Puducherry – Culture and Tradition
Puducherry is a Union Territory of India and offers a glimpse of France in India. It is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the remaining three sides is Tamil Nadu. Before September 20, 2006, Puducherry was known as Pondicherry, whose Vedic name was Vedpuri.
The Union Territory of Puducherry comprises former French establishments of Puducherry (Tamil Nadu), Karaikkal (Tamil Nadu), Mahe (Kerala), Yanam (Andhra Pradesh) falls under its territory. Hence the Union Territory of Puducherry is spread on both the eastern and western banks of India. Puducherry is the capital of the territory which was once the original headquarters of the French in India.
There is a White Town area near Promenade Beach built in such a way that it resembles the cities of France. The mark of the French can be most prominently seen here and this area is also known as “India’s Little France“, “Quintessence of French culture“, and “The French Riviera of the east”. Pondicherry is just the perfect dose you need to fulfill all your French fantasies.
Puducherry is known for its picturesque beach. It also harbored extremists during the Indian independence movement. Notable freedom fighters are Subramanya Bharathi and Aurobindo. ‘Arvindo Ashram‘ was established in Puducherry after his name is famous all over the world for the education of Yoga and Spirituality.
The history associated with Puducherry dates back to the second century. Archaeological excavations in 1944 and 1949 revealed that “it was a trade center where Roman producers were imported in the first century CE”.
The Pallava dynasty of the fourth century ruled here for some time. After that Chola, Pandya, and many other southern dynasties like Vijayanagar, and Madurai Sultanate ruled here. In 1674, French Governor Francois Marin converted this small village into a large port.
The city became famous with the French taking an interest in the city of Puducherry. Although there were many wars between the French and the British, Puducherry was always ruled by the French for about 138 years.
When French India ceased to exist, Puducherry was incorporated into the Union Territory of India on 1st November 1954. Around the 18th century, the city made considerable progress.
We still see the history of the state in the buildings and routes here. French carpet legends are also heard on state roads and churches.
Puducherry still has the French flavor in it as one can see by the grand colonial mansions, beautiful boulevards, placid promenades, spellings in signboards and buildings, and names of roads, and public places. The presence of two dominant influences has made the Pondicherry culture complex but very vibrant at the same time.
Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam co-exist in Pondicherry. The Hindus have scores of ancient temples in Pondicherry famous among them being Varadaraja temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Villianur temple dedicated to Thirukameshwara, and Thirunallar temple dictated to Planet Saturn, Sani. Karaikal is the Gateway to various places of worship on the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu.
Velankanni and Nagore the two famous places of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims respectively are near Karaikal. Masthan Saheb Darga (dedicated to Masthan Syed Buhari, a Sufi Saint) is very sacred. Christian The Christians have half a dozen famous churches. Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Notre Dame des Anges and the Villianur and Ariankuppam Churches.
Due to the diversity in the culture of Puducherry, many languages are used here. Most of the people of the state use Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam languages. While French and English are also used here. The schools impart knowledge of Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu languages as well as English and French.
But the most spoken language in the state is English. While these languages vary according to the districts.
The dress of Puducherry is much similar to Tamil Nadu’s dress or a mixture of Tamil and French cultural attires. Because of the amalgamated French and Tamil culture, both traditional and western attires are worn in Puducherry. Women of Puducherry wear saris with a blouse and long skirt, They do not wear beachwear in the city as such dresses will invite unwanted attention. But being the most liberal place so people wear modern and western clothing.
The traditional attire for men in Puducherry is dhoti and kurta/shirt, but nowadays they can be seen in pants and shirts. Both men and women wear cotton clothes because of the climate of the area. In clothing, the remaining visible French influences are the red ‘kepis’ and the belts worn by the local police.
Suggested Read: Traditional Dresses Of Indian States
Puducherry is known for its food. Naturally, the French have an ancient culinary tradition that married with local cuisines to create what one writer calls a “mosaic of culinary integration“. Puducherry is the one place in India where one can buy bona fide French baguettes, brioches, and pastries. Those apart, local restaurants specialize in good French food that is served alongside Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi cuisines. Some of the favorite cooked items are Coconut Curry, Tandoori Potato, Soya Dosa, Podanlangkai, Assad, Curried Vegetables, Stuffed Cabbage, and Italian Baked Bean.
The spicing across all the dishes is milder than encountered in Tamil cooking but much more pronounced than you ever encounter in classic French cuisine. Dosa is made with meat and cheese, Chaiyos is made of rice flour, Vindaloo here is much different from Goa, Prawn Malay curry shoes the influence of South East Asia. Pondicherrian Fish Assad Curry, a coconut-milk-laden curry, flavored with anise and curry leaves and finished with a squeeze of lime is a “quintessential” local dish. Bouillabaisse morphed into Meen Puyabaise with turmeric to suit the French palate. Pondicherry cuisine food takes less oil to cook and is easily digested.
Suggested Read: Famous Food Of Indian States
Fairs and Festival
Fairs and Festivals of Puducherry are reflective of the cultural heritage of the place. A strong connection with Tamil Nadu, a history of French colonialism, and the influence of Rishi Sri Aurobindo together effects to bestow Puducherry with a plethora of festivals. Puducherry literally indulges in various fairs and festivities throughout the year.
Some of the festivals are very unique and interesting, celebrated only within Puducherry. Some common festivals are the Pongal Festival, Masi Magam Festival, Tamil New Year, Chitrai Kalai Vizha, Villianur Temple Car Festival, Veerampattinam Car Festival, and Bastille Day, Birth Anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, Fete De Puducherry, French Food Festival, and Vinayaka Chathurthi.
Dance and Music
Music & dance in Puducherry forms a very important part of the cultural life of the people here. Various dance festivals are celebrated by the people of this union territory of India. Cultural programs are organized during the other festivals as well. The music and dance forms of Puducherry are immensely influenced by the rich heritage of the Tamil tradition.
Art and Crafts
The quintessential Khadi textile, as well as a host of other fabrics like twill, satin, corduroy, chambray, poplin, oxford, and cambric, are all a hallmark of the Puducherry textile. The Anglo-French mills are legendary for churning out crinkle-free printed cotton. You can find a variety of Leather goods, Handmade crafts, Puducherry fabrics & Silk saris, Puducherry Aromatics, Fashions from Auroville, Decor items from the village artisans, Antique Furniture, Modern design furniture, and Glasswear.
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Puducherry is one of his favorite places for national and international tourists. Puducherry is one of the 274 Paudal Patra sites of the Shiva temple and has 4 Shiva temples in the Karaikal region, which is proof that the Puducherry region is part of the spiritual and sacred elements of Lord Shiva.
According to experts, this temple was built during the Chola Empire. Tourism can be enriched with spiritual knowledge by visiting these ancient temples. Every year Puducherry state government also declares an official holiday to organize a huge car festival near Villianur temple. And all the important people of the state participate in this festival.
Puducherry has been the abode of Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) and Sri Aurobindo Ashram also remains in Puducherry. There are many ancient forts, churches, temples, monuments, and parks in the state, which attract millions of tourists.
Sri Aurobindo founded the Aurobindo Ashram in 1926 to increase the spiritual power away from the life of this race. People from all over the world come here in search of spirituality.
Meera Alfassa (also known as Mother) created the Spiritual Coulérate for Sri Aurobindo in 1968. His only goal was that people from all over the world could come here and find peace. There are many types of workshops here, as well as different types of therapies given here which lead people toward peace.
The main features of Pondicherry are its beaches. There are mainly four ‘Beaches’ – Prominent Beach, Paradis Beach, Auroville Beach, Sariniti Beach. It is less crowded than other beaches in India. And there are quite clean in between.
There are 32 churches in Pondicherry. Churches such as Lady Angel’s Church, Screed Hot Church, Duplex Church, and Basilica of Scared Hot of Jesus are counted among older and older churches. Their beauty will fascinate you.
Old Light House
The old lighthouse built in 1836 is the most popular landmark of Pondicherry. When it was built, it was unique at the time. This lighthouse is the center of attraction for tourists today.
French War Memorial
Four pillars stand in commemoration of soldiers martyred in World War 1. A short distance from it is the Statue of Duplex, which was built in memory of Joseph Francois.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Statue stands in front of the beach. All 13 feet tall, it is surrounded by carved monolithic pillars built by the famous sculptor Roy Choudhary from Madras School of Art and Crafts.
In ancient times Pondicherry has been under the rulers of France, Britain, Dutch, etc. Some rare documents and historical objects of the same era are present in this museum.
It is also known as Osduyu Lake, it is a few kilometers from Pondicherry. You can hire a boat here and spend your time with the birds in this lake. This lake is a paradise for bird lovers who want to see migratory birds.
The barren walls of Erika Medu provide evidence that the link between Rome and Tamil Nadu was once Pondicherry. The ruins of Erika Medu are about two hundred years old.