Thursday, February 2, 2017

The French War Memorial, Pondicherry

The French War Memorial, Pondicherry
The French War Memorial is located on Goubert Avenue (popularly known as Pondicherry Beach Road) in Pondicherry is a reminder of those brave soldiers who laid down their lives, for their country during the First World War. It is located diagonally opposite to the Gandhi statue. The war memorial is beautifully illuminated during the annual commemoration held on Bastille Day, the 14th of July. People from the whole of union territory and nearby cities gather to pay their respects to the brave soldiers who gave up their lives for the safety of others.

It was erected in 1937 and inaugurated on April 3, 1938 by the governor Crocicchia. Behind the memorial is a bronze bas-relief representing the arrival of Dupleix in Pondicherry in 1742. In the middle of four stark white columns - two on either side - stands a lone life-size statue of a soldier leaning on a rifle. Inscribed above him the words, Aux combattants des Indes Fran├žaises morts pour la patrie, 1914 – 1918.

The monument itself is worth glancing at, but the huge sculptural metal plaque on its rear face can only be seen if the enclosing area is open, as it was for the ceremony described above. If you are walking along the seafront, you can hardly miss this monument. From a distance, the view is good enough. The significance and elegance of the French War Memorial has drawn the attention of filmmakers. One Two Three (2008), a Bollywood multi-starrer film, captures the landmark in some of the scenes.

The memorial is quite popular among tourists and is one of the major attractions of Pondicherry. It doesn’t take much time to stroll through the French War Memorial as it is quite small in area yet an intriguing place to be visited. The memorial has an enticing feel attached to it and is visited by students as well as tourist and people living in the nearby locality. Entry into the grounds of the war memorial is restricted.

The French War Memorial is located on Goubert Avenue (popularly known as Pondicherry Beach Road) in Pondicherry. It is located diagonally opposite to the Gandhi statue. It is located at a distance of about 3 Kms from Bus Stand. Take a Gorimedu bound Bus from Bus Stand and get down at Government Hospital (GH) Stop. The French War Memorial is just 500 meters from this Stop. From Railway Station take an auto to reach this place.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pondicherry

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pondicherry
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is situated on the south boulevard of Pondicherry is an oriental specimen of Gothic architecture. It contains rare stained glass panels depicting events from the life of Christ and saints of the Catholic Church. In recent years it has become one of the famous pilgrimage spots for Christians. It is one of the 21 Basilicas in India and only one in Pondicherry. This church was established in 1908 by the French missionaries and attained the status of basilica in 2011.

The centenary celebrations were celebrated during 2008-2009. As part of the centenary celebrations, a special postal stamp and postal envelope were released. This Catholic Church is one of the finest churches of Pondicherry. This church was built by the French missionaries. The Eglise De Sacre Coeur De Jesus Pondicherry, as it is referred to in French. The church is the first basilica in Pondicherry, 6th in Tamil Nadu, 20th in India and 50th in Asia.

In the year 1895, the then Archbishop Mgr. Gandy consecrated the Archdiocese of Pondicherry to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wished to build a new church in devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rev. Fr. Telesphore Welter, the parish priest of Nellithope prepared the building plan and parish priest of Cathedral Rev. Fr. Fourcaud commenced the construction of the new church in 1902 at the Southern side of Pondicherry. The blessing of the church and the first mass was held at the western wing of the present church by Mgr. Gandy on 17, December 1907 and the new parish surrounding this church has been established on 27, January 1908.

Centenary Celebrations:
The year 2008 – 2009 was celebrated in grand style as Centenary year of founding of the parish in this area and the Government of India issued a special postal stamp and postal envelope to mark the valedictory function of the centenary celebrations.
Elevation to Basilica Status:
At the end of the Centenary Celebrations on June 2009, a request was placed through Telesphore Toppo, President of CBCI, to the Holy See for the elevation of this church to a Basilica. The Holy See granted the status of minor basilica to the church, with a papal brief dated Friday 24 June 2011. This arrived on Friday 29 July 2011 to archbishop’s house. This was officially announced by Mgr. Antony Anandarayar, Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore on July 29, 2011. The Papal Nuncio to India, Salvatore Pennacchio (Titular Archbishop of Montemarano) visited the basilica on September 2, 2011 and officially declared the church as a basilica in the name of the Holy See. At present the basilica is headed by Rector Rev.Fr. S. Maria Joseph
The Basilica measures 50 meters long and 48 meters wide. It is 18 meters high and has a Latin rite cross shape in the aerial view. The main material used in the church was bricks with well ground lime-sand mix. It is a big church and can accommodate 2000 people. The church has attractive glass windows, twin spires and a huge exterior. The glass windows are encircled with terracotta craft.

The interiors are a magnificent blend of scarlet, moss green and milky white and the entire structure is held by 24 columns. Terracotta motifs adorn the walls - typical of south Indian architecture. Glass paintings of the 28 devout saints related to the sacred heart of Jesus include that of Joan of Arc. A striking statue of Madonna is placed at the right side of the high altar. The statue is draped with a blue sari.

A biblical verse from 2nd Chronicles 7:16 are written above the entrance door in Latin "sanctificavi locum istum, ut sit nomen meum ibi" which means "I have consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there forever." Along with Biblical Verse, the images of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mother Mary are also carved in the entrance door.

There have been additions to the original church complex over the past decades - a Parish Hall, Adoration chapel and a Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes. Statues of the four evangelists were erected, beneath which there are four lamp posts describing their lives and inviting Jesus and the twelve apostles. The two front twin towers (spires) of the Church throw a beautiful silhouette during the sunrise and sun down.

The Grotto for Sacred Heart of Jesus facing the City Railway Station were added and the church illuminated inside and out with chandeliers, focus and flood lights. This 100-year-old church has been led by twenty parish priests. After the arrival of parish priest Thomas in 2005 the church was fully renovated inside and out.

On festival days, in particular Christmas, this place becomes more vibrant with festive mood, pomp and grandeur. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a beautiful place of veneration with a magnificent building in the former French colony of Pondicherry far south of Chennai on the east coast of India.

The former parish priests of this church are:
Parish Priests:
·        T. Welter (1902–1909)
·        Combes (1909–1910)
·        Deniaud (1911–1917)
·        Leblanc (1917–1924)
·        L.C. Renoux (1925 - )
·        P.M. Planat (1925–1931)
·        H. Gaston (1937–1945)
·        L. Peyroutet (1945–1947)
·        Olasail (1947–1953)
·        S. Valanganny (1954–1956)
·        M. Abel (1956–1963)
·        P. Irudayam (1963–1972)
·        G. Raja (1972–1980)
·        Gnanamanikam (1980–1982)
·        P. Gnanapragasam (1982–1988)
·        P. P. Xavier (1988–1989)
·        Mariasusai (1988–1989)
·        L. Maguimey (1989–1996)
·        G. Jacob (1996–2005)
·        A.Thomas (2005-2012),Rector
·        S.Maria Joseph(2012-present)
·        Thomas (2005- May 2012)
·        S. Maria Joseph (June 2012 to present)
The Church celebrates the Easter Day, New Year and the eve of Christmas in a grand manner.
Mass Timings
·        Monday to Thursday: 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening
·        Friday and Saturday: at 6 in the morning and 5:30 in the evening
·        Sunday: 5:30 to 7:30 in the morning and 5:15 in the evening
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
132, Subbiah Salai,
Pondicherry – 605001
Phone: +91 – 413 – 2228916 / 2225559
Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located just opposite to Pondicherry Railway Station and located at about 2.5 Kms from Pondicherry Bus Stand. Take a Bus on Gorimedu Route and get down at Old Bus Stand. Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is located 500 meters from this Stop. Autos are also available from Bus Stand.

Ambedkar Manimandapam, Pondicherry

Ambedkar Manimandapam, Pondicherry
Ambedkar Manimandapam is located on the Beach Road, Pondicherry built in remembrance of the Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (April 14, 1891 — December 6, 1956), also known as Babasaheb, was an Indian nationalist, jurist, Dalit, political leader, activist, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, revolutionary and the revivalist of Buddhism in India. Born into a poor Untouchable family, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna. As independent India's first law minister, he was the principal architect of the Constitution of India.

In 1956 he converted to Buddhism, initiating mass conversions of Dalits. He has been given the degree of Bodhisattva by Indian Buddhist Bhikkues. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 1990. Ambedkar Manimandapam is located on the Beach Road. It is located at a distance of about 3 Kms from Bus Stand. Take a Gorimedu bound Bus from Bus Stand and get down at Government Hospital (GH) Stop. Ambedkar Manimandapam is just 500 meters from this Stop. From Railway Station take an auto to reach this place.

Aayi Mandapam (Park Monument), Pondicherry

Aayi Mandapam (Park Monument), Pondicherry
Aayi Mandapam (Park Monument) is a white monument in Pondicherry, India built during the time of Napoleon IIIEmperor of France. It is situated in center of Bharathi Park. The monument commemorates the provision of water to the French city during his reign. It was named after a lady courtesan called Aayi. She destroyed her own house to erect a water reservoir to supply water for the city.

Legend has it that King Krishnadevaraya (A.D. 1509-1530), the ruler of the prosperous Vijayanagara Empire, ruled over the Deccan. His empire stretched from Karnataka to Kanyakumari. One day, the king set out from his capital at Hampi and went on a tour of his kingdom. While traveling through Pondicherry, a trading city and a sea port on the eastern coast of his empire, a beautiful building caught the king’s eye. The king looked with amazement at the building’s architecture and it carvings.

The religious king thought it was a temple. He knelt on the street and bowed down before it with folded hands. The people around looked at the king with surprise. There was a stunned silence. The young men and women were hiding behind their elders and giggling. A wise old man walked up to the king and asked him, “Your Majesty, why are you bowing down in front of a brothel?” The king looked up in horror. He caught the old man by his throat and demanded an explanation. The old man croaked, “Sire, this is a brothel. It is run by a prostitute called Aayi”.

The king loosened his grip. The old man collapsed on the street. The embarrassed king roared with anger. He ordered his soldiers to bring the prostitute to him and tear the building down from its roots. The soldiers got hammers and axes and started demolishing the brothel. The prostitute, Aayi, was brought to the king in chains. She fell on the king’s feet and asked for mercy. She begged the king to spare the house, but the king’s ego was deeply bruised. He did not listen to her.

Aayi, in a desperate plea, asked the king, the permission to break down the house herself. The king agreed. The prostitute broke down her beautiful house and in its place dug a water tank for the people around. The place was known as Aayi Kulam in her memory. Aayi Kulam is located at about 5 Kms from Pondicherry.

Years later, the French made Pondicherry their capital in India. The French town on the sea shore faced an acute water shortage. All the wells they dug had only salty water. The French King, Napolean III, sent an architect, Monsieur Lamairesse to sort out the problem. Lamairesse stumbled upon the pond constructed by Aayi in Muthurayarpalayam. The architect built a 5 km long tunnel from Aayi Kulam to a park in the French part of the town. The French king heard about the story behind the water tank was deeply impressed. He ordered the architect to build a monument for Aayi. The monument was built in French architectural style at the center of the park.

The Governor of Pondicherry sent a letter to the French king thanking him for sending the architect, Mon. Lamairesse. The King told him to thank Aayi and wrote that she deserved a monument. The structure was envisaged by Spinasse in 1820 and built by Louis Gurre in 1854. However, water came to the fountain only in 1862. This tank, later, served the purpose of providing drinking water to the entire city during the French regime.

Aayi Mandapam, a 162-year-old heritage monument located at Bharathi Park in the center of the Boulevard. Aayi Mandapam is a Greco-Roman styled memorial monument built by the French Architect Louis Gurre following the order of French King, Napolean III to commemorate the life of Aayi, a prostitute who lived during the period of the Vijayanagara ruler King Krishnadevaraya. This gleaning white structure in the heart of the present Bharathi Park was built during the second French empire.

On top of the monument is a stylized lily used as an emblem or as a decorative element by the architect to emphasize the beauty of the monument by placing it on top of the round tomb. The structure stands on 16 columns from each side. Aayi Mandapam is an ornate masonry pavilion with domed roof was constructed during the second French empire to house a water fountain. The water fountain located in the middle of the imposing structure has also become defunct.

The four openings in the monument are flanked by fluted circular twin columns and crowned with pediments. One of the pediments features Aayi with a pot. It is flanked by important buildings like the French consulate, the secretariat and the Governor’s Residence Raj Bhavan. A stone plaque written in traditional Tamil and Latin pays tribute to Aayi’s deed and thanks her for providing water for the people of the town. The historic monument has been made the official emblem of the Union Territory.

Aayi Mandapam is located at the center of Bharathi Park. This is located very near to the Beach Front. It is located at a distance of about 3 Kms from Bus Stand. Take a Gorimedu bound Bus from Bus Stand and get down at JN Street Stop. Aayi Mandapam is just 500 meters from this Stop. From Railway Station take an auto to reach this place.