Pondicherry Heritage Festival...the beginning

Pondicherry’s Architectural Heritage is an integral part of the spirit of Pondicherry; and its unique
characteristic is its harmonious blend of the French architecture as well as the Tamil vernacular
architecture. Along with the built heritage, our natural environment is as much part of our heritage as
music, dance, theatre, literature, poetry, art, food, customs and spirituality.
Pondicherry, with its beautiful beaches along the Bay of Bengal, its lovely lakes attracting migratory
birds from across faraway lands, its ancient temples and churches and mosques, its old Tamil,
Muslim, and French colonial architecture, its grid patterned boulevard town, planned by the Dutch
and given shape by the French and its thoroughly cosmopolitan population from all parts of India and
many parts of the world, give us a rich heritage that dates back far in our history. The Sri Aurobindo
Ashram with the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the international town of Auroville
nearby add to the spiritual depth to Pondicherry’s special beauty.
Recently, we lost the Mairie building, an iconic landmark on the beach promenade, due to long years
of neglect.
That is when spontaneously a group emerged from the civil society, People for Pondicherry’s
Heritage, and we felt that there are many other private and public buildings in Pondicherry which
may suffer the same fate if we do not act NOW.
Not only does Pondicherry depend primarily on tourism because of its unique heritage but it also
provides beautiful settings for movies like the LIFE OF PI. We also felt the need to preserve the beauty
of our city for OURSELVES, its residents who could take pride in it.
Our collective aim is to make Pondicherry one of the Heritage Cities of the World, which will make it a
desired destination. That can only happen if we can protect and project our architectural heritage
with absolute commitment.
INTACH, along with the people of Pondicherry, are now doing its best to protect the
heritage of our city. In this connection, we had organised a Heritage Festival in
Pondicherry on 27 & 28 Feb and 1 March 2105 with the following objectives:
a) to create and strengthen this distinct
identity of belonging and being Pondicherian
for all its residents,
b) to show its unique character in all its variety
to visitors who come from all over the country
and the world, attracted by the idea of
c) to create a platform for experts, historians
and old residents to meet and discuss what is
special about Pondicherry and how we can
preserve our town.
The charm and beauty of Pondicherry represents a different challenge to the
government and civil society organisations interested in protecting and restoring its
built heritage. Unlike ASI monuments or even National Parks, the architectural
style of Pondicherry’s cityscape with its mélange of private and government
buildings – homes, schools, colleges, hospitals, municipal buildings, courts,
government and private offices and the buildings of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram -
makes up the unique character and charm of this town on the Coromandel Coast.
Pondicherry has two distinct parts: the French and the Tamil. The French quarter
has structures in the European classical style, whereas the buildings in the Tamil
quarter are in the vernacular style of Tamil Nadu. The two styles have influenced
each other with the result that many buildings in both parts of the town are a
harmonious blend of European and Tamil architectural patterns. Pondicherry’s
unique architectural blend is an inheritance, of which we are but the custodians
today. It is our responsibility that the future generations of Pondicherry’s citizens
are not deprived of an opportunity to live, work, enjoy and celebrate the town’s
“Pondicherry-ness”, which is, at its essence, the ability of the city to be inclusive
and absorb several influences and make it its own.
This is the environment from which The Pondicherry Heritage Festival sought to
explore the various facets of the city’s culture- its spiritual heritage, the town’s
contribution to the world of letters, art and music, its role in the country’s maritime
trade, traditional and contemporary crafts, its coastline and natural environment
and much more. Pondicherry has always shown the ability to embrace and be
hospitable to those with fresh ideas and energy. 



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