Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pondicherry

 Pondicherry!
Has always been one of  my dream destinations and I have always wondered when will the time come to tick off this beautiful place from my list of  'to visit'.
The time came when fate sent us to the South. So, after settling in, the first long, road trip that we planned was to Pondicherry. Driving on the Karnataka highway is a dream. The roads are in excellent condition ... even the state highways are great ... making your trip absolutely smooth, with no fatigue when you reach your destination.

We started from Bangalore at 8:00 in the morning. I know ... compared to our other road trips, it was pretty late in the day. But we had guests with us ... so it took a good while to get everybody out in time.
But we had finished breakfast ... so that saved us any immediate stops on the road.
If you are going by road, especially from Bangalore, do leave at the earliest ... say before 7 am ... to avoid the city traffic. It took us around 1 hour and a little more just to get out of the city.
But once we hit the highway, it was smooth sailing all along.

The route -  Bangalore -> Krishnagiri -> Vellore ->  Arcot(bypass) -> Cheyyar(bypass) -> Vandalvasi(bypass) -> Tindivanam(bypass) - > Pondicherry


Around 10:15, we reached Shulagiri. There is a McDonalds there as well as another restaurant that served idlis, dosas and other snacks. Also, there were clean, good Fleur run restrooms. After a short break of iced teas, we moved on.

We took our lunch break just before Vellore. On the right, there comes a HP petrol pump + Cafe Coffee day. Excellent place to take a breather.
There is this place called Arya Bhavana. They serve fresh, hot meals ... South Indian thalis ... at Rs. 70/-. Do try it.
After a hot, fulfilling lunch, we started off ... with no more breaks in mind ... till we reached Pondy.

We reached Pondicherry at around 4:00 in the evening. This beautiful view recieved us at the resort we had booked ourselves in.


The whole place looked magical in the evening sun.
Ignoring the welcome drinks, we made a dash for the beach ... before the sun set and it turned dark.


Since Pondicherry is on the East coast, the sunrise is awesome to view. Spent all three mornings on the beach, catching the sun as it made its way up ... sometimes through the clouds and sometimes through the fog. And collected shells ... lots and lots of shells. Unlike other beaches in India, where the shells disappear very early in the morning, picked by people to make ornaments and sell, the beaches in Pondy are covered with all kinds of beautiful shells.


The next day, we went to Auroville.To visit this beautiful place, you will need enough time and be resilient to the sun and the heat. We parked at the main gate and were instructed to go to the information centre from where we got the tickets to enter Auroville. It is a good half an hour walk through the huge area to reach the Matri Mandir.

On the way we came across the man made Water Vortex.
And the famous Banyan tree ...
The Matri Mandir ...
To be able to view the Matri mandir from the inside, you will need to provide a request 2 days prior, at the Information centre. They give you the date and time on which you can enter and also take part in the meditation.
All the walking around in the blazing sun had made us thirsty. So on returning from the Matri Mandir, we spied the restaurant at the Auroville centre.

Had a wonderfully fresh and satvik lunch. The place was abuzz with people and there were cheerful volunteers serving all around, with patience and a warm smile on their faces.
The bakery is run by Nicole, who I couldn't meet. But the cheerful Mimi, who was from Jordan and volunteering too, happily chatted with me. It was her third visit to the Ashram, she said. Highly recommending the Vegan Banana cake, she made me promise I'll try it after I'd had my lunch.
Which I happily did. And loved it. Slightly dense and sweet, it had the perfect flavour of bananas.
Too good! All of us  had a piece each and packed a few more to enjoy later with coffee, by the beach.

The courtyard.
The entrance to the restaurant.
There are some very good boutiques around the restaurant, selling beautiful clothes of mull and cotton ... and other knick knacks too.
We spent the evening walking in the beautiful sea breeze on the Promenade.The War Memorial and Gandhiji's statue are there. And so is a small cafe where we had some wonderful coffee.

The next morning we went to Chidambaram, around 71 kms away from Pondicherry, to visit the Natraj temple ... one of its kind in the whole world.
Viewing the Natraj was a wonderful experience.
Not only did we view the Maha Aarti, we were asked to wait on one side for a while. Not understanding what was going on, we asked someone. The gentleman explained that after a while, we would be getting a different kind of view of the murti.The beauty of what we viewed next is beyond any description.

The door of the sanctum sanctorum has huge stands of deepaks or lamps, all burning brightly on both sides.
The priests asked us to stand near the huge lattice work windows, so that we could see the main idol as well as the original idol of black stone beside it.
Then, in one sudden pull, they shut the open top of the room, so that not a drop of daylight enters. And in that darkness , we saw the stone idol .... with a huge Deepmala glittering on it!
We realised this Deepmala was the reflection of the lamps shining at the door ... reflecting on the idol ... shimmering and shining brightly in the dark ... as if a garland of brightly lit lamps has been placed on it.
A view of heaven!!

After returning to Pondy, we went to the Paradise beach in the evening. There we could see the confulence of the river with the Bay of Bengal.
There are boat rides to Serenity beach ... a quiet stretch of untouched beach on an island  .... from there.


All too soon, the days were over. And we were on our way back the next morning.



7 comments:

  1. Beautiful...Sharmila!

    Pondicherry is magical....saying from personal experience...was so very ill en route from chennai...but almost miraculously, I was fit and fine the moment we crossed the white gateways to Pondicherry and I had one of my best vacations ever....

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    Replies
    1. Sharmistha ... hurriedly written ... would be adding more details and photos soon.
      It is indeed magical and would love to take that drive from Chennai to Pondy someday ... have heard the road is beautiful and runs along with the sea.
      Thanks for dropping by! :-)

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    2. your post reminded me of my forgotten 4 years old blogpost on pondicherry and i read it and almost relived the magic of the little town.... http://whimsnwishes.blogspot.in/2009/06/far-from-madding-crowd.html

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  2. Thanks for this post, Sharmila. I have visited Pondicherry in 1991 - at that time Auroville was still under construction. I remember the calmness and beauty of Aurobindo Ashram, the neatly constructed roads, good food...thank you for reviving some good memories and for the updated information - would love to re-visit some time soon. I am really glad you have revived this blog - it is very informative and detailed. Thank you.

    PS - Vegan Banana cake sounds yummy! The pic of the satvik thali makes your mouth water :-)

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  3. Lekha gulo chomotkar.pore bhalo lagbe sobar.

    ReplyDelete

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