The only reason at that time, to plan a trip to Pondicherry, was spending quality time with old friends on their wedding anniversary but we decided to see the Aurobindo Ashram as well. We landed in Puducherry on 23rd December 2007 evening, the anniversary date. After quick shower and change of clothes, we all sat guzzling beers, remembering our childhood days, pulling each other’s leg, arguing, laughing at silly jokes, teasing…..me and my friend’s wife exchanged recipes, planned for some shopping……..Night seemed too short that day. We almost slept at the break of dawn.
The sun was on top of our heads when we finally woke up with surprisingly mild headache…
The next day we made a short trip to Auroville, bought souvenirs which were hand crafted by people residing there. The Matrimandir was not opened for visitors then, since some construction was underway but we still spent time in the shade of a huge banyan tree clicking pictures till our hosts decided to take us for shopping! The café at Auroville was decorated for christmas. Some kids practiced for a skit. The cute little Santa and snow-men near the decorated Christmas tree formed the backdrop of the kids’ stage.
By evening the whole market was glittering with multicolored lights ….Boards announcing the ‘Christmas-sale’ peered back at us from every shop….People were in festive mood, street peddlers sold balloons, candies, Santa Claus caps and decorative socks. Every corner already had somebody in Santa Claus attire shouting ‘ho-ho-ho’ to the passer-by.
Churches looked beautiful as if stars really had come down to celebrate Christmas next day. Outside the Immaculate Conception Church, we contemplated going in but decided against it as we did not want to barge in like tourists and disturb the people praying inside.
The 300 year old Immaculate Conception Cathedral, one of the oldest tourist sites in Puducherry is the cathedral mother church for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore. It is also known as “Samba Kovil”.
The Jesuit Fathers came to the French colony of Pondicherry as missionaries in 1689. They built three churches which were destroyed due to the wars between French and Dutch and later by British. The work on present cathedral began in 1770 and was completed on 20 June 1791. The Church was the consecrated by Bishop Champenois. The Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary, Fest of this Church, falls on the 8th of December. Mass services are conducted in Tamil and English.
Since we were not going inside the church, the next agenda for the evening was a lavish dinner treat to our hosts at a French restaurant….Christmas festivities everywhere had elevated our moods as well but the rush at restaurant brought us crashing down to mother earth……
None of us had remembered to make reservations at the restaurant beforehand….but that is where we wanted to dine so we stuck around waiting for seats to be vacated. It was a long-long wait but the delicious food made the wait worthwhile!
Our short vacation ended too soon. I would have loved to explore Pondicherry…..its French colonial houses, avenues, promenade, guesthouses, churches, beaches….May be next time with more time on hand we will .
Au revoir Puducherry !!