The moment we landed at Chennai, we self-drove to Puducherry without wasting precious time. An extremely refreshing drive along the picturesque ECR, with the sea accompanying continuously on the left like a guide till we reached our destination. The different shades of azure blue sea with its many shades of blue ranging from pacific blue through cerulean to teal, the horizon seemed like a riot of colours. It was a splendid drive through the outskirts of Chennai traversing through the many villages with abundant greenery and foliage doing justice to the sultry summer.
With much gusto, we made a beeline to enter the Ashram. The Hero from Bengal, Sri Aurobindo decided to settle here after he quit politics and awakened to his mission for a spiritual calling. The main building of Aurobindo Ashram has a tree-shaped courtyard which houses the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Immaculately arranged flowers were laid on the Samadhi in a beautiful pattern. Spiritual seekers from all over the globe take seat in front of the Samadhi to offer special prayers. After a brief glimpse of Rishi Aurobindo’s house, we headed for a soulful lunch at the dining room of the Ashram where a nutritious and delicious lunch awaits the Ashramites every day. The Ashram also houses a printing press, candle factory, museum and a few other self-sustaining initiatives.
A visit to the famous Golden Globe, the Matri Mandir also called the soul of the city is highly recommended as this is the dream of the spiritual guru and his spiritual collaborator, the Mother. We were late to arrive at the venue, thus missed the closing time at 12noon. With disappointment in our heart and braving the sweltering heat of May, we walked towards a Café’ to quench our thirst. While we ordered for a refreshing lemonade and narrated our agony to the owner of the café’, he immediately offered a helping hand. He got in touch with his friends and arranged for a stay for us in Auroville. In spite of the rigid rules we managed to get through a resort owned by a French lady in the middle of Auroville.
The glittering golden globe was not yet open for the tourist back then, we were just about fortunate to manage an entry inside due to sheer luck. An ashramite taking care of the garden, led us through acres and acres of organic farm brimming with flowers and fruits towards the golden globe. The globe was looming and took 37 years to build amidst a lot of toils. The twelve petals made out of terracotta bricks are coloured differently from inside and is as big as a meditation room. The room with blue interiors has blue walls and blue cushions where one can meditate to trigger certain emotions within. Similarly meditating inside the red and the green room triggered other emotions and feelings. We were offered a fresh pair of white socks before we entered the inner chamber of the globe, it was huge and gave a sense of tranquil peace. The inner chamber is painted white with a magnificent crystal seated at the center of the hall. Right above the crystal is an opening on the roof through which sun ray falls directly on the globe to reflect its glorious light within the chamber. People gather here to meditate with pin drop silence. We walked out of the Matri Mandir speechless, as if still in a state of trance. We thanked the gentleman for offering us a lifetime of an experience where we encountered purity, peace and solace.
The amphitheatre beside the globe has an urn in the center, which is of great significance. Spiritual seekers from 124 nations and 23 Indian states have got soil from their respective land to fill the marble-clad urn.
The stay@ Auroville
We were enamored to see our abode, which we would call our home for the next couple of days. It was like love at first sigh the courtyard had a huge canopy of a banyan tree with rooms surrounding it and a thick jungle spanning across acres of land with independent rooms dotted across. Our room was surrounded by greenery all around, everything in the room was naturally and organically derived; solar powered fans and lights, handmade soaps, shampoos and toiletries. Curtains, bed sheets and linens were all handmade at the Ashram by fellow Ashramites. Furniture, stationaries and cutleries are all handmade and reeked of love and affection with which it was crafted. The resort had an open-air restaurant under the banyan tree with aerial roots dangling from above on which were tied colorful Origami. Rattan furniture for seating, stone carved figurines, brass statues of deities was offered fresh hibiscus straight from the garden. Scrumptious food was prepared, garnished and served by the French lady all by herself. An all vegetarian affair never tasted so good, food that was nutritious and simple yet so delicious and refreshing.
Walk or ride
A request for a bicycle and a scooter was placed for the next few days at the garage for ease of our commutation. The locals use either bicycles, scooters or battery operated cars which are environment-friendly, fuels such as petrol and diesel are kept at bay for sustainable living. In an endeavor to conserve energy and save the planet, Auroville has taken up nature-friendly ways and means for day to day life. I fondly remember the stretch of road smelling of freshly baked bread and cakes, no wonder we discovered a French bakery around the corner using organic and fresh produce to make fresh bakes for the day. An array of bread, pastries, patties, cakes and mouth-watering confectionaries quickly went into our shopping bags. Our next halt was at the local museum which had a breathtaking collection of sculptures from the Pallava and the Chola dynasty along with sculptures and images of various forms of Buddha.
The French colony
Puducherry is dotted with Colonial buildings, abodes in typical French and Portuguese architecture, houses with huge yellow or blue walls outlined with white borders, bright and colorful graffiti on the walls. People from diverse background, age, country and religion reside here in harmony. They seem to be happy with a basic lifestyle. The only thing they crave for is spiritual quotient, more knowledge and humanistic values. This is a place where people from every country, creed, religion and age stay harmoniously contributing constructively towards oneself and society.
Gastronomy at Puducherry
Puducherry has an amalgamation of many cultures woven into one. Though the city is high on French culture which is very vivid in its spread of French styled restaurants, Italian, Portuguese and Indian cuisines are in popular demand. Most of the restaurants get filled by early evening by foreign tourists having a drink with friends and family. Interesting theme cafes and restaurants, open-air cafes, terrace restaurants, ethnic décor with seating under the tree, old bungalows partially renovated and converted to a restaurant makes one feel cheerful and glee.
Being born in Chennai, it was nostalgic to have Chettinad food at Appachi after a decade. The sumptuous South-Indian food, not only filled our satiety but also our mind and soul. Authentic Chettinad food served by affectionate staff dressed in local attire in copper wares brimming with lip-smacking delicacies, food did travel to our stomach through our heart this time too.
Every tourist venturing into Puducherry is assured to have a good time, for there is a beach, fine dining restaurants, places to shop and a lot of interesting places to visit. Hidesign one of the leading leather showroom has its flagship store by the sea. Dilip Kapoor, who had started his venture with leather accessories as a hobby, had initiated his entrepreneurial journey from Puducherry and is now a household name worldwide.
Beach at Pondicherry
Unlike other beaches in India, the beach here is extremely clean with locals taking good care of their surroundings. We hit the promenade beach at night for a stroll post-dinner to enjoy a lovely summer breeze which could put anybody to sleep. With music in the car, sipping a strong cuppa coffee and the sound of waves lashing against the shore I rolled the window to call it a day.