History of Pondicherry

The ancient history of Pondicherry is associated with Saint Agasthya, the revered sage of the south. Excavations near Pondicherry have revealed the existence of a Roman settlement some 2000 years ago. It was also the site of many battles between the British, Dutch and French and was also the capital of French India.

Puducherry (or Pondicherry) was a part of the Pallava kingdom of Kanchipuram in the fourth century AD. During the next few centuries Pondicherry was continued to be under the control of several dynasties of the south. In the tenth century A.D. the Cholas of Thanjavur ruled the region for over 300 years but later on it was replaced by the Pandya Kingdom. Till 1638, Pondicherry came under various rulers like the Muslim rulers of the North; the Vijayanagar Empire and then the Sultan of Bijapur came to rule over Gingee.

The 17th century marked the beginning of colonial era in India. The French East India Company set up its trading centre at Puducherry in 1673. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India.

Dutch and British trading companies also wanted trade with India. Wars raged between these European countries and spilled over into the Indian subcontinent. The Dutch captured Pondicherry in 1693 but returned it to France by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1699.

The French acquired Mahe in the 1720s, Yanam in 1731, and Karaikal in 1738. During the Anglo-French wars (1742-1763), Pondicherry changed hands frequently. On January 16, 1761, the British captured Puducherry from the French, but the Treaty of Paris (1763) returned the city to the French. It was taken again by the British in 1793 amid the Wars of the French Revolution, but once again returned to France in 1814. When the British gained control of the whole of India in the late 1850s, they allowed the French to retain their settlements in the country. Pondicherry, Mahe, Yanam, Karaikal and Chandernagar remained a part of French India until 1954.

But after India gained her independence in 1947, an agreement between France and India in 1948 agreed to an election in France's Indian possessions to choose their political future. On 1st November 1954, Pondicherry was transferred to India. A treaty of Cessation (together with Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam) was signed on May 28, 1956. It became a Union Territory to be administered by the President of India in 1962 under the 14th Amendment of the Indian Constitution.

Once a French colony, Pondicherry still today has a few French families living there and French is an important language. The French spirit can be observed in the very layout of the township. The streets, buildings, ornamental gardens, hotels and restaurants, everywhere the French influence still persist prominently.

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