Pondicherry was a French colony since the 18th century and was voluntarily handed over to the Indian government in 1954. It is a beautiful coastal town still with strong traces of French culture.

This ancient town is located on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal. Like most ancient towns, the origin of Pondicherry are long forgotten - perhaps the mythical 'Podhigai' said to have been the abode of Sage Agusthia, or, the now forgotten 'Vedhspuri' a settlement of scholars well-versed in the Vedas. Excavations near Pondicherry have brought remains of a trading port which had connections with the Greco-Roman world more than a century before the dawn of the Christian Era.

Today, the tranquil town of Pondicherry is best known for its association with Sri Aurobindo. Born 15 August 1872, he was a scholar and teacher who joined a revolutionary society to initiate secret preparations for an uprising against the British Government in India, and subsequently joined politics, but then in 1910 withdrew from politics and went to Pondicherry to devote himself to his spiritual life and work. During his forty years in Pondicherry he evolved a new method of spiritual practice which he called the Integral Yoga. Its aim is a spiritual realisation that not only liberates man's consciousness but also transforms his nature. In 1926, with the help of his spiritual collaborator, the Mother, he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Sri Aurobindo left his body on 5 December 1950.

His work continued under the tutelage affectionately known as The Mother. Born Mirra Alfassa in Paris on 21 February 1878, a pupil at Academie Julian, she became an accomplished artist but her primary interest was spiritual development. In 1914 the Mother voyaged to Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo. She left Pondicherry after nearly a year to return in April 1920. When the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed in November 1926, Sri Aurobindo entrusted its full material and spiritual charge to the Mother. Under her guidance, which continued for nearly fifty years, the Ashram grew into a large, many-faceted spiritual community. In 1952 she established Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, and in 1968 the utopian township called Auroville in the outskirts of Pondicherry. The Mother left her body on 17 November 1973.

Auroville is “ an experiment in International living where people could live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, politics and nationalities”. Mother’s founding vision is that “There should be somewhere upon earth a place that no nation could claim as its sole property, a place where all human beings of goodwill, sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world”.

Visit numerous temples and museums in Pondicherry but one must get blessed by ‘Lakshmi’ the temple elephant in the 300 year old Manakula Vinayagar Koil temple, who uses her trunk to dispense blessings and to collect coins from devotees.