Pondicherry has been on the travel list of youngsters in the country and has a lot to offer besides being a coastal city. It has been the Europe of the middle class and will always continue to awe everybody alike. This coastal city in the Southern part of India is one city that has tales of cross-cultural influence to share. Artists and architecture students never miss an opportunity to visit this haven.

The tale of Pondicherry or as we call, “Pondy”

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The streets of Pondicherry. Image source_www.villameena.com

Even though Pondicherry has fallen into the hands of several invaders like the Dutch, Portuguese, British, Cholas and many more; the lasting influence was made by the French Colonisers. The architecture of Pondicherry is a manifestation of this influence which has evolved over the years yet remains with the same essence.

We can easily classify the prevalent architectural styles like French, Tamil, and Franco- Tamil styles. With a perfectly laid out gridiron plan, the streets of the French and the natives were divided by a stormwater canal. One could easily locate himself by looking around at the style of buildings.

The French style is more of an introverted style with colonnades, porticos, posh gardens and high compound walls that screen the indoors and render total privacy.

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The reminiscence of French Colonialism. Source_www.in.musafir.com

The Tamil style, however, has quite the contrasting nature. They had verandas, platforms called ‘thinnai’ for seating and gave a welcoming feel and extroverted. Often weary guests would spend the night on the ‘thinnai’ and the residents would wait for small chit chats in the evening.

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A Franco-Tamil style residence with the ‘Thinnai’. Source_www.commons.wikimedia.org

The new evolved style takes an eclectic approach by combining the best of the two styles which are now commonly adopted in the region. However, tourism might cause a blow to the existing fabric by bringing in foreign styles which may hamper the sense of place. In the case of Pondicherry, the sense of the place is counterproductive of the residences in the place covering a major portion of the constructed buildings which include monuments and other public buildings. The houses in Pondicherry is nothing less than an ‘ensemble’ that makes the place beautiful and happening.

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A typical French style residence. Image courtesy Neeharika Satyavada

The common traits of all these styles are the doors and windows which have a huge impact on the passers-by. The detailing and number of leaves are a symbol of the status and power of the resident and hence these doors and windows are treated with utmost details. Another common trait is the use of vibrant colour coupled with white to create stunning visual images. The most commonly used colours are orange, passion fruit yellow, and shades of blue. These colours manage to create an imagery of happiness and glee in every street we pass through. The colours are complemented with white stucco work or outlines that detail out the structural details of each of these buildings. The buildings owned by the Aurobindo Ashram follow the colour scheme of grey and white and are easily recognizable. The ornate balconies and the arched gates are yet another important feature of the architectural style followed in this region. Not to forget the bougainvillea lined streets that add the final touch to the frame along with the colonial lamp posts and signages. The street names and furniture on these streets are other striking elements in the streets of Pondicherry which leave you wondering if you really were in India.

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The creative art at the entrance. Image courtesy Neeharika Satyavada

Street art or urban art is yet another key interesting feature that grabs your attention. Done by several artists and students they manage to crackle you up and even give some messages. The street art in Pondicherry is among the popular art forms and every visitor understands this phenomenon once they set their eyes upon them. The artists have converted the entire city into their canvas and have quite beautiful work to showcase.

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The streets of Pondicherry. Image Source_www.tripsavvy.com_
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An innovative take on the ‘No smoking’ sign. Image courtesy Neeharika Satyavada

The French Quarters and the White Town still have the early French residences that have been converted into restaurants and cafes. A stroll through the promenade gives us a visual treat of these classic buildings and the sunset at the end of the promenade is something one shouldn’t miss. A cycle or scoot ride can tell you tales about the city which no book might be able to tell you.

Pondicherry was ab early port that was conquered and converted into a fort city. This has been a very influential factor in the culture and lifestyle of the native sin the place. Pondicherry transformed from a rural village to a city with a rich multi-cultural jacket. This blend is what keeps the place alive. The welcoming nature of both the people and architecture can be credited to this transition.

When we talk about Pondicherry, we cannot forget Auroville; the experimental township a few kilometers away from Pondicherry. Auroville is a model town with altogether different regulations, lifestyle, and cultures. People from around the world have settled in this township to live by the principles and beliefs of the place and turn into a self-sustaining township. Maitri Mandir is one of the most famous attractions in Auroville. Here the architects get to experiment with their ideas and styles as though on a clean slate. They have generated several sustainable practices and have managed to contribute to the field of architecture. The success of this utopian model is however questionable due to various reasons other than architecture.

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The Maitri Mandir in Auroville.Image Source_www.auroville.org

Pondicherry is one of the most attractive tourist destinations which puts it into danger. Construction and development in the name of tourism without a set of regulations and rules may erase away the essence of the place. This has been a question of concern for architects in the country. How can tourism be encouraged without hampering the essence of Pondicherry?


Reshmy Raphy has always been a lover of words. Pursuing final year of B.Arch, she is on her path to discover Architectural Journalism. She loves to learn about different cultures and architectural styles, approaches and people. It is this passion that brought her here on RTF.