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The Maritime History Of Pondicherry
The ports of Barbaricum (modern Karachi), Barygaza, Muziris and Arikenmedu were the main trading centers and ports during the Greco-Roman trade. The Archaeological excavations since early 20th century brought out fascinating evidences on the settlement of Arikenmedu.
Arikenmedu (now part of Ariyankuppam village), about 5 kms from Pondicherry city center was once a trading station for the Roman Products. The time period could be around 2nd century BC, wherein the old name of Pondicherry was mentioned as "PODUKE" by the Roman Traders. The traders recorded in the Tamil Sangam literature that "a beautifully built ship of the Yavanas came with gold and returned with pepper", which narrates the Indo-Roman trade. More...
The excavations at arikenmedu, other archeological evidences & ancient Tamil literatures has proved the Indo-Roman trades, which might have started during the rule of King Augustus.
The city of Arikenmedu has claims to have a cultural continuity from 300 BC to 1800 AD, which makes this site very unique in india. The site was once again used for settlement in the 18th century when a Mission House was built for Jesuits priests by the French government and abandoned after two decades.
The Rome-India trade also saw several cultural exchanges which had lasting effect for both the civilizations and others involved in the trade. Traces of Indian influences are visible in Roman works of silver and ivory, or in Egyptian cotton and silk fabrics used for sale in Europe. The Indian presence in Alexandria has influenced the culture but little is known about the manner of this influence. Clement of Alexandria mentions about Buddha in his writings and other Indian religions find mentions in other texts of the period.
Stone bead production & Textiles have been considered as a major ites of export from Arikenmedu. The pottery (table wares), Amphora wines, Olive oil, ceramic lights, Sigillata sherds were the major goods which was part of the trade.
Following the Persian influence on the Roman Empire, there was a decline in Indo Roman trade to a greater extent. The southern India turned to Southeast Asia for international trade, where it influenced the native culture to a greater degree than the impressions made on Rome.
The present day Arikenmedu now sleeps with only two walls of the mission house, Coconut and Mango trees along the backwaters. The excavations from this site are preserved at the Pondicherry government museum.Less
Handmade Paper Products
Handmade paper in India in made by recycling waste agro raw materials like cotton rags from hosiery cuttings and small amounts of waste paper. Agro fibres like jute, straw, banana are added to the primary fibre to create mottled handmade paper. Handmade paper has greater tensile, bursting, tearing and double fold strength when compared with conventional mill-made paper. It does not turn become brittle as it ages. Besides, handmade paper is attractive and exclusive. Today there are a number of gift items and craft items made from handmade paper. Today the Indian handmade paper industry, exports about Rs.400 crores worth of products to the developed countries annually. More...
The history of handmade paper in India dates back to the 3rd century BC. This traditional art was initiated by the "Kagzi Cummunity". There is a small settlement of "Kagzi's" in Sanganer near Jaipur, where a section of this community settled thousands of years ago. They claim that they are originally from Turkey and from there moved to China and then finally settled in India.
In Sanganer the "Kagzi" community is the primary owner of the handmade paper industry in the town. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the ruler was Feroze Shah Tughlaq. Even in those days the royalty used handmade paper made by them for official documents, miniature paintings, calligraphy, and to make copies of the Holy Quran and to maintain account books. In the 16th century the then ruler of Amber, Raja Man Singh brought the Kagzi's to Sanganer and settled them on the bank of the river Saraswati, where clean water was easily available. Thus the town emerged as one of the biggest paper producing centers in north India.
The handmade paper production in this village reached its height during the Mughal rule. Handmade papers received a serious setback under the British as they encouraged the imported mill-made paper from England. By the 1930's there were only very few people from this community practicing their traditional craft.
Mahatma Gandhi supported these people by buying handmade paper in bulk for his Ashram and other associates. After independence, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) included handmade paper in the list of crafts to be promoted.
In recent years the handmade paper industry has come out with lots of innovative and elegant products. Such creativity has helped this industry to grow fast and turned to be a major player in the world market.
Pondicherry & Handmade Paper
Pondicherry is famous for its handmade paper products, specially the use of dried flowers on stationery items like greeting cards and letter paper. There are many boutiques in mission street, White town area & auroville dealing with creatives from Handmade paper. The perfect place to pick up these is the Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory ring. This is called sizing and can be done manually with a brush or by the dipping .Less
Pondicherry In Inscriptions, Manuscript & Literatures
Pondicherry's history dates way back from pre-historic days. Historians believes that this place is the cradle of Ancient, medieval and modern civilizations. The inscriptions, Manuscripts and other references stands a strong evidence for a glorious history. More...
Pondicherry have strong presence right from vedic period till the contemporary period. Some traces and evidences makes this statement valid.
The inscription near the Vedhapuriswara [Vedha-Puri-Eshwaran] Temple hints "Sage Agastya" established his Ashram at Agastiswaram, which is believed to be in the present Pondicherry region.
The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea [a Greek manuscript document describing navigation and trading opportunities] mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B.Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikenmedu, about 2 miles from the Pondicherry town. The excavations in 1944-49 indicates that it was "a trading station" of Roman manufacture / Products from 2nd BCE to 2 CE
Sangam [Tamil] literature dates from the last centuries BCE to early centuries CE. The poems in sangam literature mentions about the ethnic groups of Yavanas, who were living in Arikenmedu [sub-urban region of Pondicherry]. It has been mentioned that these Yavanas used to give wine to the young girls in beautiful gold vessels together with shinning bangles to impress them. This period coincides with the Roman trade with Arikenmedu [Pondichery].
The excavations at Arikenmedu [Pondicherry] includes an ancient Chola coin dating back to 1 BCE, the Amphoras, copper coin of Constantine I minted between 306-324 CE and some 11th century potteries of Chola dynasty. Archaeological studies suggests that Pondicherry would have had a Great maritime & Medieval history.
The copper plates found at Bahur by Mr J.Delafond, Magistrate of Pondicherry, in 1887, briefs some information on Bahur in 860 AD. It also tells about a Sanskrit College at Bahur [the Sub-urban region of present Pondicherry]
The tradition of the Vedic studies at Pondicherry is mentioned in the inscriptions found at Tiruvandar Koil [15 kms from Pondicherry down town].
- The “Sign of Four” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first appeared in the February 1890 edition of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. This novel was published in a book form on October 1890 by Spencer Blackett. The story is about a complex plot involving service in colonial India, stolen treasure and a secret pact among the four ex-convicts. In this novel, the family of the murder victim resides at Pondicherry lodge.
In "THE FIVE ORANGE PIPS"
one of the 56 short Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a threatening letter is
postmarked from Pondicherry, seven weeks before the death of colonel Openshaw.
- In "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" a children's book written by Roald Dahl in the year 1964, Prince Pondicherry has willy Wonka build him a castle made of chocolate. This story of adventures of Willy Wonka is considered as one of the most beloved children’s stories of the 20th century.
- Lee Langley is an award winning British novelist, who was born in India and spent her childhood here. Lee Langley’s “A House in Pondicherry” follows the fortunes of a women born in Pondicherry.
- The Man Booker Prize winner "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel evolves around Pondicherry. The main character PISCINE Molitor Patel is from Pondicherry and his father is a Zoo keeper at the botanical Garden, it also refers the famous Coffee House.
ASI Temple Sites In Pondicherry
India has an extraordinary, rich, vast and diverse cultural heritage in the form of built heritage, archaeological sites and remains since prehistoric times. The sheer magnitude in number alone is overwhelming and these are the symbols of both cultural expression and evolution.
There is, however, no comprehensive record in the form of database where such archaeological resources in terms of built heritage, sites and antiquities can be referred. As a result this finite, non-renewable and irreversible resource of our country is fast disappearing without any record for the posterity. More...
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, was formulated for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of India. Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI.
The organization has a large work force of trained archaeologists, conservators, epigraphist, architects and scientists for conducting archaeological research projects.
The following sites in Pondicherry are under the protection of ASI, which are the hidden treasures of Historic Pondicherry.
Mulanathaswami Temple is located in Bahour, 17 kms from city centre on Pondicherry-Cuddalore Road. This temple belongs to early Chola period and has inscriptions depicting the culture and lifestyle.
The famous bahour copper plate excavations, mentions that there was a sanskrit college in bahour around 858 AD.
Panchanadisvara Temple is situated in Thiruvandarkoil, 27 kms from city center on Pondicherry-Villupuram Road. It is one of the ancient temples of Pondicherry, which has valuable art works of Chola dynasty. Inscriptions mentions about the underground water streams.
Varadaraja Perumal Temple
This temple is in thirubhuvani Village in manniadipet area, 30 kms from Pondicherry city centre. The stone plaques in this temple mentions that Varadaraja perumal koil or Sri Totadrinathar Temple is built around (907-955 AD) during the rein of Paranthaga Cholan I.
There are small stone panels around the sanctum depicting scenes from Ramayana and Bhagavata. There are a number of Chola inscriptions in this temple throwing light on the political, social and cultural life of the village.
Thirukundangudi Mahadeva Temple
This temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and located in Madagadipattu, 24 kms from the city cente along the Pondicherry-Villupuram Road. The viman (gopuram) is unique and looks unfinished. Some mentions that the gopuram has a touch of Islamic architecture, which could have been rebuilt during the rule of sultans of Bijapur.Less
The pier of Pondicherry – was considered as the "French Gateway of India", which gradually disappeared from the city's landscape between 1953 and the 1980's. Now, only a few rusty iron pillars remain to flash the story.
This port witnessed the departure of people to Vietnam expecting a better future, the Indian soldiers leaving for the Indochina War and also welcomed those who returned to Pondicherry to find refuge in their native place during the Vietnam War.More...
Among the merchandise reaching the coast, there were the stained-glasses of the Sacred Heart Church from France, papers from England and some cars.
This grandiloquent place, would gather Pondicherrians in the evenings, who would relax on the benches and get some fresh air. On Sundays, one could see people riding horses around the "Place Napoléon III", rechristened as "Place de la République" [Gandhi Thidal]. For many Pondicherrians, the end of the pier had a more symbolical meaning than the departure of the French in 1954.
The Pier project was one of the major investment that the French authorities decided to build in India since the 18th century. However, this project existed since the times of Governor DupIeix. This pier is a typical example of the result of the Industrial Revolution in Pondicherry.
From 1866 to 1952, that is almost 86 years, the French wanted to make the pier a true "French Gateway of India", and its intention was not merely commercial. The heavy flow of men arriving and leaving in boats in "Place de la République" [Gandhi Thidal] attribute the pier an historical and political significance.
The Europeans encountered many problems with the sea, since the 17th century. In 1691, Robert Challes, a passing traveler in Pondicherry, describes the pier's activities. It seems that in 1690, no boats could approach the coast very closely, since the sea was very rough. The merchandise and the travelers usually crossed the sandbar with the help of chelingues / masula boats, and got wet while doing so. Since the boats were made of very thin planks, huge quantities of water were flooding the boats, always with a risk of getting drowned, moreover the water was damaging the merchandise aboard.
The only solution to all these uprising problems was the construction of a bridge which would have cut off the considerable monetary expenses spent by the East India Company for the maintenance of those boats and the protection of the merchandise. But at that time, it was technically impossible to build on sand, later on, in the 19th century, with the progress made in the field of metallic construction, it happened.
In 1856, a French company "the Pier company" proposed the government to build a wharf while taking leasehold on the income it would generate, but the French government was not interested by the proposal.
A few years later, in 1862, major industrial projects flourished with the creation of a national company of steamships, "les Messageries Impériales" and the starting works of the Suez Canal in 1859. Finally, Paris focused its attention on the lndochinese peninsula with its French settlement in Cochinchina.
In fact, since the end of 19th century, the port went on a major expansion. The "Coolie Trade" enriched the town tremendously increasing five fold the port activity over a period of ten years.
In 1862, the decision of building a pier marked the beginning of a new era. With all those major changes, Governor Bontemps felt an utmost necessity to build a pier. He believed that Pondicherry had a good chance to become the capital of South India, and it was obvious that with the construction of the Suez Canal, the traveling time for the steamships would be considerably reduced.
Moreover, France decided to introduce a regular liner service to Pondicherry, which triggered great enthusiasm. The town was then able to receive its visitors with dignity and its harbour able to compete with the ports of Cuddalore and Madras of British India.
In 1862, when Pondicherry started the constructions, Madras had already inaugurated its pier.
The works were conducted by the engineer Colonel Lamairesse, as it is written on a plaque in Gandhi square. In the beginning of 1864, the works seemed to move very fast. Within one year the essential part of the pier was completed and was referred by many as one of the major attractive places of the town.
The pillars came from France in batches and wooden beams [teak woods] from Burma. Affected by the climate changes [monsoon & cyclones] and many technical difficulties, the works got delayed. The work lasted for 2 years and some parts of the pier had to be rebuilt between 1865 to 1866.
At the end of 1865, the new place created at the entry of the pier was baptized as "Place Napoleon III". The pier was officially inaugurated on 14th August 1866 and opened to commercial activities from 27th October onwards, the same year. It was mainly used to unload heavy pieces, but the system went soon out of order.
In 1869, it seems that sand had gathered at the end of the pier making it unusable. Later on, the sandbar was pushed back further. Due to the lack of funds, nothing could be done to repair the damages for the next eight years.
At its birth, the pier measured 192 meters, then in 1881, the pier was lengthened by 64 meters and equipped with one more crane, but soon, the sand accumulated again at its base.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Governor Angoulvant and the Chamber of Trade decided to extend the pier by another 86 meters.
With the newly built power station [usine électrique], once facing Barathi Park, the town was equipped with electricity and the cranes could be powered electrically. Between 1908 and 1909, a major part of this project was completed.
In 1908, the decision was taken to built a railway line linking to the pier.
In 1913, a storm partially damaged the pier which affected the port services and again in 1916, another one destroyed it. The First World War cut the links for five years between Pondicherry and France which kept the maritime entrance of the town into ruins.
Though some repairs were carried out in the 1920s, the pier's structures remained fragile and a vital part of it collapsed, in 1952 after another storm.
Since the merger was nearing, the pier was abandoned. A few years later, in 1956, a new concrete pier was built southwards, near Duprayapet, but with no access to the public.
The pier was the result of constant, repeated, and renewed efforts by the local authorities to equip Pondicherry with a heavy infrastructure.
Now, the "Place de la République" is known as Gandhi Thidal with the monumental statue of Mahatma Gandhi surrounded by the pillars and the plaque holding the brief details of the pier. The delicious smell of candy-floss, pop-corns, pineapple, mangoes, watermelon, and spicy peanuts would create a typical carnival atmosphere.Less
The Port office
Located mid-way on the Beach road [Goubert Avenue], "Le Café" offers awesome view of the sea. The sunrise, fishermen with their nets / boats, coffee on the seafront, pop corns & ice creams in the evening can be the best moments in this café.
Surrounded by the Mairie Building [Hôtel de ville], Gandhi square, French War Memorial and the old light house, this building carries and history of almost 200 years. The present "Le Café" building was a landmark during the European influence over Pondicherry.More...
The present Le café building was the harbour office during the European influence on Pondicherry. The historical records are not very clear on this building but the researchers and scholars have made some conclusion based on their evidences.
It is widely believed that the "Port office" was built when the French Governor Desbassayns de Richmont in 1827, made the plans for developing "Cours Chabrol"- the present Goubert avenue or the beach road.
Some French archives mentions that the "Port Office" existed even before the inauguration of the "Cours Chabrol".
Yet other source refers that the original the Port Office and the Harbour office were two different buildings and got destroyed by the Anglo-French War. The present "Port Office" could have been built by the English, as they were in need of a Port Office. This building may be the only sign of the British influence [quite short period] over Pondicherry.
From 1827 to 1866 this place went through major developments equipped with a light house and the pier.
The former "Port Office" still stands as a landmark among the tourists and Pondicherrians.Less