Proudly raised as one of the seven Union Territories of India, Pondicherry is often famously referred to as the ‘French Riviera of the East.’ Located in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, it is a little town tucked away on the south-east coastline and it is a destination that promises travellers pure serenity and sanctity in different forms.
As per historical records, Pondicherry was formerly denoted by the name Vedapuri and this place is also deemed to be the abode of the revered sage, Saint Agasthya. This unique geographical location of Pondicherry captured the attention of Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. In 1673, Pondicherry came under the rule of the French and ever since then it became the central site for the battle between the British and the French. Before it attained its independence in 1954, it remained as the capital of French India for about 300 years. In the year 2006, the name Pondicherry was renamed to Puducherry, which means ‘New Village’ in Tamil dialect.
The city is dissected into two quarters known as the French quarter and the Indian quarter. The French quarter is characterized by buildings of typical colonial architecture while the latter boasts of ancient Tamil styles and designs. Despite the evolutionary changes, Pondicherry has retained all of its old-world French charms. Being several miles away from France, the city comes close to giving you a very authentic feel of the French culture and allure. The large boulevards, streets, road signs brightly painted houses with captivating walls, reflects volumes about the French society. The strategic location, awe-inspiring natural beauty, topped with its French past and cultural heritage makes Pondicherry a major tourist destination.
Hotel de Vile, French War Memorial, Puducherry Museum, Aayi Mandapam, Auroville Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Promenade, Chunnambar Resort, Old Lighthouse, Romaine Rolland Library are some of the major places to visit in Pondicherry. Pondicherry is famous for its pious Hindu temples as well. Religious shrines have carved a special imprint in the landmarks of the town, attracting throngs of pilgrims on a regular basis. Pondering to know more?
Top 5 Temples To Visit In Pondicherry
- Kamakshi Amman Temple
- Sithananda Swamy Temple
- Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple
- Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
- Sri Vedapureeswarar Temple
1. Kamakshi Amman Temple
In a country like India, Goddess Durga is worshipped in many avatars. Kamakshi Amman temple is one such temple that is dedicated to Hindu Goddess Kamakshi, an incarnation of Goddess Durga or Parvati who is also the presiding deity here. It is believed to be built by the Pallava kings in the 6-century and is one of the most revered temples in Pondicherry.
What stands out in this temple is the fact that it stays away from the usual ornamentation that is necessarily present in most Hindu idols. However, this has proven undeterred in the way of the devotees who pay their respect to the goddess at this temple with utmost devotion. Today, it stands firm in typical Tamil architectural style and has a large, decorated gopuram at its entrance.
During festivals, the footfall significantly increases in this shrine as people flock here to seek the goddess’ blessings. The temple celebrates its annual festival in spring, which is the chariot festival called Ther and float festival called Theppam. Navaratri, Aadi, and Aippasi Pooram, Sankara Jayanthi and Vasanta Utsavam are some of the other vital festivals that are celebrated in here.
Timings: 6:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM; every day
2. Sithananda Swamy Temple
Another prominent religious site in the list of Pondicherry temples is the Sithananda Swamy Temple. Surprisingly, it is not one of those regular shrines, which were dedicated to pay homage to celestial beings. The main deity in here is a saint, Guru Sithananda Swamigal. It is believed that he was buried alive in here, and on the very spot, a Shiva Lingam has been erected. It is, in fact, the Jeevan Samadhi of the saint and dates back to the 19-century.
Every Thursdays, the pilgrims visit the temple and perform special darshans to his idol. It has been an emerging place of worship for students as well. They come here to wish for good grades and to seek blessings for excelling in exams. This temple is two decades old and continues to be an epitome of holiness. For those looking to spend some soulful time on their own, you will find a meditation hall in the premises where you can meditate and connect to the Almighty.
The sprawling 45000 square feet area of the temple includes beautifully crafted sculptures, vast ceilings that boast of intricate paintings, large pillars of the hall, evergreen trees, and shrubs. A unique feature of the temple is its bell, which was made in France with an engraved image of the saint.
Also, drop by Kuil Thoppu, which is placed right adjacent to the temple. This is where the Mahakavi Bharathiyar would contemplate and write mesmerizing poetries and verses. One can see a refreshing water tank with fishes inside the premises which is an appealing add-on.
Timings: 6:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM; every day
3. Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple
Also named as Villianur Temple, Sri Gokilambal Thirukameswar Temple is a truly religious site in the exquisite town of Pondicherry. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, where he resides in the form of Thirukameswar Linga. It is an ancient shrine that dates its existence to the 12-century when this place was under the rule of the Chola Dynasty. If legends are to be believed, it is said that once a Chola king suffered from leprosy but when he worshipped Lord Shiva, he miraculously got cured. After which he constructed this temple, as a mark of respect and gratitude.
One of the most prime events of this temple is its annual Temple Car Festival. During this festival, masses of people pull the 50-feet-tall chariot containing the deity through the streets of the town. This procession takes place during the months of May and June with the presence of a full moon night or poornima. It is believed that whoever pulls the chariot will get their wishes fulfilled by Lord Shiva. It calls upon thousands of devotees from all parts of Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu to this place at that time.
A large and beautifully constructed gopuram leads visitors to the inside of the temple. Decked up with carved images and ornamented pillars, the interiors open up a unique world of calmness and beauty for those visiting the place. Due to its phenomenal architectural facets, it is a massive religious destination amongst history buffs as well.
Timings: 5:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM; every day
4. Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple
Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple, located in the heritage town region of Pondicherry has been defining the religious fabric of the city for more than eight decades as of now. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this landmark temple was built by the Cholas in the 11-century and is among the oldest temples in and around Pondicherry. Herein, Lord Vishnu is venerated in the form of Varadaraja Perumal, and that explains the name of the temple. The deity assumes a standing position and is accompanied by Goddess Sridevi and Goddess Bhudevi on either of his sides.
It is regarded as one of the 108 Divya Desams of Vishnu. It is said that the temple has been visited by the 12 poet saints (Alwars). Thus with its historic roots, it attracts not only the religious but also historians and curious tourists in general. One of the major festivals that is celebrated here is the Bhramotsavam when pilgrims flock to the temple. Newborn babies are brought to the temple and given their first speck of rice in front of Lord Vishnu so as to ensure that the baby will be taken care of by the god himself.
The temple boasts of a five-tiered rajagopuram (the gateway tower of the temple) that stands 110-feet tall. Built in the Dravidian style of architecture, it reflects the flawless creativity and craftsmanship of a bygone era. An interesting feature of this temple is the mirror hall that is situated adjacent to the sanctum. Apart from the religious and architectural significance, what draws visitors to this temple are the 83 springs that flow into the temple tanks. Devotees consider that the water in these tanks has umpteen healing properties and a dip in it can cure them of common ailments.
Timings: 6:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 4:30 PM – 9:00 PM; every day
5. Sri Vedapureeswarar Temple
Sri Vedapureeswarar Temple is situated on the banks of River Cheyyar. Lord Shiva is a much-revered deity who is idolized ardently in this temple town. This temple has a Nandi bull that faces the opposite direction of the Shiva Lingam, something which is quite rare. In the turn of the 17-century, this temple was completely demolished by the French troops. It was reconstructed at the beginning of the 18-century and since then, it has become one of the landmark religious sites to visit.
If you take a good look at the magnificent structure, you will realize that the architecture is similar to that of many temples in South India – i.e. Dravidian style. Staying true to the defining aspects of this style, the temple structure includes a 75-feettall gateway tower or Rajagopuram. The temple has two corridors and a five-tiered Rajagopuram. The stone inscriptions beautifully carved in the temple hint towards the Chola rule period. Historically, this place is called as Santhanaranyam because once upon a time there was an abundance of Sandalwood trees in this area (Santhanam” translating to sandalwood and “Aranyam”, translating to a forest in Tamil). The temple complex also enshrines a temple dedicated to Parvati as Tiripurasundari. Enhancing the beauty of this place of worship is a rectangular water tank situated within its precincts
This temple is revered for removing hindrances from marriage prospects since Lord Shiva here is found in is wedding form. Brahmotsavam is a grand occasion that the natives of the place celebrate for a period of 10 long days. Swing by the Sri Devi Karumariamman Temple too, which is 1-kilometre away from here and can be reached by either local buses or autos.
Timings: 6:00 AM – 12:30 PM, 4:30 PM – 8:00 PM; every day
Pondicherry is a diverse hub of people, delicacies, and culture. It is usually not possible to dislike anything about the town. For a second, you might get a vibe of residing out of the country, mainly due to its French allure and heritage. It is also a tempting shopping centre where you can bargain your heart out. The lanes of this town entice you with sumptuous pretty cakes and other delicious delicacies. Enough said it is time for you to live the aforementioned now. To the temples enlisted, there are many more temples and places that you can visit. Puducherry or erstwhile Pondicherry will welcome you with immense hospitality. Plan your trip right away and let the magic begin.