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The story of French India has largely been overshadowed by the history of the British Raj, but Puducherry - formerly Pondicherry - was one of the oldest European colonial settlements in India, and it is unmistakably French. Local restaurants serve coq au vin and baguettes; Gothic churches and statues of French heroes dot the old French Quarter; and Puducherry policeman wear uniforms that are clearly derived from those of the gendarmerie. Founded as a French trading post in 1674, "Pondy" remained an outpost of France until 1954, when the city was finally ceded to India. As well as this strange mix of Indian and French culture, ...

The story of French India has largely been overshadowed by the history of the British Raj, but Puducherry - formerly Pondicherry - was one of the oldest European colonial settlements in India, and it is unmistakably French. Local restaurants serve coq au vin and baguettes; Gothic churches and statues of French heroes dot the old French Quarter; and Puducherry policeman wear uniforms that are clearly derived from those of the gendarmerie. Founded as a French trading post in 1674, "Pondy" remained an outpost of France until 1954, when the city was finally ceded to India. As well as this strange mix of Indian and French culture, Puducherry is famous as the setting for two of the largest spiritual communities in India - the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by the Indian guru Sri Aurobindo and a mysterious Frenchwoman known as "the Mother," and Auroville, a self-sufficient community of 1800 Aurobindo devotees. Other attractions include a fine museum and some respectable beaches north and south along the coast.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    January to April; rainfall is common from October to December and temperatures soar from May to July.