Pondicherry

Pondicherry, currently undergoing a name change to Puduchery, is a union territory in the south of India. Formerly a French colony, it came under the rule of the Indian Government in 1954 and was organized as a union territory in 1963.

It consists of four small unconnected parts: Pondicherry, Karaikal, and Yanam on the Bay of Bengal and Mahe on the Arabian Sea. The first two are by far the larger ones, and are both enclaves of Tamil Nadu.


History

On January 16, 1761, the British captured Pondicherry from the French, but the Treaty of Paris (1763) returned the city to the French. It was taken again by the British in 1793 amid the Wars of the French Revolution, but once again returned to France in 1814. It remained a part of French India until 1954.

The independence of India in 1947 gave impetus to the union of France's Indian possessions with former British India. An agreement between France and India in 1948 agreed to an election in France's Indian possessions to choose their political future. The de jure union of French India with the Indian Union did not take place until 1962, although de facto, the bureaucracy had been united with India's in 1954.


Culture

People in Pondicherry today speak both French and English in addition to their native Tamil.

Source of the Name

There is an amusing story behind the name. The Tamils call it "puduchery", roughly "new village". The French spelt it "Poudichéry", which is probably the closest French approximation to the Tamil pronunciation. At some point, the hand-written 'u' was mistaken for an 'n', and the misspelling stuck.

Famous people who have lived in Pondicherry include Subrahmanya Bharati and Aurobindo, both fleeing from British persecution; and renowned film director M. Night Shyamalan, who was born in Pondicherry but migrated to the United States with his family as a small child and grew up in suburban Philadelphia.

Pondicherry shelters an International Peace Center called Matrimandir at a place by name Auroville. The Matrimandir is mainly run by Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. The Matrimandir is a beautiful, meditation spot. The building is spherical in shape. There is the world's largest crystal inside the Matrimandir.

Pondicherry is also the birthplace and home of the titular character in Yann Martel's Life of Pi, before he emigrates to Canada.

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