Puducherry Heritage Festival Showcases French Architecture in a Heritage Walk Led by INTACH

History enthusiasts converged to celebrate Puducherry’s rich heritage at the vibrant Pondicherry Heritage Festival, immersing themselves in the town’s cultural tapestry and colonial legacy.

As the scorching afternoon sun of Puducherry slowly descended, a group of avid history buffs gathered by Palais de Mahe, one of the town’s prominent boutique hotels, to embark on a journey through the old town and delve into its unique and intriguing history.

Puducherry, once a French territory, holds significant historical value, making it imperative for residents and the government to educate visitors about the town’s heritage and culture.

The Pondicherry Heritage Festival (PHF) serves as a crucial initiative in this endeavor. Over the past decade, citizens have united to raise awareness among locals and tourists about the importance of preserving the town’s distinctive architecture and cultural heritage.

In recent years, tourists flocking to Puducherry for its charming cafes, scenic beaches, and colonial French architecture have shown a growing interest in the town’s history, traditions, and local cuisine.

“You will find tour guides offering heritage walks at every corner on weekends. We have trained numerous individuals who now run their own private heritage tours,” stated Ashok Panda, co-convener of INTACH’s Puducherry chapter.

Ashok, actively involved in the restoration of colonial buildings in Puducherry for two decades, led a heritage walk as part of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival on March 1.

Commencing with a brief history lesson on French rule in India, Ashok highlighted the town’s transformation post the 18th century wars between the French and British powers.

“Pondicherry was designed akin to a small French town, featuring narrow streets, frequent crossings, and prioritizing pedestrian traffic over vehicles,” Ashok explained while navigating through the streets.

Despite lacking a natural deep-sea port, Puducherry’s strategic significance to the French is evident through the construction of a jetty for docking ships and facilitating trade.

French influence pervades the old town, evident in its bilingual street signs and the architectural style of buildings. Notably, the Catholic Church’s sisters of Cluny use one of the oldest standing buildings as their embroidery center, showcasing intricate French detailing and design.

Stringent design regulations govern new constructions in the old town, ensuring adherence to the aesthetic value and French architectural norms. Buildings are limited to two stories, with spacious interiors featuring high ceilings and open courtyards for ventilation, ideal for Puducherry’s warm climate.

The heritage walk culminated with a visit to the Notre Dame des Anges Church, an architectural marvel with pink domes, vaulted ceilings, and exquisite stained-glass windows, standing as the town’s oldest building since its construction in 1855.

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