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History of Pondicherry


There are various references to the word Poduke, a port town on the Coromandal Coast, in history. The identification of a Roman trading centre in the immediate vicinity of Pondicherry adds weight to the equation of Poduke with Pondicherry. Although this has been suggested by more than one writer, the equation of Poduke with Puduvai the name by which the town was known in the early days, seems to be more acceptable. According to tradition, the town was once upon a time an abode of scholars well versed in the Vedas and hence came to be known as Vedapuri. During the days of Ottakoothar and Kambar in the 11th and 12th centuries, Pondicherry was known in its shortened form as Puthuvai.

French dream of an indian empire has taken life but it also rapidly came to an end in Pondicherry.

Joseph François Dupleix became the Governor of the French Territory in India on 15 January 1742 and brought Madras also under French control in September 1746; Madras continued under French rule for 3 years. An attack on Pondicherry by the British in 1748 failed. Dupleix's help to Chanda Sahib and Musafer Jung in 1750 added Villianur and Bahour, a group of 36 villages, to French control. This was the peak period of the French regime; thereafter there was a decline in their sovereignty.

Among the dispersed territories of the territorial Union of Pondicherry, it is in Pondicherry itself that we can discover what has symbolized the french influence in India. That is also what makes this territory unique and especially, the french district. Something quite different from the rest of India.
Pondicherry, as we know now, became wide known on the arrival of the French on the 4 february 1673. 20 years after in 1643, the town became the property of the Dutch before belonging to France in 1699 with the" traité de Ryswick".François Martin who was appointed Administrator following the "traité of Ryswick", restored stability to Pondicherry and developed the town. Dumas who succeeded him, followed the principles created by François Martin.

During approximatevily 250 years, Pondicherry was a quite a calm town except during the Carnatic franco-english wars lead by Duplex and Clive.
In 1742, Joseph François Dupleix, became Governor of the French India. At the same period, war broke out between France and England. The situation in Europe, and the ambitions of Dupleix stirred up the anglo-french conflict in India.


Despite the Treaty of Pondicherry, internal disturbances in Pondicherry gave the British the opportunity, in August 1793, to gain control of Pondicherry; it was administered as part of Madras until 1815. However, after the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the British restored the settlements, which the French had possessed on 1 January 1792, back to the French in 1816. French rule continued until 31 October 1954.


In the Time of freedom movement

Pondicherry helped in the freedom movement in British India since 1910. Sri Aurobindo of Bengal came to Pondicherry in 1910 followed by patriots like Poet Subramanya Bharathi, V.V.C Iyer and others. In 1918, the British demanded the extradition of Sri Aurobindo and other freedom fighters. The French government did not comply with this. Gandhi visited Pondicherry in 1934 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1939.
Following the understanding reached between the Governments of India and France, the question of the merger of Pondicherry with the Indian Union was referred to the elected representatives of the people for decision in a secret ballot on 18 October 1954; 170 out of 178 elected representatives favored the merger. The de facto transfer of power took place on 1 November 1954; the de jure transfer on 16 August 1962.

All the french tradition, the quiet atmosphere of the town influenced by the Ashram of Aurobindo and the beach, make a whole to give to Pondicherry an attractive destination.The Union Territory of Pondicherry includes 4 enclaves located in three states of South India. It includes the coastal towns of Pondicherry and Kerala in the Tamilnadu, Yanam in Andra Pradesh and Mahe in Kerala

The old french colony has retrieved its indian character, but the scent of the french influence in "Pudicheri" as we call now, can be found again in the red kepis of the police officers, french spelling on signboards and traffic signs and some buildings and old stones

The slight french accent which tinged tamil and english languages that we can sometimes hear, remains a living memory of this culture. In the same way, the alignment at right angle of the streets remains a lovely inheritance of french architects.Legends associate old Pondicherry with the great hindu sage Agastya. Escavations in the region of Arikame near Pondicherry have proved that romans had settled 2000 years ago. Pondicherry has been successively called Poduke and Podukay in the works of geographers and historians from the first centuries of our era.

During the next 70 years, Pondicherry survived in continuous conflicts of power by the French and the British.
Pondicherry finally came back to France in 1814 till 1954 date at which it joined the rest of the Independant India. During these years the contribution of French Indians at the Belle France and its colonies was significant and even today, many descending are living in France and overseas.


Statue of Joseph François Dupleix in Pondicherry


A portrait of Ananda Ranga Pillai



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