Heritage Walks

Starting Point : Ashram Office (beach)
Walk ends at : Ashram Dining Room
Distance covered : 1 Km.
Approximate time taken : 30 to 45 minutes

Aurobindo Ashram has played a significant role in the socio-economic-spiritual fabric of Puducherry since its establishment almost a century back Therefore it is not surprising that the Ashram and its various branches together occupy some of the best heritage properties in Puducherry. The Ashram Walk covers the northern section of French Puducherry, taking you through many grand buildings of French lineage, including the Raj Nivas, French Institute. Also included in the walk are some shops that sell products manufactured by the different Ashram ancillaries.

Places Covered
1. Ashram Office (starting point)
2. Ashram Library
3. French Consulate
4. French Institute
5. Ashram Playground
6. Ashram Art House
7. Le Foyer de Soldat – Legion Hall for soldiers who served in French wars.
8. Ashram and Samadhi
9. Golconde – Main residential quarters for the Ashramites.
10. Auroshika (shop)
11. La Tienda (shop)
12. Boutique d’ Auroville (shop)
13. Auroshree (shop)
14. Vak Bookshop (shop)

Starting Point : Puducherry Tourist Information Centre
Walk ends at : Puducherry Tourist Information Centre
Distance : Approx. 2 k.m
Approximate time taken : 1hr to 1.30 hrs

The buildings in French section of Puducherry are an enduring legacy of French history in India. It tells the story of a colonial adventure in a far away land, fighting many odds, overcoming a new and difficult terrain and the historic rivalry between the European powers of the time including the Danes, the Dutch and the British besides the French.

The French Heritage walk takes you through streets that are laid out in a well planned grid pattern. The buildings in the French section are easily recognizable by their ornate gateways arches, garden courtyards with multicoloured bougainvilleas and the buildings painted in pleasant hues of lime and peach. The grand French names through unpronounceable, adds a certain charm. Bon Voyage!!!

Places Covered
1. Department of Tourism – Tourist Information Centre (starting point) Collect Maps and other information from the helpful information counter.
2. Hotel de Vile – The building housed the town hall during the French administration. It is now the Puducherry Municipal Office.
3. French War Memorial –
4. Gandhi Statue – The statue of the most popular Indian leader on the beach front is surrounded by eight carved pillars from the nearby Gingee Fort.
5. Toy Museum
6. Old Light House – built in 1836 A.D
7. Nehru Statue
8. Romain Rolland Library
9. Puducherry Museum – The museum hosed in a pleasant French period building has some interesting collections including some charming colonial furniture.
10. Raj Nivas – This grand building is now the His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor’s residence.
11. Ashram Dining Room
12. Cercle de Puducherry – A privileged member’s only club, a throw back from the French times.
13. Legislative Assembly
14. Aayi Mandapam – A magnificent memorial built by the French to commemorate an Indian Temple dancer who lived 300 years before the French arrived in Puducherry.
15. UCO Bank
16. Puducherry Art Gallery
17. Notre Dames des Anges Church is built in the Greco-Roman style in 1855 A.D
18. Joan of Arc Statue
19. Church of Capuchians – Now an orphanage, the church is one of the very few buildings that survived the British raid in 1761
20. Lycee Francais
21. Le Grand Hotel d Europe – The 1891 A.D building housed of the oldest hostelries in Puducherry.
22. Hotel Lagrenee de Meziere – This is now home to the sisters of Cluny Convent. See nimble fingered girls make embroidered master pieces in the latest European styles.
23. Hotel de L’ Orient – This tastefully renovated heritage building is now one of Puducherry’s best heritage hotel.
24. Alliance Francaise – Learn a little French while in Puducherry. View French movies or borrow French books.
25. Ashram Theatre
26. Dupleix statue – A tribute to one of the most successful French governors in India.
27. Ecole Francaise d’ Extreme Orient – Visit the institute for information on courses on Indology, History or Architecture.
28. Court

Starting Point : Easwaran Koil (Temple)
Walk ends at : VOC School
Distance : Approx. 2 kms
Approximate time taken : 1 hr

The buildings in the Tamil streets are characterized by rows of tiled roofed buildings almost joined together by continuous wall to wall constructions. While the older buildings more or less retain their ‘Tamilness’, the later constructions have acquired certain gallic features behind the Tamil facades. A synthesis of these two styles has resulted in a town that has a unique ‘Franco Tamil’ architectural identity. Though unsympathetic modifications and extensions have ruined many wonderful samples of the native quarters, increasing awareness and work by certain non governmental agencies like the INTACH, have ensured restoration of some of the structures.

Places Covered
1. Easwaran Koil – Also called the VedapureeswarKoil, it is just 50 meters from the 2. Varadharaja temple. These two temples act as a nucleus around which the town evolved.
3. Easwaran Koil Street Houses – The wall to wall construction of houses give the Tamil street a homogenous look. All houses have a thalvaram (a covered verrandah that extends almost to the street) and a thinnai (a semi private space with benches for pilgrims and visitors). The central courtyard is probably the most distinctive feature inside the Tamil house.
4. Bharathi Museum – This building became the residence of the Tamil poiet and nationalist, Bharathi who sought refuge here from the British. The building in the typical tamil style is now a museum containing Bharathi’s works.
5. Calve College
6. Susheelabai School
7. Calve Supraya Street Houses
8. Big Market – Typical market scene in any Tamil city.
9. Rangapillai Mansion – Residence of Ananda Rangapillai, the former Dubash to the French Governor. Get permission to visit.
10. VOC School.