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Pondicherry - A Fusion of French and Tamil Culture

Known as the French Riviera of the East, the Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry, a former French colony, is unique for the sheer number of influences that have shaped its culture. The French were the undisputed masters of this region for centuries, but the Danes, the English, the Portuguese and the Dutch all stopped by, giving rise to a heady mix of European flavors allied with the local Tamil culture. There is strong evidence that the Romans came to Pondicherry for trade in the 1st century AD. The venerated sage Agasthya established his ashram here, leading to the town being named as Agastiswararm. After the 8 the century AD, Pondicherry passed hands into various dynasties of Southern India including the Cholas, the Pandyas as well as Muslim rulers of the North before finally ending up as part of the territory of the Sultan of Bijapur. In 1497, the first Europeans set foot on Pondy soil in the form of the Portuguese who set up a trading post in the 1600s. The Danes and the Dutch followed before the French period of Pondicherry began in 1673. After a scuffle with the Danes, the French regained control of the area and 1699 and proceeded to establish it as a well planned and rich town. When the rest of India gained independence in 1947, Pondy still lay in French hands. Merger with India would not come till 1954 when the French ceded control although a formal treaty enforcing the cession was signed only in 1963. That year, Pondicherry officially became a Union Territory of India. Today, this former bastion of the French empire in India is a site of spiritual pilgrimage, the focal point of which is the Aurobindo Ashram.

Abode of the Gods - Puri

There were 4 deeply revered monasteries instituted by the venerated sage Shankaracharya in the 7th century, one in every cardinal point of the country - Joshimath in the north, Sringeri in the south, Dwarka in the west, and Puri in the east. Among these, Puri is arguably the one which has the most to offer by way of pilgrimage, architecture, culture as well as stunning physical beauty.

Situated along the coast, and naturally beautiful, Puri has a recorded history that dates back right up to the third century BC. Grand edifices, monuments, ancient places of worship, and antique remnants from eras past make Puri worth visiting for more than mere devotional offering. Even avid bird watchers throng to the breathtaking Chilkha lake for a sighting of migratory birds. You’d be mesmerized by an Odissi dance performance, a traditional temple dance born of the Devadasi tradition. There are patta paintings and appliqué mementos to be shopped for, and millions of pictures to be taken.

Peace, Pride and Plenty – Pune

Pune - city of the legendary (and controversial) Osho Ashram where people from far flung corners of the world come together to learn yoga, meditate and slip into an alternative way of living; known as the Oxford of the East for being this university hub crowded with high profile colleges and educational institutions;

Maniacal Mumbai – Order in Chaos

Landing for the first time in Mumbai, most people usually experience a mild shock by the weather, the sheer rush of humanity and the noise. But once you get over the initial experience, you find that the city tends to grow on you. The millions of people hurrying past you will stop to offer help to fellow in need and disappear just as soon. There is order in the seemingly chaotic city which is the only reason that over 12 million people live in relative harmony in such limited spaces.

Big Buzz Bangalore

Bangalore is India's 5th largest city- the girth and gallop of its industrial and commercial growth unrivalled in India. The city houses over ten thousand industries and owes its indomitable spirit of enterprise to the two Dewans M. Vishveshwaraya and Seshadri Iyer. In the early years of the 20th century when the country’s need for industrialization was not a conscious thought, Dewan Vishveshwaraya engineer turned statesman along with Seshadri Iyer credited in his time for having developed the Mysore State, played the roles of veritable pathfinders in Bangalore’s journey to the dynamic and versatile zone of industrial progress it occupies today.

Hyderabad – Celluloid Heaven, Cyber Paradise

In Hyderabad, as indeed in all of Andhra Pradesh, there is no such thing as an unsuccessful movie. People here are so movie crazy that some of them would even forego a meal to watch one. The stars are demi-gods, movie halls their temples, and indeed every wall on every street a canvas on which to splash the most colourful movie posters imaginable! Passion is the operative word to describe almost everything the people here involve themselves in. A pickle made here will not be content being a mere pickle; it will be simply the most tongue-tingling, pungent and unforgettable one. An affluent home will not stop short of sheer opulence; a wedding will happen over not one but often 3 whole days; a movie facility will not be less than 2000 acres vast and will go the entire distance; the names of people will easily and commonly contain over 45 letters, and so on and so forth!
Ernakulam is ostensibly the most progressive city in Kerala state boasting hundred percent literacy. Legend will have you believe that that the reason for its prosperity is because the gaze of a much revered goddess Pazhyannur Bhagavathi is fixed on the city, unwavering. The city lends its name to the greater district of Ernakulam synonymous to what is popularly known as Kochi.

“We Also Produce Tea” - Darjeeling

There was a time when every newly-wed couple in a Bollywood movie honeymooned in Darjeeling (the other favourite being Switzerland!). Before that, there was a time when the colonial British raced in droves to Darjeeling to escape the blistering summers in the Indian plains.

The name Darjeeling derives its origin from 2 words - Dorje meaning thunderbolt and ling meaning land, roughly therefore translating to “Land of the thunderbolt”.
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