Located on the Coromandel Coast, about 160 kms south of Chennai, lays the Union
Territory of Puducherry.
Little is known about the early history of Puducherry prior to
its settlement by foreigners - though the influence of the major South Indian
kingdoms of the Cholas, Pandavas and Vijayanagar is self evident in the
architecture of that period. The region’s long history of interaction with
foreigners began with the Roman Empire. The cornerstone of trade with the
Romans lay in the port city of Arekmedu - from where galleys laden with silk,
spices, birds, animals, silver and precious stones left for Roman shores.
The French converted this obscure little village into a
flourishing trading centre. They established a settlement in Puducherry in
1673. The French were the last European power to come to India for trade.The
South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu binds it on the east by the Bay of Bengal
and on the other three sides.
The Union Territory of Puducherry consists of
1.Puducherry the capital, 162 kms South of Chennai on the East coast of
2.Karaikal, 132 kms South of Puducherry.
3.Yanam, in the East Godavari district in Andhra Pradhesh, and
4.Mahe, in the Cannanore District of Kerala.
The French converted this obscure little village into a flourishing trading
centre. They established a settlement in Puducherry in 1673. The French were
the last European power to come to India for trade.
The Dutch and the English had already established themselves at various centres
in India. The Dutch were the first to cross swords with the French. They
captured Puducherry in 1693 but returned it to France under the Traty of
Ryswick in 1699.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese first arrived here and then
the following century the Danes made an appearance. In 1673, February 4th,
Bellanger, a French officer, took up residence in the Danish Lodge in
Puducherry and the French Period of Puducherry began. Till then, Puducherry was
a weaving and fishing village. The French quarters started along the sea and
extended to the south, all along the sea. The city slowly emerged with the fort
at its center. The town planners tried to implement this grid system
methodically. It required the reconstruction of many houses, mostly those of
the Tamilians. It also required the strict implementation of regulations. In
all, it took the French almost a century to implement the plan-that of the
present concentric pattern with the fort at the center and boulevards
surrounding it. It has, however, expanded beyond the boulevard in recent years.
In the latter part of the 18th and early 19th century,
Puducherry again fell into British hands and all construction activity came to
a standstill. Most of the present day buildings came up in the 19th century,
which also marked the advent of water supply in the city and the railway link
with British India. By the 20th century, the city had expanded to include many
neighboring villages, although few changes were made in the innercity.
This French colony became a part of the Indian Union in the early 1950's, with
the French voluntarily relinquishing control.
The British in India took advantage of the decline of the French power and
gained control of Puducherry in the 1760s - they destroyed the fort and most of
the French Quarter but were forced to cede the territory back to France. But by
early 19th century, the British were firmly in control of most of the Indian
subcontinent and little French enclaves like Puducherry became inconsequential
to the bigger picture.
Puducherry returned to the Indian Union in November 1954 when
the French relinquished control. It was granted the status of Union Territory
inclusive of former French settlements of Karaikal, Mahé and Yanam.