Travelling Diaries: Pondicherry

If there was such a thing as a soul place, like a soul mate, a place that was made for you, a place that took you closer to who you were meant to be. A place that you felt you have to return to, on the first visit, then Pondicherry would be mine.

To say that I was consumed in all entirety by this place would be an understatement.

Here are ten of my favourite things from this trip to Pondicherry.

View from The Promenade
View from The Promenade

One of the famous tourist places in Pondicherry is Auroville. To try to summarize what Auroville is in one sentence is a task I find unpalatable. Many things on my list are from my experiences at Auroville.

1. Giving back to the Earth at Sadhana Forest

Of all the places I saw, the place that moved me the most was Sadhana forest. Watching the people go about their daily activities made me realize, rather shamefully how little we really need to survive and how much we are harming Mother Earth in ignorance of our activities.

Founders of Sadhana Forest: Yorit and Aviram Rozin

As i entered the forest, we were taken to the main hut which was built entirely by natural materials. The fifteen minutes that we spent there filled me with awe and seeing the Rozin family with their two daughters playing and looking absolutely at home though almost 50 strangers were sitting in their version of a living room was touching.

The main hut at Sadhana Forest
A Family Hut

Like the Aurovilleans, there is no sense of “this is mine” in Sadhana forest as well. Volunteers from all over the world come  and work here for different durations and live together. You will often find volunteers cycling around and going about their lives as if nothing they are part of is extraordinary. Truth is, the whole place is just that. Extraordinary.

The toilet ways of the forest are one of the many water and energy conservation methods followed by them and fascinated me!

The mud pools where the volunteers often swam in amidst water snakes and scorpions were beautiful. The hot sun shining over our heads made me want to jump in right away!

Mud Pools at Sadhana Forest

The one thing I am taking away from this place is a renewed value for water. The next time I wash my hands or take a shower, I will remember opening the tap to only a trickle so as to use the water more efficiently.

Read in detail about Sadhana Forest here.

2. Making Agarbattis at Mereville Trust

I love fragrances in any shape and form and our traditional agarbattis or incense sticks are just one of the many ways to incorporate exotic aromas into our lives.

Siting down on my haunches with the local women and learning to roll agarbattis with them was an experience that stimulated all my senses. The soft and doughy feel of the clay tickled my skin and the wrist work required to roll thin and even sticks took a while to grasp.

I managed to roll half a dozen decent sticks and was filled with such a sense of accomplishment. For two days after, my palms were still fragrant from the clay.

3. Making Musical Instruments at Svaram

The Showroom at Swaram

I never thought possible to hear such music from all natural instruments.

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It was a pleasure making these musical instruments using seeds. On the left is a key-chain bell made from elephant foot seed and on the right is a rattle made from oleander seeds.

The instruments I made

After all the hard work of making the instruments, we were treated to a drumming performance by the Svaram team which had our feet tapping.

Drumming by the Svaram Team

4. Seeing the Sunrise and Sunset at The Promenade

I love the sea. The sound of the waves and the salty, wet breeze lifts my spirits like no other. Close to the place we were putting up was the Promenade which reminded me of Marine Drive in Mumbai but was so much more serene and beautiful. On most days there, we managed to catch the sunrise and it just started the day on the right note.

Each time as I left from there, there were tiny droplets of the sea on my glasses and speckles of joy in my heart.

5.  Learning the Oyilattam Dance at Dakshinachitra

(Oyilattam meaning dance of grace is a Tamil folk dance. It was traditionally a dance where a few men would stand in a row and perform rhythmic steps to the musical accompaniment and the performers have coloured handkerchiefs tied to their fingers and wear ankle bells. Mainly Oyilattam is performed at village festivals. )

A rather spirited old gentleman taught us the oyilattam dance and the hour we spent swaying to his drumming was the most enjoyable cardio I’ve done in years!

6. Finding Peace at Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The entrance of the Ashram

To be in Pondicherry and to not visit the Ashram is rather unheard of. This place was the most peaceful and serene place I have been to in my entire life!  I had the privilege of visiting here, not once but twice and felt drawn to in in a mysterious way.

The samadhi at the Ashram
The inscription on the Samadhi

Sitting there with a roomful of people yet no sound except the faraway gushing of the waves and the occasional chirp of the birds was a surreal experience and learning about Sri Aurobindo piqued my interest and I ended up buying afew books about his life from the attached library Shabd.

7. Buying Handmade paper products at Auroville

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8. Receiving Tsunamika dolls

Read more about these Tsunamikas here.

9. Getting Creative Inspiration at Shraddhanjali

This place has their own garden from where they pluck the flowers and subject them to a drying and pressing processes and use them to make beautiful articles.

Jewelry made from beans
A tray using a pressed papaya leaf
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Lampshades using pressed cosmos flowers
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Greeting Cards with pressed flowers

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10. Witnessing the Glory of Matrimandir

The most glorious view was that of the Matrimandir.

Breath-taking in a way that humbles me.

This was an amazing trip but like they say, There is really no place like home.

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13 thoughts on “Travelling Diaries: Pondicherry

  1. Welcome back… Loved the way you have written about Pondy. Having spent 2 years doing my post-grad there, Auroville was the corner chai-adda for all us ecology students. Although the place is being commercialised slowly, 20 years back it was heaven. Besides Pondy was the first place where I was living alone, with no family to question my comings & goings, so it was awesome 😀
    For your future trips, please visit the beaches outside Pondy. If you are lucky, for about ₹50-₹100 they will take you for a spin in a Catamaran into the open ocean. These boats are rudimentary, just 4-5 logs lashed together with ropes, and you feel like you are sitting on water as the keel sits below the water-line
    Secondly, try and visit this shop called Kalki

    1. Thank you for the warm welcome! The beaches sound exciting, I will definitely try and go there the next time I am in Pondy. Kalki in the Visitors Centre right? I think I did breeze in and out there.

  2. I studied in one of the Aurobindo schools associated to ashram and I missed 2 excursion trips to the ashram and never felt so bad about anything else. All those memories and wishes somehow faded away after school and college. Your post brought all of them together. Thanks for that. 🙂 The pics were really cool and colorful. 🙂

  3. I have heard and read a bit the 1st time about Auroville and the Sadhana Forest from another blogger as well. If and when I go to India, this is a stop I would love to go to. It seems like it is life changing.

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful write up and pictures. 🙂

    ~Carl~

  4. I’m not sure which I like best – the photos of this enchanting place, your amorous words or the way you clearly have a connection to this place! Either way, thank you for taking us there, too.

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