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Pondicherry is a Union Territory of India formed out of four enclaves of former French India and named for the largest, Pondicherry.

The name, which means "New Town" in Tamil,[1] is or in Tamil and Pondich ry in French. In September 2006, the territory changed its official name from Pondicherry () to Puducherry ().[2] It is also known as "The French Riviera of the East" (La C te d'Azur de l'Est).



Pondicherry consists of four small unconnected districts: Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam on the Bay of Bengal and Mah on the Arabian Sea. Pondicherry and Karaikal are by far the larger ones and are both enclaves of Tamil Nadu. Yanam and Mah are enclaves of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala respectively. The territory has a total area of 492 km : Pondicherry 293 km , Karaikal 160 km , Mah 9 km and Yanam 30 km . It has the total population of 900,000 inhabitants (2001).

Some of those enclaves are themselves amalgamations of non-contiguous enclaves, often called pockets in India. Thus, Pondicherry district is made of 12 pockets, some of which are very small (see map) and entirely surrounded by the territory of Tamil Nadu. For its part, Mahe district is made of 3 pockets. This unusual geography is a legacy of the colonial period since the U.T. of Pondicherry has retained the borders of former French India.

Mah beach


The History of Pondicherry can be traced back to the 2nd century. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, of the early 2nd century, mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikamedu (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry. Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was "a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD".[3]

French influence

A remarkable degree of French influence in Pondicherry exists to this date. Pondicherry was designed based on the French (originally Dutch) grid pattern and features neat sectors and perpendicular streets. The town is divided into two sections: the French Quarter (Ville Blanche or 'White town') and the Indian quarter (Ville Noire or 'Black Town'). Many streets still retain their French names, and French style villas are a common sight. In the French quarter, the buildings are typically colonial style with long compounds and stately walls. The Indian quarter consists of houses lined with verandas and houses with large doors and grills. These French and Indian style houses are identified and their architecture preserved from destruction by an organization named INTACH. The use of the French language can be still seen in Pondicherry.

Pondicherry still has a large number of Indian and a small number of non-Indian descent residents with French passports. These are descendants of those who chose to remain French when the then-ruling French establishment presented the people of Pondicherry with an option to either remain French or become Indians at the time of Pondicherry's transfer to India in 1954. Apart from the monuments pertaining to the French period, there is the French Consulate in Pondicherry and several cultural organisations. Another important one is Le Foyer du Soldat legion hall for soldiers who served in French wars.

Of the cultural organisations the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Pondicherry Centre of the cole fran aise d'Extr me-Orient and a branch of the Alliance Fran aise are noteworthy. A French-medium school system, the Lyc e Fran ais de Pondich ry, continues to operate under the aegis of the French Minister of National Education.

Official languages of government

Map of Pondicherry Region, Union Territory of Pondicherry, India The official languages of Pondicherry are Tamil (89%), Malayalam (3.8%), Telugu (2.9% Yanam) and French (1%). The status of each language varies by district. When communicating between districts of different languages, generally English is used for convenience.

  • Tamil is used by the Pondicherry government, especially used when communicating within and between the Tamil majority districts (Pondicherry and Karikal) along with issuing official decrees. Telugu is widely spoken in Pondicherry, Karaikal and Yanam districts. Malayalam is spoken in Mahe and Pondicherry regions.
  • French is also the official language of Pondicherry Union territory. It was the official language of French India (1673 1954) and its official language status was preserved by the Treaty of Cession signed by the Indian Union and the French Republic on 28 May 1956.

French remained as the de jure official language of Pondicherry U.T by the Article XXVIII of the Treaty of Cession, which states that:

"The French language shall remain the official language of the Establishments so long as the elected representatives of the people shall not decide otherwise" [English version][4]

Regional official languages

  • Tamil: An official language of Pondicherry. It is the most widely spoken language in the territory. Pondicherry, being a neighbour of Tamil Nadu, shares much of its culture.
  • French: As Pondicherry was once a colonial enclave of France, French remains an official language in the districts of Pondicherry itself and Karaikal.[5]
  • Telugu: An official language of Pondicherry, but used more within Yanam (Telugu district). So, more correctly, it is considered a regional official language of Pondicherry while being the official language of Yanam District.
  • Malayalam: An official language of Pondicherry used only in Mah (Kerala State). More correctly, it is considered a regional official language of Pondicherry while being the official language of Mah District.

Official symbols

On April 16, 2007, the government of Pondicherry announced that the following to be its state symbol:[6]

State bird Koel
State animal Squirrel
State flower Cannonball tree's flower
State tree Bael Fruit Tree

Government and administration

Pondicherry Legislative Assembly

Pondicherry is a Union Territory of India, and a separate state, which implies that the governance and administration of the territory falls directly under the federal authority in New Delhi. However, along with Delhi, Pondicherry is one of the two union territories in India which is entitled by special constitutional amendments to have an elected legislative assembly and a cabinet of ministers, thereby enjoying partial statehood powers. Under the special provision, the government is permitted to make laws with respect to specific matters. In many cases, such legislation may require the ratification from the federal government or the assent of the President of India.

The Centre is represented by the lieutenant governor, who resides at the Raj Nivas (Le Palais du Gouverneur) at the Park, the former palace of the French governor. The central government is more directly involved in the financial well-being of the territory, as against the states where financial administration, given a budgeted central grant is the responsibility to the state governments. Consequently, Pondicherry has at various times, enjoyed lower taxes, especially in the indirect category.

Special administration status

According to the Treaty of Cession of 1956, the four territories of former French India were guaranteed to retain their special administrative status. That is why Pondicherry is the only Union Territory with some special provisions like Legislative Assembly, French is an official language, etc.

Article II of the Treaty states that

"The Establishments will keep the benefit of the special administrative status which was in force prior to 1 November 1954. Any constitutional changes in this status which may be made subsequently shall be made after ascertaining the wishes of the people."

In Indian philosophy

Pondicherry was the residence of Sri Aurobindo. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram and its Auroville offshoot still operate from Pondicherry.

Pondicherry in literature


Macro-economic trend

This is a chart of trend of gross state domestic product of Pondicherry at market prices estimated by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation with figures in millions of Indian rupees.

Year Gross State Domestic Product
1980 1,840
1985 3,420
1990 6,030
1995 13,200
2000 37,810

Pondicherry's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $2 billion in current prices. The potential for fisheries is substantial in the Union Territory. The four regions of the Union Territory have a coastline of 45 km with 675 km2 of inshore waters, 1.347 ha of inland water and 800 ha of brackish water. There are 27 marine fishing villages and 23 inland fishing villages with fishermen population of about 65,000 of which 13,000 are actively engaged in fishing. Irrigation tanks and ponds are also tapped for commercial fish rearing.

The Railways play a vital role for speedy economic growth. The entire cost towards execution of the new broad gauge line for 10.7 km from Karaikal to Nagore would now be funded by the Ministry of Railways and work has already been awarded on turn key basis for laying the new railway line in a period of 18 months.

The present availability of power is about 400 MW. The demand is likely to increase with the development of Port, Special Economic Zone, other industrial development, trade, commerce etc. The Government has decided to expand the Pondicherry Airport so that air services can be improved gradually over the years, to land aircraft like ATR-42 and Boeing 737NG, in order to meet the growing demand for air travel. A MoU has already been signed with Airports Authority of India for expansion of Pondicherry Airport in two phases.[7]




Pondicherry is connected by a railway branch line from the five-way junction at Viluppuram (town). The railway line is being gauge converted under Project Unigauge from metre gauge to broad gauge.[8]

Road network

Pondicherry is endowed with excellent infrastructural facilities on par with the best available in the country. A network of all weather metalled roads connecting every village exists in the territory. Pondicherry has a road length of 2552 km (road length per 4.87 km ), the highest in the country.

Road length comparison with Tamilnadu and India as a whole

Total Road Length (in Pondicherry) 2552 km.
Road Length per 1000 km . Pondicherry Tamil Nadu India
4575 1572 663

Classification of roads

Sl. No. Type of road Length in (km)

National Highways


State Highways


District & Other Roads


Pondicherry 173.384


Karaikal 55.162


Mah 19.622


Yanam 26.460




Rural Roads


Pondicherry 164.964


Karaikal 83.470




Grand Total



Pondicherry has an airport at Lawspet which the Pondicherry Government has decided to expand to accommodate larger aircraft. A new Terminal building is scheduled to be ready by August 2012.[9] Karaikal Airport, a greenfield airport to be ready by 2014, will be the first airport in the country to be built entirely with private capital.[10]

Educational institutions

Pondicherry University

Pondicherry is a Union Territory with one of the highest levels of quality of life in the country with moderate physical infrastructure and almost a hundred per cent literacy level. It is also the place where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother chose to stay and their writings remain a tremendous source of spiritual awakening that emphasizes the progress of humanity and its spiritual brotherhood. A unique experimental city, Auroville, the brainchild of the Mother, whose inhabitants are drawn from all parts of the world, is situated on the outskirts of the city. Pondicherry, which still carries several marks of French culture and heritage, was also the place where the national poet Shri Subramania Bharathiar wrote several of his masterpieces that fanned the flames of freedom and also enriched modern Tamil literature. Bharathidasan, a staunch disciple of Subramania Bharathiar, whose poems stressed social revolution and emancipation of women, was also an eminent son of Pondicherry. Therefore, it is, indeed, in the fitness of things that this city with such an illustrious history should also have the distinction of housing a Central University that would meet the needs of the people of the Southern states of India in general and those of Pondicherry in particular, for higher education.[11]


See also


External links

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