South India's French capital

While many cities in India read like a page out of history, Pondicherry is distinct in having captured the very essence of its colonial past, and it lives on in every street, and around every corner. An outpost of the French in a country of British rule, Pondicherry’s Gallic flavour is retained in the Creole cuisine, the canary-yellow architecture and the part-Indian, part-French road signs – and the cultural identity of its people is forged by Tamil ancestry and colonial assimilation. Another distinct flavour of Pondicherry is that of the Aurobindo Ashram, set up by Aurobindo Ghosh, a philosopher-poet and freedom fighter. Founded on principles of holistic lifestyle, the Ashram has drawn people from across India to live more community-centred and less material lives. Auroville, located a few kilometres away from Pondicherry, is a Utopian city based on similar ideals that has provided a refuge for like-minded people from around the world.

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