From Auroville Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Emanuele Pondicherry temple N&N 912.jpg
Sri Aurobindo Ashram 1949.jpg
Jayantilal Parekh - Pondicherry coast.jpg

Nolini Kanta Gupta, “Pondicherry”
in Reminiscences

Nolini Reminiscences - Pondicherry.jpg
PDF (12 pages)

(Sri Aurobindo, 1947:) “The links with French culture will be retained and enlarged but also, inevitably a much larger place will be given to our own Indian culture. It is to be hoped this autonomous French India will become a powerful centre of intellectual development and interchange and meeting place of European and Asiatic culture and [a] spiritual factor of the world unification which is making its tentative beginning as the most important tendency of the present day. Thus French India will retain its individuality and historical development but will at the same time proceed towards a larger future.”[1]

(Giselaine Monnier, 1972:) “We shall now touch on the second arrival of the Europeans at Pondicherry, the first having been that of the Roman traders 2000 years ago.
         The French were not the earliest settlers there in modern times. The Portuguese who knew the Cape route to India had founded three trading stations on the Malabar Coast: at Calicut, Cannanore and Cochin. Then, in 1505 they opened up another trading post at Ceylon, and several along the Coromandel Coast, such as at San Thorne, Negapatam, Pondicherry, Tranquebar, etc.
         Pondicherry at that time belonged to the Gingy Prince Moothu Krishnappa Naick, and expelled the Portuguese from Pondicherry in 1614; he offered the Pondicherry trading post to the Dutch instead, but the Dutch left Pondicherry for Tevannapatanam near Cuddalore. As the trading station was again empty, the Gingy Naick gave it to the Danes in 1624.
         But they were not interested in remaining in Pondicherry for the purpose of trade, and as the French were at Surate, the Gingy ruler offered it to the French. The trading station was a huge building, having more the appearance of a fortress. Such an appearance was necessary to discourage the Maratha incursions.
         At the outset, the French remained in Pondicherry only long enough to make their purchases of goods; but, with the arrival of François Martin, they settled permanently in 1673.
         François Martin, however, was made prisoner by the Dutch who sent him with his family to Batavia, and they took Pondicherry. After slow and tedious negotiations, Pondicherry was returned to François Martin by the Dutch who also gave him some surrounding villages in 1699.
         Trade was flourishing, but the Maratha incursions were becoming frequent, and it was found necessary to build a fort.
         In 1703, the Jesuits opened at Pondicherry a college where Latin, philosophy and theology were taught; students came from Bengal, Madras, the Philippines, Surate, Persia, Paris and London.
         François Martin died in 1706. Under his guidance, Pondicherry town had improved considerably and the trade had been good.
         Many governors succeeded François Martin; then came Governor Dupleix.
         Joseph François Dupleix came to Pondicherry from Chandernagore. The French had a settlement there and Dupleix had in ten years of good management brought it up to its best. It was under Dupleix and by his clever and cunning politics that France became very powerful in India: her influence extended from the river Krishna to Cape Cormorin. He owned a good deal to his wife, because she had been born in India, and spoke Bengali and Tamil equally well. His counsellor and ‘dubash’ Ananda Rangapillay helped him also in no small measure.
         Under Dupleix, Pondicherry became the first city in South India, by its riches and military power, and Nawabs came often to visit the town. It was then said that Dupleix whos reputation extended from the Himalayas to Rameswaram had the knack of bringing together lions, tigers and sheep.
         Pondicherry was well fortified under Dupleix, and an inscription on a stone commemorating the building of a portion of the fort is still to be seen in the town.
         In 1751, Dupleix received from Gingy the twelve granite pillars, which now adorn the entrance to the old pier around Gandhiji's statue, but were intended to decorate the gardens of the palace that was being built for him as the Governor.
         Dupleix was recalled to France in 1754 an his departure coincided with the decline of French influence in India.
         The town began to pass through many vicissitudes, and was also totally destroyed by the British in 1761.
         The French returned in 1816 after a long absence, and went on improving the town steadily in all respects, until in 1954 Pondicherry was handed over to the Indian Government.”[2]

(Amrita:) “Sri Aurobindo's household moved from Mission Street to François Martin Street towards the end of 1913. There arose a difference of opinion among those called ‘swadeshis’ as to the necessity of this change of residence. A strong dispute started in their midst on this account. The disputation, I was told, reached Sri Aurobindo's ears.
         Why this controversy over Sri Aurobindo's change of residence? The city of Pondicherry was divided into two by a canal running north-south. The eastern side of the city was called by the people the ‘European Quarter’ whereas the western side, comprising more than three-fourths of the population, was known as the ‘Indian Quarter’. The European Quarter was mostly, we may even say totally, inhabited by the white or mixed white people. As a rule, the houses in this part of the city had in front a footpath for pedestrians and, further away, the road for vehicles. Standing on the footpath one would open the gate of a house and then get in. The houses in the Indian Quarter had commonly covered platforms in front to sit upon, but no footpath. In the ‘white town’, pedestrians would find no shelter from rain and storm. The gates remained always closed. The streets were nearly always silent. People were hardly seen walking there. Sometimes with the arrival of French steamers the shores of Pondicherry were a little busy and, in the interior either the next day or the day after, one might come across one or two peddlers carrying, on the head in baskets or big wooden boxes, perfumes, special biscuits, children's playthings, stitching threads of many kinds and colours, and other French products. These peddlers would cry out in French, “Marchandises, marchandises”, with a view to attract the attention of customers. This business was run by one or two of the French families which had settled down at Pondicherry for supplying the needs of the local French people.
         Every house had two gates — one for the inmates and the other for the pousse-pousse (push-push) carriages. The latter gate had a wide opening, a big one-leaf door or, in some places, folding doors.
         Sri Aurobindo's house in Mission Street was rented at Rs. 15/- per month whereas the rent of the house now taken was settled at Rs. 35/-. Now the great question arose: Why did Sri Aurobindo change his residence when the rent was so high? A perplexing question! Why this extravagance? The difference in rent would be sufficient to meet the needs of a whole family. …
         [In 1910<noiwiki>]</nowiki> a distinguished scholar and savant from France met Sri Aurobindo. His name was Paul Richard. When returning to France he said to Sri Aurobindo that he and Mirra – she whom we now call the Mother – could come in the year 1914. Accordingly, they sailed from France, disembarked at Dhanushkoti, took the train and reached Pondicherry on March 29, 1914 without a halt on the way.
         Now, what accounted for that change of residence to No. 37, in the François Martin Street, many thought, was the impending arrival of these two persons from France. So far as I remember it was the middle of December 1913 that the new house was first occupied.
         The ‘revolutionaries’ who had settled at Pondicherry whispered to one another that two Europeans had accepted Sri Aurobindo as Guru and would stay here. This news spread abroad and reached my ears also. One day in December 1913, as was my habit, I went to see Ramaswami Iyengar in the evening. He was downstairs on the verandah in front of his room and said that two persons from the topmost cultural circle of France were coming to Sri Aurobindo for practising yoga. They would be coming very soon. “It was a secret till now; I have disclosed it to you today,” he concluded.
         I felt very happy: European savants! they have approached a countryman of ours with reverence. My heart rejoiced to hear of it.”[3]

  1. Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p.508, “The Future Union (A Programme)”, June 1947
  2. Mother India, January 1972, “Glimpses of Historical Pondicherry” by Giselaine Monnier
  3. K. Amrita, A Pilgrimage to Sri Aurobindo, p.23

{{#ask:Entity::Pondicherry |?Year |format=broadtable |link=all |order=descending |mainlabel=Articles about Pondicherry |class=sortable wikitable smwtable }}

See also