India being once part of the British Empire saw its share of cross-cultural amalgamation especially when it comes to architectural style. However India being a pretty large land mass there were also some pockets of French, Portuguese and Dutch settlements. One such classic example is that of Pondicherry, a small town which had been completely engulfed into the lifestyle of a classic French town prior to India’s independence and few years even after.
After the De Jure of 1956 which was the treaty under which Pondicherry and other French territories of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam became Indian territories. There was, however, a twist where Pondicherry did not merge with Madras (Tamil Nadu) but instead remained as a Union Territory.
Pondicherry is considered as one of the best weekend destination in southern India, especially from Chennai and Bengaluru. It can either be reached by train or you can simply drive down. Hotels are plenty but it must be noted that on extended weekends and other major holidays most of the hotels completely fill up thus do book in advance.
Pondicherry now which is known as Puducherry (referring back to its original traditional name) has quite a few tourist spots which a person can visit. Being a very small territory it’s easy to cover almost all of these in two to three days.
Pondicherry can basically be divided into Churches, White Town (Original French Town), Beaches and Auroville. I am going to divide the blog so that it’s easy for you to plan your trips within the town. Thus my first blog is going to be on the Churches of Pondicherry.
There are many churches in Pondicherry but I am only going to mention about the French built churches in and around White Town since the rest of the churches are comparatively new and do not have such a classic history as these ones.
If you are staying in White Town locality then these places can easily be covered by a short walk else you need to take an Auto and come to White Town to look around.
I would personally recommend you to hire a Scooty or Motor Bike if you have a valid driver’s licence since this way you would be easily covering not only all the churches but a lot of other tourist attractions in this town. These can be easily hired through the hotel reception or through online search. For security deposit, you would require depositing any valid ID card like voters ID card, Aadhar ID card etc. which would be returned to you after you hand back the keys. The rent per night varies from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 depending on the tourist season but still the cheapest and quickest option. Additionally please do have a smart phone with GPS capability so that you can easily set the direction and head off.
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Situated right next to the Archbishop’s House this is the main mother church of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore. Built in the year 1791 this church has gone through various stages of remodelling and modifications. On this very ground, many churches were built and destroyed. Destroyed first by the Dutch and then by the British. The church that we see now is the fourth church structure that was built on this site however the present church was actually erected on the third church that stood on this location.
The church according to me looks more beautiful from the inside than the outside. From outside the front façade looks flat with various architectural points amongst which the statue of Virgin Mary is the most prominent.
Once inside you will fall in love with the beautiful white walls with golden borders, the highlight of the interior is the altar with skylights surrounding creating a beautiful magenta aura.
Right next to Immaculate Conception Cathedral we have the Archbishop’s House which is the residence of the Arch Bishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.
While on your way you will cross Hospice Convent which as the name suggests is an old age home built in 1876 by Desbassayns de Richemont (son of a former governor).
Our Lady of Angels Church
(Eglise de notre Dame des Anges)
Originally built in 1855 this is one of the oldest church in Pondicherry and one of the important tourist attractions also. This church is the best example of Greco-Roman style architecture with two tall towers when seen from the front and a dome over the main altar.
The design was based on the Notre Dame de Paris which has identical two tall towers however when compared in size the one in Pondicherry is relatively much smaller.
This location originally set to have four churches that were originally built by the Capuchins order but at the moment only this church is active where the service takes place. The other two have been converted into orphanages which are right opposite to the church compound.
Former Norte Dame des Anges
The four churches that were originally here were built by the Capuchins order and one such is still preserved as a part of the boy’s orphanage and is right next to Our Lady of Angels Church. Almost impossible to understand that it was once a church but if you enter then you will be able to see the main hall and the altar which was once there.
I could see classes going on inside thus did not venture much inside but could see the various side rooms which I assume were church vestibules.
Our Lady of Angels Boys Home
Right next to Former Norte Dame des Anges is Our Lady of Angels Boys Home, this was also according to the record once a church belonging to the Capuchins order but later transformed into a boy’s home.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
This is relatively a new church built in the year 1907 on the wishes of Archbishop Mgr. Gandy who dedicated this church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This basically meant that this church was being dedicated to the basic concept of taking the heart of Jesus Christ and his love for humanity.
This church has been built in Gothic style and the highlight of the church is its numerous stained glass works which creates a visual masterpiece inside.
That’s it, for now, will be back in my next blog where I will take you around the White Town which would basically comprise of all the major tourist attractions that Pondicherry can offer.
Google Map (All the churches plotted for easy navigation)
Click here to open pre-mapped route on Google Map