used, which were adapted to suit local conditions. These buildings often have an impressive stair
to an elevated ground floor and a colonnaded facade.

Originally the native Tamil town developed around the nucleus of a group of temples in the northern
section and the streets were laid in an east-west direction. The row of houses along these streets
stood back-to-back. These streetscapes with continuous wall-to-wall construction vary much in
character with that of the French. Their exterior facades often feature a street veranda with platform
and lean-to-roof over wooden posts - the thalvaram, a social extension of the house and a semi-public
portico called the thinnai - is supported by round wooden pillars with masonry benches for visitors.

These "talking-streets", so-called because of their intimate scale and interactive nature, are typical of
the vernacular Tamil architecture, and the entire street stretch is homogeneous because of
connecting elements like lean-to-roofs, cornices (horizontals), pilasters and engaged columns
(verticals) and ornamental parapets defining the skyline.

The thinnai (portico) marks the transition space after which the house is entered through a finely
carved wooden door and once inside, the open courtyard - mutram - becomes the central space
around which the various other spaces are functionally arranged. The open mutram is flanked by a
covered space on one side (or on both sides) with wooden columns usually meant for an interaction
among the family or with intimate guests. The rear courtyard in immediate proximity to the kitchen is
reserved for services and utilities.

Usually within the intimate fabric of the Tamil town an interesting morphology of built-form is
observed, ranging from the simple country tiled single storied houses of the old Hindu quarters, to the
two storied houses with considerable colonial influence of the later Hindu and Christian quarters, to
the more elaborately detailed houses of the Muslim quarters.

On the whole, a conspicuous synthesis of two varying styles is evident, especially in the case of two
storied Tamil buildings where the ground floor is usually of the Tamil type with thinnai, thalvaram and
carved doors, while the first floor displays French influence showing pilasters, columns with capitals,
arched windows, plaster decorations and end-ornament elements. In French buildings, the local
influence is obvious in the use of madras terrace flat roofs, wooden balconies and sloping tiled roofs.
It is a result of this cross-influence of building patterns that gives this old town its distinct
architectural vocabulary, which can be termed "Puducherry-ness".


The street facades are usually characterized by a continuous construction with high garden walls and
elaborate gates. The Facades are divided into smaller panels by use of vertical pilasters and horizontal
cornices. The windows are usually arched and have wooden louver shutters. The balconies are often
built over iron brackets. Parapets are simple and at times feature terracotta pot designs.

High ceilings, tall arched doors and windows with louvers dominate the space inside the houses.
Floors are of polished and has coloured cement or tiles. Coloured Belgian glass is set in the arched
wooden frames above doors and porticos.


Ashram Dining Room has prepared the food for Ashramites and their guests since 1934. Even after
many reconstructions, it reflects its architectural heritage. It is great to have a look when the gate is
open at meal times.
The Ashram Dining Hall, operational since 1934, is located on the Ananda Ranga Pillai Street and
stands among a number of historic buildings in the vicinity. It sits on land once occupied by
Governor Dumas in 1735. The hall is housed within the Villa Aroume, a historic French villa with rich
architectural features and characters. This large house called Aroume was built on the site of Lenoir
and Dupleix's house. The dining hall serves as a canteen where inmates of the ashram as well as the
ashram's guest houses can dine. Inmates and guests of the ashram who wish to dine here need to obtain
passes available at the ashram offices. Though open only to ashram inmates, visitors can have a look at
it during the Ashram tour organized by Bureau Central, the Ashram's office.
Location: 3 Rangapillai St., Puducherry 605001

Phone: 0413-2233604/2339648

Timings: 6am - 8pm daily

Working Hours: 6am to 8pm (all days)


Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, an integral part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, serves as
a field of experiment and research in education. For years Sri Aurobindo considered the formation
of an Education Centre as one of the best means of preparing the future humanity to manifest upon
earth a divine consciousness and a divine life. To give a concrete shape to his vision, the Mother
opened a school for children on December 2, 1943.

Since then, the school has continued to grow and experiment on various educational problems and
issues. In 1951, a Convention was held at Pondicherry which resolved to establish an International
University Centre in the town as a fitting memorial to Sri Aurobindo. Accordingly the Sri Aurobindo
International University Centre was inaugurated by the Mother on January 6, 1952. In 1959, the
Mother decided to rename it "Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education."

The Centre of Education provides education from Kindergarten to college levels of study. It has
faculty for teaching Humanities, Sciences, Languages, Engineering Technology and Physical
Education, as well as facilities for learning Drawing, Painting, Handwork, Music and Dancing (Indian
and Western), Dramatics and Arts and Crafts. There are also facilities for practical and manual work
and several libraries and laboratories.

As its name itself suggests, the Centre is international in character. It aspires to represent the
cultures of different regions of the world in a way that is accessible to all. The ideal is that every
nation with its distinctive culture should make a contribution of its own in order to create a
practical and concrete interest in a cultural synthesis.

The Centre has its own official journal, Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, a
quarterly, which is published on the four Darshan days. It contains writings of Sri Aurobindo and the
Mother, the Mother's talks and also a quarterly report of the activities of the Ashram and of the
Centre of Education, along with photographs pertaining to these activities.

The 1.5 km long promenade running along the beach is the pride of Puducherry.

One can relax or take a stroll at any time of the day, though the best time would be early in the
mornings and late evenings when the road is closed to vehicular traffic. This ensures that kids can
run amok and people can enjoy the ambience without pollution and fear of speeding vehicles.

Residents and tourists alike use the promenade for walking, jogging, skating and yoga as well. Early
in the morning health juice vendors abound and in the evening this effect is reversed with
delectable junk food - chaat, popcorn, cut fruits with chilly and salt to tickle your taste buds.

The crown jewel of the Promenade is definitely Le Cafe. Where else can one get coffee, snacks,
croissants and so much more all through the day with waves lapping almost at your feet?

On the sea front, there are several land marks - the cold and dispassionate war memorial throbbing
with the memory of last dreams, the inspiring Joan of Arc's statue, the heritage town hall, the
statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Dupleix's statue, the old Light House, the remains of the old pier and
customs house - speak of the splendours of a bygone era.

Handicraft bazaars, food carts, restaurants, guest houses and luxury hotels all cater to the needs of
the varied tourists.

The Tourist Information Centre of PTDC is at one end of this grand stretch, housed in an aesthetic
heritage building facing the sea. It is well furnished and caters to the need of the many visiting


Pedestrians - All day

Vehicles - 7:30am to 6:00pm


Gandhi is commonly, though not officially, considered the Father of the Nation in India. His
birthday, 2 October, is commemorated there as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide
as the International Day of Nonviolence.

This four-meter square statue, the biggest Mahatma Gandhi statue in Asia, is surrounded by eight
magnificent granite pillars which were brought from Gingee, a fort some 70kms from Puducherry.
The pillars were erected in 1866, while the statue, placed opposite the old Pier, was inaugurated on
January 26, 1965.

There is a tunnel below the Gandhi statue that leads all the way to Gingee. The Government even
took efforts to desilt the tunnel. But, after a few people died of suffocation while walking through
it, the tunnel was closed for good in the 1960s.

The square in front of the statue, referred to as Gandhi Thidal, plays host to various cultural,
musical and commercial activities through the year.

Domestic architecture
Pondicherry public buildings (government and institutional) are not outstanding edifices
because they are recent, the best monumental structures of the Dupleix’s period having been
destroyed by the British in 1761, but the town is noteworthy for its domestic architecture which
shows the coexistence of two distinct styles – that of the French and that of the native Tamil.
 French buildings
 Tamil buildings
 Furniture

French Buildings
In the ville blanche are still found an impressive number of colonial houses, mansion-type
houses with courtyards behind ornate gateways, dating from the 19th century or from the
beginning of the 20th century, which constitute a tropical adaptation of the private mansions of
the 18th century with large terraces.
Most of them were built on a rather similar ground plan with variations in size, orientation and
details, i.e. a symmetrical plan with the principal façade usually opening on to the garden/court,
perpendicular to the street and the high and solid enclosing wall and the elaborate gateway
forming a clear limit between domestic and public space.
The ceilings are marked by heavy wooden beams and wooden joists supporting terrace
roofing made of brick-on-edge masonry in lime mortar, called argamasse in French and Madras
roofing in English; the main building material for all masonry works was burnt bricks in lime mortar
(the lime was made by burning sea shells from the local shore or lime stone quarried from Tutipet)
a. Single storied residential buildings
16 Dumas Street (EFEO):

b. Two-storied residential buildings

1 9
Lal Bahadur street (Old State Bank Building)

No. 66, Manakula Vinayakar Kovil Street

Examples of gates

Less elaborated Buildings

Most of the houses are not so elaborated, but still they are built with arcades and colonnades,
balconies with wooden or iron railings, lean-to roofs with wooden posts and eave boards and, on
the terrace, defining the sky line, parapets with terracota balusters or brick loopholes.
4 examples:
Renovated Building
Hôtel de la Trémoille(?), No. 5 Caserne Street, today Hotel Le Dupleix.
This edifice, famous for its monumental gate, was almost in ruin. It has been recently
renovated. It is today called Hôtel Le Dupleix.

Fanciful houses
We also have to mention two pavilions popularly called “folly” in the 18th century, gracefully
designed with arcades and colonnades; they are known as Poulailler and Rizière.
Modern buildings
8 examples:

Tamil Buildings

In the Tamil town most of the buildings are of similar vernacular style and typology with,
however, individual variations.
A significant feature here is that, in spite of the religious differences of its population (Hindu,
Christians, Muslims), the entire settlement shares a common architectural pattern.
The present town form is a hybrid of a European concept and the native building traditions: a
synthesis of these two styles, which has resulted in a town that has a unique Franco-Tamil identity.
Unlike the colonial house, the Tamil house is very much open to the street.
It is built on rubble foundations, with walls of flat bricks and Madras terrace roofing. It is
characterized by a street veranda, called talvaram with Mangalore tiles over wooden posts and a
raised platform with wooden columns and masonry benches for visitors, called tinnai. Then, a
corridor leads to the interior or central courtyard, open to the sky, calledmutram, lined up by an
inner veranda with country (canal) tiles of baked earth over wooden columns. Beyond, are the
more private spaces like sami arai (pooja room), storeroom or bedroom and kitchen which opens
in to a rear courtyard that encloses a well, toilet and bathroom.
Thus, the Tamil house, with its series of open semi-covered and covered spaces, is above all
functional, adapted to the environment, conceived in such a way as to make use of cool and shady
space as much as possible.
Exchange of architectural patterns is evident in the facades of two-storied buildings where the
ground floor is usually of the Tamil type with talvaram, tinnai and carved doors, while the first
floor features French influence with arched windows, plaster decoration, luted pilasters, columns
with capitals, architectural motifs such as mouldings of the doors inspired by French designs, also
floral designs such as acantha leaves, leading to a mix of Tamil and French styles which is the
signature mark of Pondicherry heritage (balconies rest on cantilevered wooden joists).
Probably it was considered fashionable to use French features in the façades of the native
buildings. However the interior structure has never been influenced by western decorative motifs
and, in many cases, in the street facades, there was no compromising on the age-old functional
elements of talvaram and tinnai.

a. Simple single-storied buildings

b. Two-storied buildings: Franco–Tamil houses

No. 126, Laporte Street: details

General Views of the Town
As seen in the first part of this CD, the French town developed along the coastline around the
Government Square surrounded by stately government buildings, while residential buildings
interspersed by institutional buildings extended on either side and along the beach.
The modern views of the French town do not differ much from the old postcards, except for
the Government Square, which was transformed into a green garden (Bharati Park) and houses
renovated. In the Indian town, on the other hand, the commercial streets were considerably
modified after the transfer of territory with the construction of a number of new buildings.

The thoroughfares are living passages reflecting past and present.

The present boulevards are reminder of the military architecture of the past since they were
built on the site of the outer fortifications. After the final restitution of the French establishments
in 1816 the dismantled surrounding walls having lost their original function of defence were of no
use, therefore, the engineer Spinasse proposed laying out on their site a pleasant promenade, of
24 m wide, lined with a double row of trees, on both sides. In January 1827, the work was almost
These broad avenues round the town, oval in shape, lined mostly with modern buildings,
constitue striking marks on the urban landscape.

The creation of the East boulevard, considered a promenade along the seashore, was decided
by the arrêté of 6 July 1827: it was then called Cours Chabrol in honour on the Ministre de la
Marine; today it is known as Goubert Avenue.

Within the boulevards, the streets reflect the grid plan that determines the particular
geometry of the town; they separate large rectangular blocks of houses and, except in the Muslim
quarter, they intersect at right angles.
In 1835, the Government asked the botanist farmers to plant trees in the town, along the
promenades and roads, to prune them, to water them and replace them; on February 7, 1842,
an arrêté was published regarding the alignment of the streets of the black town.
Regarding signboards, after 1856, they were put in the streets with their name in French and in
Tamil and the houses were given a specific number. New signboards have been put recently with
their names in French and in Tamil.

Main Streets
In the beginning of the 18th century, during the time of François Martin, the two main streets
were the rue deValdaour (Nehru Street) and rue de la Pagode (Mission Street); in the middle of the
century, at the time of Dupleix, therue de Madras (Gandhi Street) replaced the rue de la Pagode, as
one of the main axes, to which should be added the ruede Villenour (Lal Bahadur Sastri street).
In the French town
In the Ville blanche or French town, the streets, mostly residential, are lined with a large
number of administrative buildings and colonial houses with their principal façade often
perpendicular to the street and extended by the boundary wall of an interior garden.
In the Indian town
In the Indian town, the streets are lined with a variety of different types of houses, many of
them still having theirtinnais (or raised levels with wooden columns) open into the streets.

Distribution of the communities along the streets

These streets are of different nature: the largest (the five big axes), being chiefly commercial,
are inhabited by various people mostly businessmen; the others are inhabited by specific social
categories of people. Roughly we can distinguish some of the communities
In the French town, to the north of Raj Nivas, are mostly found members of Sri Aurobindo
Ashram and bas-créoles (of mixed Indian and Portuguese blood), to the south Europeans, high
caste people and hauts-créoles (of mixed Indian and French blood).
In the Indian town, to the north of Ananda Ranga Pillai street, are Hindus; between Ananda
Ranga Pillai Street and the Petit Canal, English-speaking caste Christians; between the Petit Canal
and Lal Bahadur Street, French-speaking caste Christians; finally, to the extreme south are found
the Muslims on the east side of Gandhi Street and the untouchable Christians, on the west side.
In all these streets there is a real animation and vitality and it is possible to identify their
religious nature by looking carefully at the lintel of their doors where a sacred symbol may be hung
(Hindu, Christian, Muslim).
Note on the changes in street names
When we consider the plans of 1820 and 1884, we note that the ordinary street names,
particularly those bearing the name of French or Indian personalities, have somewhat changed in
the two parts of the town, but not those of the main streets.
The 1911 décret considerably modified the designation of the streets, particularly in the French
town where rues de Valdaour and Villenour became respectively rues de Dupleix and de Bussy, and
also in the Indian town, where the Petite and Grande rue des Brahmes became rue des Brahmes
and rue Nidarajapayer.
After the transfer of territory we find that the names of a religious nature (particularly
temples) remained the same, that most of the foreign names have been preserved, except for the
main streets bearing the names of national figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Lal Bahadur
Shastri or local figures, or personalities such as Sri Aurobindo.

Architectural Landmarks: Public Buildings

When we look at the architectural landmarks of Pondicherry, we must keep in mind that
temples, churches, mosques and also official buildings are symbolically charged, because most of
them had a dramatic history, which is still well known. The same can be said for smaller
monuments such as the two clock towers erected in the two big markets which have become the
emblems of the town, or the statues of personalities which represent something very deep in the
heart of people: Dupleix for those who look back nostalgically to the colonial period, Schloecher,
Ambedkar, for those who fight for human rights, Gandhi and Nehru for all Indian patriots, and
Bharatiyar for the lovers of Tamil culture.
(For the convenience of the reader the buildings and institutions of the town are listed
according to the alphabetical order).
Archives Fountains Park Guest House
Ashram Golconda Pharmacy
Hospice Desbassyns de
Ayi Mandapam Pier
Place de la République or de
Bazaars Hospital
Napoléon III
Bharathiyar's house and
Hôtel de ville Police Headquarters
Bharati Park Hôtel du Gouvernement Porte Royale
Botanical Garden Hôtels Power Plant
Cadastre Indo-China Bank PWD Office
Café Jail Quay along the sea
Canal, Grand and Petit Kiosk Railway Line and Railway Station
Capuchins' Convent Leper – House Raj Nivas
Cemeteries Library Public Secretariat
Seminaries, Grand and Petit
Cercle de Pondichéry Light House, Old
Chamber of Commerce Mairie Societies
Chidambaram (VO) School Mansions, Old Square Dupleix
Churches Mât de pavillon Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Clock Towers Medical College Statues
College Calve Messageries Maritimes Temples
College, French Meteorological Office Tombs
Columns of Dupleix Milestones Tribunal, Legislative Assembly
Consulate General, French Mission Press War memorial
Court Mont de piété Warehouses
Customs House Mosques Water Supply
Dining hall of Sri Aurobindo
Museum, Law Building
Distillery Parish House

Daily Life
We will try now to understand the affective and social life of those who live in the town, show
occupations included in the changing framework of urban activity according to the time, the mood,
the necessity, the particular moment of the day.
 In French Times
 In the Present day

1. In French Times
Times have changed. Gone are the days when a multitude of mobile tradesmen, craftsmen,
religious mendicants, musicians, were moving around the whole town from morning until night.
Streets are now so congested that it is difficult to move freely along them. It is therefore very
interesting to look at these various colourful people who were roaming the town until some forty
years ago: their pictures are taken from old postcards and photos taken from brother Faucheux’s

a. From old postcards

Rural activities
Before the Second World War, rural and urban activities were not strictly delimited. Here are
shown ploughmen, rope makers, potters, fishermen, along with indigenous groundnut and oil–
mills workers, but the people mostly represented are coconut tree climbers (or toddy tappers) and
the coolies handling picottahs or water-lifting devices consisting of a long lever or yard, pivoted on
an upright post, weighted on the short arm and bearing a line and bucket on the long arm.
Urban activities: Carriages
A curious vehicle (or European origin), not found in other parts of the Tamil country, was used
in Pondicherry in the beginning of the 20th century, when automobile was a rarity, la
Pondichérienne , a four-wheeled passenger automobile with a front wheel smaller than the back
wheel, steered by an iron handle with a front brake and pushed from behind by a coolie. Until
merger several other vehicles were used to carry passengers and travellers: bullock carts with a
matting roof, reklas and jhatkas or light horse-drawn vehicles, and finally rickshaws pulled by a

Urban activities: Craftsmen, sellers, etc.

Trolling merchants are also shown: a woman selling idlis, a manicurist-barber, an itinerant
native doctor with his pharmacopoeia, cabinetmakers, a barefoot beggar, a bull astrologer and
several snake charmers and Koravas (or basket makers and hunters) to which should be
added bayadères or dancing girls.
Dancing Girls and Musicians

Village Life: Farmers and Craftsmen

Urban Life
The various people of the town also did no escape his attention, such as street merchants or
mendicants, policemen, school children and Indian nuns. The most fascinating pictures are family
photos and portraits. These upper middle class families or couples sitting bolt upright on a chair or
standing will unfortunately remain anonymous for us, but this little girl in her first communion
dress or the two sisters and the boys (one a Brahmin and the other probably a Christian) could still
be alive. As for the man and lady portraits, they are moving because they are so true to life that we
feel that we meet them everyday in the street.

2. In the Present Day
In this part we find more than the stereotyped images of the colonial period (rope makers,
coconut tree climbers, coolies handling picottahs, beggars, or missionaries) because India has
become a powerful modern nation and Pondicherry, an international centre of tourism. Our
photographer therefore strolled along the streets and inside the Grand and Petit Bazars and
photographed the people in their daily activities.
It is an attempt to create an atmosphere of the infinite variety of perceptions that a walk
through the town can offer; to show the environment created by men, women and playing
children, because, as beautifully said by R.Dullau “a living street is made up of moving shoulders, of
glancing eyes, faces that come close, silhouettes that slip out of an alley somewhat as if the foot-
path, the veranda, the bench, the quiet corner – the entire street - were only the simple decor to
bring out the value of a surfeited or suffering population”.
The urban scene is given soul by those who live in it: their diverse activities and occupations
are included in the fragile and changing framework of urban activity.

A. Commercial activities:
Shops and Markets
First, we will go to the different market places: Grand and Petit Bazars and to shopping
quarters, where goods are offered for sale, which are operating at full strength mornings and
Early in the morning commodities are unloaded by wholesale and delivered to retailers in
the Grand Bazar.

In this covered market, all kinds of commodities are found.

Fancy good stores: they are also found elsewhere.

Shops for non-vegeterians

Greengrocer shops

They are also found in the Farmers’ Market near the Botanical Garden.
Fruit stalls: see the variety of fruits

Flower shops:

Our visit of the Bazars ends with the flowers shops which offer a fascinating sight: all kinds of
flowers are displayed which are used in formal, religious, or sacred observances, in temple, in puja
rooms, in ladies buns. Men and women are seen making garlands used in ceremonies such as
marriages, funerals, etc.

Modern shops in Gandhi and Nehru streets

Street merchants and workers

Now, we will look at the street merchants, strolling salesmen, peddlers, who all take their
place in the town, according to the time, the mood, the necessity the particular moment of the
First, the retailers settled on the pavement

Then, salesmen pushing a light four-wheeled vehicle.

Sales and service on wheels:
People carrying commodities on wheeled vehicles

Door-to-door vendors and service

And we do not forget the garbage men who daily clean the streets

Sunday Market
Our visit of the town will end with images of the Sunday market in Nehru and Gandhi Streets
where lots of Pondicherians flock every Sunday.
A great part of the stalls are garment shops, but other kinds of goods can also be found there.
B. Celebrations
Here will be shown some festive celebrations which mark the daily life of the people
Christian Marriage

Ordination of 14 Indian priests in the Cathedral

Confirmation in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

It is rite for confirming and strengthening the recipient in the Christian faith.

Renovation of a building in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

Ceremony after renovation of a building in Sacred Heart of Jesus Church

b. Hindu Feasts
Betrothal ceremony

House warming ceremony

(A ceremony to celebrate a family’s occupancy of a new house)

Marriage, civil

After 1792 the French insisted that marriages had to be performed by civil authorities before
the couples could be married in the church. Here at the Mairie.
Marriage, Hindu

Marriage, Marwari

Marriage, Muslim (nikkah)

In Pondicherry, it is often the custom to carry the body of the dead person to the burial ground
in a palanquin beautifully decorated with flowers.
C. Hindu Festivals
There are many Hindu Festivals in the town and its vicinity that attract large crowds.
Âdi Amavasai -Thîrthavari
In the Tamil month of Âdi (July / August), during the new moon day or Âdi Amavasai,
considered especially auspicious, deities of the temples are taken on procession to the seashore
for a ritual bath, called Thîrtavari.

Car Festival at Villiyanur

The most famous car festival of Pondicherry is celebrated at Villiyanur, 10 kms from
Pondicherry. It takes place around the middle of May when thousands of devotees gather in the
town. The huge decorated car of the Thirukameswarar Kokilambal temple is then taken out in a
procession around the temple streets.

Knife Festival or Kattitiruvila at Saudeswari Amman Temple

In Muthialpet, devotees of Goddess Saudesvari Amman celebrate this Knife festival in the
Tamil months of Mâsi-Panguni (March) During the procession they cut their skin with long knives
made specially for that occasion to show the faith over the god.

Mâsi Magam
The most famous festival is Mâsi Magam, which takes place on the full moon day of the Tamil
month Mâsi (February-March). Deities from about seventy temples (some of them coming from
distant places such as Mayilam or Senji) are brought, at about 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, in
a ceremonial procession on their temple car to the seashore, near Kurusukuppam for a ritual bath.
Musicians and devotees follow them. Thousands of people flood onto the village. The whole day is
spent on festivities and, in the evening, at about 5 o’clock, the cars return to their respective
temples in procession along the streets of Pondicherry.

Muttumariamman Temple Festival:

In Kadirkamam, a locality situated to the west of the town, there is a temple devoted to the
goddess Muttumariyamman, known for its 10-day annual festival, celebrated in the Tamil month
of Tai (January-February). The devotees offer Pongal to the Goddess, some of them have their skin
punctured by hooks or pins, others have their lips pierced with mini silver lance or metal ring to
maintain perfect silence.
Sedal or Hook swinging Festival at the Balamurugan temple, Kalapet
Sedal is a ritual whereby devotees are suspended by metal hooks. This mechanism consists of a
standing post with a long sweep at its top on one end of which a person is suspended by a hook
fastened into the integuments of his back and, raised high in the air, is swung around.
Widespread in the nineteenth century, this ritual is less frequent today; however, it is taking
place in several places such as Kalapet in the Balamurugan temple, where devotees are also
dragging with hooks cars, trucks and cranes. It is an extraordinary sight.
Astonishingly, there is no evidence that the man is in pain during the ritual; rather, he appears
to be in a state of exaltation. When the hooks are later removed, wounds heal rapidity without any
medical treatment other than the application of sacred ash. Two weeks later the marks on his back
are scarcely visible.

Smasana or Mayanakollai Festival, at Angalamman temple, Vambakiraipalaiyam

This ceremonial rite, called mayanakkolai or plunder in the smasanam or mayanam (burning
ground), forms a part of the festival of the goddess Angalamma. It is based on the following
legend: a certain Vallalarajan, having secured a boon whereby to get a child capable of destroying
the universe, all the Devas, terrified, implored the goddess Angalamma to get rid of this child.
Angalamma accepted and, disguised as a midwife, managed to come near Vallalarajan’s wife, tore
open her abdomen and destroyed the fœtus; then, the raja’s town was destroyed and converted
into a burial ground.
The festival is celebrated in commemoration of this event. The statue of the goddess is carried
in procession. At the cremation ground, a big figure of the rani is made of earth and ashes; in her
belly are placed the intestines of a goat; at the end of the ritual, a pujari, representing the goddess,
falls onto this figure, rips open its belly, pulls out its intestines and puts some around his neck and
some in the mouth.

Tai Pûsam
In the Tamil month of Tai (January-February), during the Pusa Nakshatra, called Tai Pûsam, a
festival takes places in most of the Murugan temples, with people carrying kavadis, or ritualistic
yokes of various kinds and dancers with their lips pierced by brass rings. Here is shown the festival
at the Balamurugan temple at Kalapet.