Pondicherry District, (Tamil : பாண்டிச்சேரி) presently Puducherry district is one of the four districts of the union territory of Puducherry in southern India. The district occupies an area of 290 square kilometres (110 sq mi), spread over 11 non-contiguous enclaves lying on or near the Bay of Bengal within a compact area in the state of Tamil Nadu. According to the 2011 census, the district has a population of 946,600.
Pondicherry District History
The history of the city of Pondicherry is recorded only after the arrival of Dutch, Portuguese, British and French colonialists. By contrast, nearby places such as Arikamedu, Ariyankuppam, Kakayanthoppe, Villianur and Bahur, which were colonised by the French East India Company over a period of time and which later became the union territory of Pondicherry, which also has recorded history predating the colonial period.
A marketplace named Poduke or Poduca is recorded as a Roman trading destination from the mid 1st century. The area was part of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the 4th century. The Cholas of Thanjavur held it from the 10th to 13th centuries, only to be replaced by the Pandya Kingdom in the 13th century. The Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all of the South of India in the 14th century and maintained control until 1638 when they were supplanted by the Sultan of Bijapur.
The French East India Company established this town as their headquarters in 1674. Five trading posts were established along the south Indian coast between 1668 and 1674. The town was separated by a canal into the French Quarter and the Indian Quarter.
During the Anglo-French wars (1742–1763), Puducherry changed hands frequently. On January 16, 1761, the British captured Puducherry from the French, but the Treaty of Paris (1763) at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War returned it. The British took control of the area again in 1793 at the Siege of Pondicherry amid the Wars of the French Revolution, and returned it to France in 1814. When the British gained control of the whole of India in the late 1850s, they allowed the French to retain their settlements in the country. Pondicherry, Mahe, Yanam, Karaikal and Chandernagar remained a part of French India until 1954 when it was incorporated into the Indian Union along with the rest of French India.
On 18 October 1954 in a general election involving 178 people in Pondicherry Municipal and Commune Panchayat, 170 people were in favour of independence and eight people voted against. The de facto transfer of the French India territories form French governance to the Indian union took place on 1 November 1954, and was established as the union territory of Pondicherry. However, the formal de jure transfer of territory agreement between France and India was signed on 16 August 1962.
Pondicherry District Administrative Divisions
District : Puducherry (Pondicherry)
Commune Panchayats (CP)
For administrative purpose, the union territory of Puducherry is divided into eight taluks. Four of these, viz. Puducherry, Ozhukarai, Villianur and Bahour, together constitute Puducherry district. Among these four, only Ozhukarai taluk does not contain any rural area. The rural areas under the other three taluks are further divided commune panchayats (CP) or simply communes. Rural area of Puducherry taluk is covered by a single commune – Ariyankuppam, whereas Villianur taluk has two communes, viz. Villianur and Mannadipet, and rural area of Bahour taluk consists of two communes, viz. Bahour and Nettapakkam.
Census 2011 has identified three census towns in Puducherry district, along with three existing statutory towns. Pondicherry and Ozhukarai are the municipalities, Kurumbapet is the gram panchayat and the 3 census towns are: Ariyankuppam, Manavely and Villianur. Puducherry urban agglomeration consists of the area under the all these six towns along with Odiampet, which is considered as urban outgrowth of Kurumbapet.
For the ease of administration, Department of Revenue and Disaster Management, Government of Puducherry, has defined two sub-divisions of the Puducherry district, viz. Pondicherry North subdivision and Pondicherry South subdivision, each consisting of two taluks. Pondicherry North subdivision contains the taluks of Pondicherry and Ozhukarai, whereas Pondicherry South subdivision consists of the other two taluks of the district, viz. Villianur and Bahour. Each of these four taluks are further divided into sub-taluks / firkas which consists of revenue villages from rural / semi-urban / urban area.
Planning and Research Department, Government of Puducherry, further defines the notion of a block. The union territory of Puducherry is divided into six blocks, three of which forms the Pondicherry district, viz. Ariyankuppam, Ozkhukarai and Villianur.
Pondicherry District Demographics
Puducherry’s population, 9,46,600, is roughly equal to that of the nation of Fiji or the US state of Delaware. This gives it a ranking of 460th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 3,231 inhabitants per square kilometre (8,370/sq mi). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 28.73%. Puducherry has a sex ratio of 1,031 females for every 1,000 males, and a literacy rate of 86.13%.
Pondicherry District Transport
Pondicherry is connected to Chennai via the East Coast Road through Mahabalipuram. The Pondicherry Road Transport Corporation runs buses within the city. The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation operates Volvo air-conditioned services from Chennai to Pondicherry. There are daily bus services from several main stops from Chennai. The Pondicherry road transport corporation also operates Volvo buses to Chennai and to various places.
PDY / Puducherry (Pondicherry) is connected by train to all metros: Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai, as well as other important cities such as Kanyakumari, Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore and Mangalore. Important Trains :
- 12867/Howrah-Puducherry (Aurobindo) SF Express
- 22403/Puducherry – New Delhi SF Express
- 12898/Bhubaneswar-Pondicherry Weekly SF Express
Pondicherry District Tourism
Pondicherry is a popular tourist destination in South India. The city has many colonial buildings, churches, temples, and statues which, combined with the systematic town planning and planned French style avenues, still preserve much of the colonial ambiance.
While the sea is a popular draw for tourists, Pondicherry no longer has the beautiful sand beaches that once graced its coastline. The breakwater to the harbour and other hard structures constructed on the shore caused extreme coastal erosion and the sand from Pondicherry’s famous Promenade Beach was permitted to disappear entirely. As a result of the town’s seawall and groyne construction, the beaches further up the coast to the north have also been lost. An enormous deposition of sand has accrued to the south of the harbour breakwater, but this is not a commodious beach and is not easily accessible from the town.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram, located on rue de la Marine, is one of the most important ashrams in India, founded by the renowned Freedom Fighter and spiritual philosopher Sri Aurobindo. Auroville (City of Dawn) is an “experimental” township located 8 km north-west of Pondicherry. It is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.
There are a number of old and large churches in Pondicherry, most of which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of heritage buildings and monuments are present around the Promenade Beach, such as
- The Children’s Park & Dupleix Statue
- Gandhi statue
- Nehru Statue
- Le Café
- French War Memorial
- 19th Century Light House
- Bharathi Park
- Governors Palace
- Romain Rolland Library
- Legislative Assembly
- Pondicherry Museum
- the French Institute of Pondicherry at Saint-Louis Street
Puducherry is also popular for its eateries that cover a wide variety of cuisines ranging from French, Indian and Italian to Mexican, Thai and Chinese. Some restaurants also serve a unique Indo-French cuisine that gives tourists a taste of Puducherry’s colonial influences. Most popular eateries include Baker’s Street, The White Town Cafe, Zuka, Carte Blanche and La Maison Rose.
Puducherry Botanical Gardens is located south of the New Bus Stand. Chunnambar Backwater resort is situated 8 km from Pondicherry, along the Cuddalore Main Road. This tropical resort is flanked by a quiet-flowing creek on one side. Boating and tree house are very popular.
Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Devasthanam on Manakula Vinayagar Street is a Hindu temple, which houses Lord Ganesha. Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple was in existence before the French came and settled in Pondicherry i.e. before 1666. According to Sasthra, Lord GANESHA is named in 16 types based on his various forms, out of which this god facing the east coast near the Bay of Bengal was named as Bhuvaneshar Ganapathy, now called as Manakula Vinayagar. In Tamil, ‘Manal‘ means sand and ‘Kulam‘ means pond near the sea. Earlier, there was full of sand around the pond. So, the people called the god as Manal Kulathu Vinayagar (means God near the pond of sand). Later, it was named as Manakula Vinayagar.
Thirukaameeswarar Temple is one of the ancient temples located in a rural town called Villianur (the ancient name is Vilvanallur, meaning “vilva marangal niraindha nalla vur“), which is located about 10 km away (towards Villupuram) from Pondicherry town. This temple is renowned as Periya Koil “Big Temple“. The prime god is Lord Shiva and the prime goddess is Goddess Kokilambigai. In addition, there are also other Hindu gods such as Murugan, Vinayagar, Thakshanamoorthy, Perumal, Bhramah, Chandikeshwarar, Natarajar, Navagrahah, and 63 Naayanmaars. The pioneers in this temple say that the age of this temple is about 1000+ years. It is thought to have been built by one of the Chola kings. There is also a huge “temple pond“. The “Ther Thiruvizha” (Car Festival) is celebrated at this temple.
Apart from sight seeing places for the tourists, there are a number of various bakeries and restaurants that cater to the Europeans taste buds. For others there are many Indian, Continental, Chinese and fast food restaurants to choose from. Pondicherry being once a French colony has good French cuisine i.e. Cafe des Arts, Rendezvous, Le Dupleix, Villa Shanti. Some other notable restaurants for pizzas Cafe Xtasi, Auro Pizza and Tanto Pizzeria and for bakeries Hot Breads, Daily Breads, Bon Bakes, Grand Bakery and Zuka Choco-La.
Pondicherry District Notable people
- Tamil Poet Bharathidasan.
Actors, directors and performance artists
- Anandaraj, Tamil movie actor
- Kalki Koechlin, Bollywood actor
- Ayesha Kapur
Science and technology
- S. Somasegar, former senior vice-president, Microsoft
- Ganapathi Thanikaimoni, Indian scientist and director of the Palynology laboratory of the French Institute of Pondicherry
- Yvonne Artaud, French educationalist and psychologist.
- Navi Radjou, an innovation and leadership strategist based in Silicon Valley.
Politicians and public servants
- Kiran Bedi
- N. Rangasamy
- V. Subbiah
- Edouard Goubert
- V. Venkatasubha Reddiar
- M. O. H. Farook
- V. Vaithilingam
- V. Narayanasamy
- M. Vaithianathan
French General Jacques Lauriston was born in Pondicherry.
- Home town of the titular character in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.
- Prince Pondicherry, a character from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is named for the city. The character asked that Willy Wonka build him a palace made of chocolate. Given the heat of the Indian climate, this decision worked out poorly for the fictitious prince.