TOURISM

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram located on rue de la Marine, is one of the most well known and wealthiest ashrams in India, with devotees from India and all over the world flocking to it for spiritual salvation. Its spiritual tenets represent a synthesis of yoga and modern science. It is open to the public daily between 08-1200 hrs and 1400-1800 hrs. Children below 3 years of age are not allowed into the ashram and photography is allowed only with permission of the ashram authorities.

The Ashram was set up in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo Ghose, one of India’sgreatest philosopher-poets, who originally came to Pondy to escape persecution by the British. It was after arriving in puducherry, that he was drawn into the spiritual realm and discovered the power of yoga. His philosophy deeply rooted in yoga and his writings inspired a number of followers.
one of them was a Parisian mystic, painter and musician called Mirra Alfassa, who was so inspired by his philosophy that she stayed on in Puducherry and was instrumental in establishment of the ashram. After Aurobindo’s death in 1950, the running of the Ashram was entrusted to his chief disciple and companion, Mirra Alfassa, (also known as ‘The Mother’). The idea of Auroville or the “City of Down” was conceived by ‘The Mother’. She died in 1973 at the age of 93.

The ashram’s influence can be felt in most of Puducherry. The main ashram building is where the mortal remains of Aurobindo and the Mother are kept. Their ‘Samadhi’ or mausoleum, which is generally surrounded by supplicating devotees, is in the central courtyard under a frangipani tree and is covered daily with flowers.

Some of the ashram’s facilities like the Library and the Main Building (during collective meditation) can be accessed, only after obtaining a gate pass from the Bureau Central or some of the Ashram Guest Houses.

For more information, please contact:
Bureau Central, Cottage Complex,
Sri Aurobindo Ashram,
3 Ranga Pillai St., puducherry 605001.
Tel.: +91-413-2339648


Auroville

Auroville - or the ‘City of Dawn ’ - was conceived as a place of research into the ideal of human unity by the Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo. The idea is to build a futuristic city where people of goodwill can live together in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. Auroville came into existence in 1968. Its Charter says, “To live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness”, and describes it as “belonging to nobody in particular, but to humanity as a whole”; as a place “of constant progress”; and as “a bridge between the past and the future.”

Located around 8 kms north-west of Puducherry, Auroville was designed by the French architect Roger Anger. Around 2,000 people live there in settlements with names like Grace, Fraternity, Fertile, Certitude and Transformation. Nearly two-thirds of the residents are non-Indians.
Architecturally speaking the buildings are a combination of modern western and traditional Indian elements, set in a rural landscape of deep red earth and widespread forestation, with narrow earth roads linking the settlements. The residents are involved in agriculture, administration, commerce and handicrafts, alternative technology, education, healthcare and development projects, the latter including AuroRE Systems, an international award winning unit involved in solar photovoltaic and thermal systems.

The central Matrimandir, which is not a temple but a place for individual silent concentration, is set in an area of 62 acres at the centre of the emerging township, and is seen as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection. Union with the Divine manifesting in a progressive human unity.”

During the inauguration ceremony of Auroville on 28th February 1968 , soil from 124 countries was placed in a lotus-shaped urn and mixed to symbolize universal oneness. This urn is today sited at the centre of an Amphitheatre in the Matrimandir Gardens . The Matrimandir’s 12-sided white marble Inner Chamber has a 70 cms diameter optical-quality glass globe at its centre, onto which a shaft of sunlight is focused by way of a roof-mounted heliostat. The light falling on the globe acts as a focal aid to concentration.

The Auroville Visitors Centre (Ph: 0413 – 2622239) is located near Bharat Nivas, the Indian national pavilion in Auroville’s International Zone, and is open from 0930 to 1730 hrs every day. This Centre has a permanent exhibition on the history and philosophy of the project, an Information Service offering books, brochures and leaflets on various aspects of Auroville, three boutiques, a bookshop, and a cafeteria providing refreshments and international cuisine. Introductory videos on the township and the Matrimandir can be seen at the Centre by request.

For those who would like to meditate in the Matrimandir, permission should be taken from the auroville authorities. Matrimandir is open for meditation only in the weekdays and during the morning hours.

For more information see the Auroville website www.auroville.org or visit:
La Boutique d’ Auroville,
38 J.Nehru Street,
Puducherry.
Phone: 0413 – 2337264


Beaching in puducherry

Any trip to puducherry would be incomplete without a visit to its beaches. Though it’s hot and muggy through most of the year, puducherry has four main beaches which are fairly popular with tourists and locals alike. As opposed to the rest of India, the beaches here are relatively clean and not as crowded.

Most of the beaches are a little away from the town except for small stretch of sand behind Seagulls restaurant on Goubert Avenue. However this stretch is not as popular because of its lack of accessibility and security.



Promenade

The 1.5 km long promenade running along the beach is the pride of puducherry. There one can relax or take a stroll at any time of the day. On the sea front are several land marks. The War memorial cold and dispassionate throbbing the memory of last dreams, the statue of Joan of Arc blazing an inspiration, the heritage town hall, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi standing tall, Dupleix statue, old light house, the remains of the old pier, the old customs house, speak the splendor of the by gone era. The well furnished tourist information centre is situated in esthetically heritage building facing the sea to cater to the need of visiting tourists.

Paradise Beach

Located 8 kms. from the town, along the Cuddalore Main Road this beach can be accessed from the Chunnambar Resort. Flanked by a quiet flowing creek on one side, the beach can only be accessed by boat

Serenity Beach

This beach is a ten minutes drive to the north of the town. This virgin beach, with its serene surroundings is an ideal place to laze away your day.

Auroville Beach

The Auroville Beach as the name indicates is close to Auroville. It is right off the ECR, opposite the road leading to Auroville. Located around 12 kms from the main puducherry town, its shallow waters and small waves make it an ideal place of swimming. It is a fairly popular destination on weekends. On weekdays it is relatively less crowded.


Gardens And Back Waters

Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are located south of the New Bus Stand. The gate leading to the garden is reminiscent of French architecture and it stands out from its immediate surroundings because it is smack in the middle of the old Tamil town. The Botanical Gardens were laid out in 1826 in the ornate French style, with pruned trees, beautiful flower beds and gravel lined paths and fountains. The French introduced many exotic plants from all over the world, many of which thrived. With over 1500 species of plants, this could actually qualify as one of the best botanical gardens in South India.

The gardens also have a musical fountain which is active over the weekends, with two shows in the evening. Check for timings and the frequency of the shows as they may change depending on the season.

Bharathi Park

The Government Park or Bharati Park is in the green centre of the French Town and its lush trees provide ample relieve from the scorching sun on a hot summer day. With children playing in ponds, on their hill or in the traffic park, grown-ups sitting or lying on granite benches, families on a picnic and occassional sit-ins of striking citizens, the park is the most appreciated public area in town. Strolling under the cool trees is as dynamic as it gets. Unless people rush to the spot when an occassional movie is being shot.

The Aayi Mandapam has become the unmistakable centre from which four lanes divide the Park in four almost equal parts. The area is dotted with ancient sculptures and not so ancient statues. Around it stand a number of stately buildings:

The Raj Nivas - The residence of the Lt. Governor, formerly the Palace of the French Governor of puducherry.

The Museum - situated opposite the Raj Nivas on St Louis Street, houses an interesting collection of excavated artifacts from Roman Times and heritage from the French Period.

Towards the east, hidden behind a thick wall and huge trees lies the former French bandstand on which the French Army Band used to play.

On the southern side are the puducherry Art Gallery, Hotel Qualithe and the Chamber of Commerce, all built with a street front in colonial style. The UCO bank is surrounded by its own garden premises. A mighty stair invites you to the interior of a traditional bank.

Past the General Hospital on the western side are the Legislative Assembly and the Cercle de Pondichéry.

Turning back towards the Raj Nivas on the left is beautiful Villa Aroumé, which houses the Ashram Dining Room.


Keezhoor

There is a huge banyan tree near the village here. The canopy of the 400 year old tree covers a few acres at the very least. Kizhoor a border village is situated at a distance of nearly 28 kms from puducherry. It is a historic place in the sense that it is here only in the year 1954. Voting took place for the merger of puducherry with the Indian Union. As part of the celebrations of 50th Anniversary of De-facto puducherry, a permanent Exhibition of paintings relating to the merger of puducherry was opened at the Kizhoor Monument.


Chunnambar Backwater

Chunnambar is situated 8 kms from puducherry, along the Cuddalore Main Road. This tropical paradise is flanked by a quiet-flowing creek on one side. You can sail downstream to the sands and pitch up a cozy seaside tent for yourself. Overnighting within the tree-houses on the backwater banks provides a relishing experience of the great outdoors.

The beach at Chunnambar also known as Plage Paradiso, is located near the mouth of the backwater. The sand is pristine and the water, clean. It's and ideal place for sun bathing and beach sports.

A short, pleasant cruise into the sea from here could reward you with the memorable sight of playful dolphins in natural habitat, horsing around.

Chunnambar Beach and Backwater Resort, a PTTDC enterprise, has boating, backwater boat tours, trekking and picnics on Paradise Beach for friends and families. The resort offers various kinds of rental boats (speed, motor, sail, rowed paddled and peddalled) in addition to beach volleyball and other beach sports.

Seagulls the multicuisine restaurant cum bar is a stone's throw from the backwater. It specialises in Chinese and Tandoori food. The restaurant too has a view of the backwaters. It is an ideal setting for a theme party or an offbeat get-together. It also serves food in the huts just outside the restaurant. You can also order a picnic lunch to the beach and you shall be served there in style.

Here accommodation is available on the three tree top houses that offer you the bliss of ecotourism. You can either read a novel, paint, listen to music, meditate or even stay overnight, all on the top of a tree!

'Sunrise Panorama' (a two storey tree top house) gives you an unrestricted view of the backwater up to its mouth. 'Palm house' on the other hand overlooks the artificial pond and the park. 'Nest bird' is the perfect abode for the adventure loving folks, it has a rope ladder that leads to a small balcony. All in a tree house!

For more information contact PTDC

Tourism Information Centre,
40 Goubert Avenue,
puducherry 605001, India.
Telephone: 0413 - 2339497,
Fax: 0413 - 2330532
Or Chunnambar Backwater Resort,
Cuddalore Road, Chunnambar, puducherry.
Tel: 0413 - 2356816.


Sites of Interest in the Vicinity

Thiruvannamalai

Thiruvannamalai is one of the Pancha Bootha Sthalangal representing the fire element along with Chidambaram, Sri Kalahasti, Thiruvanaikoil and Kanchipuram representing sky, air, water and earth respectively.

Thiruvannamalai is home to the Annamalaiyar Temple located at the foot of the Annamalai hill and amongst one of the great Shiva Temples of Tamilnadu. Thiruvannamalai has long been associated with many yogis and siddhars,[1] and more recently the 20th century guru Ramana Maharshi. The sanskrit name for Thiruvannaamalai - Arunachala - became known worldwide mostly due to Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sri Ramana Maharshi lived in Thiruvannamalai for fifty three years until his death in 1950. His ashram, Ramanasramam, is located at the foot of the Arunachala hill, to the west of the town.



Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram was a 7th century port city of the South Indian dynasty of the Pallavas around 60 km south from the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It has various historic monuments built largely between the 7th and the 9th century, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture wherein Buddhist elements of design are prominently visible. They are constituted by cave temples, monolithic rathas (chariots), sculpted reliefs and structural temples. The pillars are of the Dravidian order. The sculptures are excellent examples of Pallava art.

Mahabalipuram is located in the ECR road connecting Chennai to Pondicherry. It is 60 km from Chennai and 110 km from Pondicherry




IGCAR, Karparkkam

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, the second largest establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy, next only to Bhaba Atomic Research Centre, was set up at Kalpakkam, 80 kms south of Chennai, in 1971. Its purpose - the conducting of a broad-based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced engineering, towards the development of sodium-cooled Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) technology in India.

IGCAR has a host of sophisticated design, experimental and service facilities to cater to the R&D programmes. These include Kalpakkam Mini (KAMINI) reactor for neutron radiography and activation analysis, Particle Accelerators for radiation damage studies, a variety of nuclear instrumentation and electron microscopic techniques for material characterization, instruments for trace chemical analysis, advanced equipment for non-destructive testing and evaluation.

The center has taken a lead in establishing vital links with other strategic national agencies related to defence, aerospace and also industries. IGCAR has several ongoing collaborative research programmes with premier educational institutions and R&D centers such as Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Technology and Regional Engineering Colleges.

For more information, please contact:

Indira Gandhi of Atomic Research Centre,
Kalpakkam 603 102,
Kancheepuram District.
Phone: 4114-40240/67.


Chidamaram temple

Chidambaram Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is located in the heart of the temple town of Chidambaram, 78 km south of Pondicherry. Chidambaram is one of the most ancient and most celebrated of shrines in India. It is of great religious as well as historic and cultural significance. Chidambaram is associated with Nataraja, or Shiva in his Ananda Tandava pose (the Cosmic Dance of bliss) in the cosmic golden hall and the hall of consciousness (Chit Sabha). Shiva is also worshipped in the "formless form" of the Chidambara Rahasyam, while the temple is known for its Akasa Lingam, an embodiment of Shiva as the formless Space. The word "Koyil" or temple in the Tamil Saivite tradition refers to none other than the Chidambaram Nataraja temple.

With images from Hindu mythology. From the second tier onward, on each of the Gopuram, are seen images of various manifestations of Shiva such as Bhikshatana, Kankala (both being ascetic forms), Kalyanasundarar, Somaskandar etc. (bestowers of prosperity). There are no representations of Nataraja on the temple towers, as this image is reserved for the innermost shrine alone.

Access and Accomodation: The temple town of Chidambaram is home to the Annamalai University, and it has several modern lodging facilities. The Tamilnadu Tourist Development Corporation operates one of its hotels at Chidambaram. Chidambaram is on the Chennai Tiruchirappalli Main line, between Villuppuram and Thanjavur. It is well connected with Chennai by a host of train and bus services. By road it is only 235 kilometers South of Chennai. Thanjavur is only about 100 kilometers away from Chidambaram. Chidambaram is literally the Northern gateway to the temple trough of Tamilnadu - the Thanjavur - Tiruvarur - Nagapattinam districts featuring hundreds and hundreds of ancient temples, which can be easily accessed from the towns of Mayiladuturai, Kumbhakonam, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam.