Pondicherry has three other districts namely, Yanam, Mahe, and Karaikal. Pondicherry itself is situated in the northern parts of the vast state of Tamilnadu and is located at a distance of 165 km from Chennai, the capital of Tamilnadu. Karaikal is also in the state of Tamilnadu in the district of Thanjavur at a distance of 150 km from Pondicherry. Yanam lies in the state of Andhra Pradesh around 840 km northeast of Pondicherry while Mahe is in the state of Kerala around 650 km east of Pondicherry.
Pondicherry in Tamil Naduis the small little French settlement on the eastern coast of the Indian subcontinent, tucked into the vast state of Tamilnadu is one of the most beautiful and vibrant union territories of India. Fondly known as Pondy, this union territory of India is an amalgam of various cultures. A blend of spiritual aura with the Aurobindo Ashram, the French colonial heritage in the magnificent churches and the buildings, and the Tamil culture of the original inhabitants is what Pondicherry actually is. Along with its beautiful beaches and lovely resorts, this less explored land has many things to offer. Quiet beaches and colonial buildings, spiritual Aurobindo Ashram and Yoga training, wonderful cuisine, a blend of Tamil and French and unique souvenirs to take along;
this tiny and sleepy township is a tourists' paradise. One can explore the state of Tamilnadu or can visit the other towns of Pondicherry, the Karaikal, the Mahe, and the Yanam. Pondicherry is actually a small cherry on the huge tree of Tamilnadu and obviously the juiciest one! The significance of unity in diversity acquires a new meaning in this place, lovingly called Pondy, Pondicherry. A place where the Boulevard streets still adorn the city, the lovely smell of the freshly baked bread, and sambhar tour the city hand in hand, Pondicherry is a fine blend of two totally different international cultures living side by side without interference for centuries now. This once upon a time French colony takes you to a place within Tamilnadu which so much, unlike Tamilnadu. The orthodox nature of the Tamilians is not so prominent and neither is the French unpretentious open nature so prominent here. The people have lived together and mingled with each other for centuries and that is evident from the daily life of the city, based on non - interference and sharing enjoyment.
Long back Pondicherry bore the name of Vedapur, a seat of Vedic Culture, that's what it seems to be from the plaques found in some temples nearby. It is also believed that it was the abode of the great sage Agastya. Situated on the seashore it definitely was an important port for trading. It is believed that trading to the ancient cities of Greece and Rome in 100 B.C. took place from the port of Pondicherry. This has been proved with the remnants of the ancient port town which was excavated recently 6 km from Pondicherry at Arikamedu.
The Pallava kingdom put its stronghold on Pondicherry in the early fourth century A.D. and soon after the Chola dynasty started ruling the region but only to give away to the Pandya kingdom of the south. Some coins of the Chola dynasty excavated, also at Arikamedu, prove the town to be a flourishing port town during the rule of the Chola dynasty. After a brief invasion by the Muslim rulers of the North, who established the Sultanate of Madurai, the Vijayanagar Empire took control of almost all the South of India and lasted till 1638, when the Sultan of Bijapur began to rule over Gingee.
By this time the Dutch, the Portuguese and the French had already started making steady advances at some invaluable port towns of India. Pondicherry was no different. The Portuguese and the Dutch started making advances here but could not establish a stronghold, partially because of the King of the Gingee. Instead, he invited the French to give a tough fight to the Dutch. It was in 1638 A.D. that Pondicherry started with the foreign rule which went on for nearly 300 years in a row.
Many of the local inhabitants were converted to Christian, some by force and the others willingly. Along with Pondicherry the other three places of Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam also came under the rule of the French.
Today's Pondicherry bears the marks of the bygone glorious era. The French Governors like Francois Martin and Dumas worked hard for the upliftment of the People of Pondicherry and tried to improve their living conditions. This French legacy is visible in the well-planned town, neatly laid roads, wide and vibrant beaches, beautiful promenades, architecturally imposing churches and public buildings.
It was much later the great saint Aurobindo Ghosh found solace in this place and built an Ashram here which has become a prominent place for spiritual seekers worldwide.
Although India gained freedom in 1947, Pondicherry and its districts were handed over only in 1954 and officially the treaty was signed in 1963. Since then Pondicherry has been the Union territory of India along with Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam.
Pondicherry is very much an Indian town, and yet different from the rest. Its unique history and traditions have carved a niche of its own. Agriculture is the main occupation of the people here and though the town bears an impression of a French colony, the surroundings are still traditionally sowed and crops are grown. The people originally of the Dravidian origin are a hospitable clan. Some elderly people, who have seen the French rule, can speak fluent French and many have French passports as well. The food is essentially south Indian with a blend of French cuisine. Seafood is preferred here.