Friday, September 10, 2010

Chilling out in Pondicherry

Ghandi Statue in Pondicherry
Pondicherry Ghandi Statue
Finally, after 3 weeks in Bangalore, I've made a move. At the end of my last day at the Atma Darshan Yogashram I took a night bus to Pondicherry, a French colony in India. The bus left at 10pm and we were supposed to arrive at 06h00 but not surprisingly something happened with the bus and we arrived at 08h00. That was actually pretty convenient cause earlier everything would have been closed and I would have had to wait in the bus stand for 2 hours, so I can't complain :-)

Park Guest House in Pondicherry
Park Guest House in Pondicherry
Pondicherry is not as nice as I thought it would be but since I really liked my room at the Park Guest House I decided to stay a few days. Pondicherry is on the south east coast of India. The beach is not that nice, the water is pretty dark and polluted and the beach is full of stones (it is actually forbidden by the police to get in the water), but still it gives a nice atmosphere to the town and after three weeks in Bangalore it is definitively a nice break.

Pondicherry beach Pondicherry Church

View from my room
The Park Guest House is one of the accommodation ran by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is located just next to the sea, and all front rooms have a big balcony with a wonderful view to the sea. This is the only reason why I stayed here for so many days (six days). The guest house has a beautiful meditation garden, a meditation room, a canteen and a reading room. It's a bit expensive for a budget trip, 450 Indian Rupees per night, but it is definitively worth it. You get a double room but even if you stay alone you still need to pay the same price. The rooms are very very clean, definitively above the Indian standards. You can find cheaper accommodation but this one is the only one with sea view.

Park Guesthouse Rooms Park Guesthouse View
My room at Park Guest House My room's balcony

Park Guest House Meditation RoomPark Guesthouse Library
Meditation RoomLibrary

Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry
Pondicherry seems to be a town build around Sri Aurobindo and "The Mother". Everywhere you go you will find a picture or a quote from them (in the Park Guest House almost all the quotes and texts that you find all around the place are from The Mother). Sri Aurobindo is a very well known and respected yogi from India and "The Mother" is something like his successor. The Mother took on the responsibility of the ashram and the construction of "Auroville" after Sri Aurobindo retired to focus on his spiritual practices.

Auroville is a sort of Hippie paradise, something like the movie "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio but in a larger scale and it seems to be a successful experiment. According to the Lonely Planet: "Auroville is an international community built on handful of soil donated by 124 countries, where dedicated souls, ignoring creed, color and nationality, work to build an universal township and realize interconnectedness, love and good old human oneness".

Of course, I had to check the place myself, with my own eyes, so I went there on a day trip, but sorry, I forgot to bring my camera with me :-/. I thought it would be a weird place but I kind off liked it although I didn't see much. To really get to know the place you should stay there for a week or two and do some volunteering work. It is very green and the Matrimandir, a big sphere similar to the one in Epcot Center, was better than I expected.

According to what I read in the boards around the place the land was originally very arid with no shadows at all. It was the people that move to this place that started to work hard on building all sorts of systems to collect the rain water and to reforest the place. Originally they were living on tents, with oil lamps and cooking on wood fires but now they have solar energy and solar kitchens. They also produce local products for selling and they provide accommodation for visitors or volunteers at different price ranges.

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