Weekend Getaway Bangalore- Pondicherry-Vellore Golden temple

Are you looking for a weekend getaway from Bangalore? Are you a fan of beaches and also looking for a spiritual touch? Here we have the perfect blend of a relaxing beach place and also a place to admire the intricate architecture of the golden temple.

Hailing from a coastal town and also having a strong fascination with architectural wonders, this 2 days trip to Pondicherry and Vellore Golden Temple was indeed a perfect weekend getaway for us.

Number of Days: 2 (Saturday-Sunday)
From: Bangalore
Route: Bangalore-Krishnagiri-Vellore-Arcot-Cheyyur-Puducherry
Stay for Both Days: Hotel Ram international
Our Drive: Toyota Etios Liva -Petrol

Majority of the places are at a walking distance from each other. Starting from Promenade Beach (also known as Rock Beach), French Colony, War Memorial, Mahatma Gandhi Statue, Old Lighthouse, famous Cafés, Pondicherry Museum and Aurobindo Ashram.

Day 1:

The excitement of holidaying in the morning dint let me sleep through the night and I sleepily snoozed off my alarm when it was 5am. Finally, after another 20 mins of a power nap, my husband and I got ready and left at 6am from Bangalore and drove towards Hosur and reached our first pitstop, Krishnagiri by 7.30am for breakfast. The Hotel Sri Krishna Inn lies opposite to large boulder hills, standing dry and un-fazed by the heat or rain. There is also McD and CCD adjacent to this hotel. You may also find Adyar Anand Bhavan too on the way. After breakfast, we headed towards Vellore at 8am. We were greeted by a long stretch of polished road and my husband dint flex his left foot for a while(driving a manual car). We now slithered through narrower roads as we reached Cheyyar with the shift from just plain roads to lush green rows of trees and lot more crowds of people and we decided to go via Tindivanam road. You can also avoid this road and choose an alternate route. The roads are rather narrow and you would find yourself caught up with traffic(not as bad as Bangalore :p). We were finally on the Puducherry road and reached our first destination of the day, Auroville by 12.30pm.At the Auroville Visitor Centre, there is sufficient parking space for buses, auto and cars. The Visitor Centre is just 2 mins walk away. Timings for the same were as mentioned below:

Mon -Sat 9.30am-12.30pm, 2pm-4pm
Sunday 9.30am-12.30pm, closed on Sunday afternoon
Car parking charge: 50 rupees

The Visitor Centre holds the exhibition of the history of Auroville and its residents. There is a museum depicting the inner architecture of the Matrimandir inside the Centre and a library, which displayed books for sale.

Matrimandir architecture 1

Matrimandir architecture 2

After a satisfying walk around the exhibits, we collected our entry passes to the Matrimandir, the Golden Globe. Matrimandir is just a pleasant untiring 20 mins walk away from the main entrance. You can also choose to cycle or reach there by shuttle service. We walked towards the Matrimandir and it was indeed a quiet, clean and peaceful place. As we neared the Matrimandir, we did behold the gem shining bright in the afternoon sun, the majestic Golden Globe.

Matrimandir close up

The golden discs all over the sphere give it the perfect symmetry. This sphere is surrounded by twelve petals. The lotus-bud shaped marble structure stores soil from 124 countries and 23 Indian states, a symbolic gesture of Aurovillean unity. The Matrimandir, and its surrounding gardens in the central Peace Area, is open to the public by appointment. The aura of the environment is the one which would be etched in our minds and heart forever. The entire village of Auroville runs on the principle of peace and harmony. It also appears to be right out of fiction. City of dawn, as it is called, proves to be the perfect escape for the ones in search of peace, a true epitome of tranquillity. Here you would find a lot of foreigners (maybe Auroville residents too) on royal Enfield and cycles. We clicked a few nice pictures in front of the Matrimandir, you cannot get too close to the artwork. After having a heartful view, we walked back to the entrance and sat down to have some cold beverage. We had hibiscus soda which is considered a special drink here. After quenching our thirst, we decided to walk around the shopping complex which was run by Auroville residents. They had good quality clothing and other accessories, but a bit on the costlier side.

Auroville Shopping centre

We left from Auroville and headed to the White Town in Pondicherry town for lunch at the infamous French Café Villa Shanti at 14 rue Suffren Street. Villa Shanti is hands down, one of the best French Café in this town. It was past 2pm. We were tired and starving and had a full lunch consisting Chicken Club Sandwich, French Fries, White sauce Penne Pasta and Tangdi kebabs. The food and atmosphere here are definitely eye-catching with the sprawling verandas and the Centre open square-shaped area with beautiful creepers on the walls and tables arranged symmetrically. The main entrance to the cafe has long flowy white curtains that hung from the roof till the floor as if it was laid down by angels from heaven. You can feel the sudden gush of excitement when you enter the Café with its perfectly French-themed ambience. Grafitti on the Cafe walls is eye-catching.

Grafitti on Cafe walls

After a happy meal, we drove towards the Bharathi Park and parked our car Infront of the park. We walked into the Pondicherry Museum which is next to the Bharathi Park. The Pondicherry Museum is a perfect blend of art and history museum with a large collection of bronze statues from the Chola period.

Pondicherry Museum

We decided to rest for a few hours as we were too full after the sumptuous lunch. We bunked at Hotel Ram International adjacent to Pothys. We missed the alarm, we had a quick change of clothes and left at 5pm by auto-rickshaw to White Town. We decided to leave our car at the Hotel Parking space. We skipped our visit to the Paradise beach, which is a beautiful isolated beach at Chennambur as we ran short of time. Almost all other places in Pondicherry were at the White Town area. We first visited the Aurobindo Ashram, which is a spiritual community run by the disciples of Aurobindo. The timings of the Ashram is as below

Open: Every day
Visiting Hours: 0800 Hours to 1200 Hours 1400 Hours to 1600 Hours
Visiting Charges: Not Applicable
Restrictions: Children below 3 years are not allowed inside the Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo had a major spiritual realization, that is when he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry. He handed over his spiritual responsibility to the spiritual collaborator, the Mother, earlier known as Mirra Alfassa. You have to maintain absolute silence once you are inside and strictly no photographs allowed. Beautifully maintained garden with exquisite flowers and clean verandas welcome you to the ashram. There is a samadhi of Aurobindo and the Mother at the centre of the courtyard where disciples and tourists can pay homage by offering flowers and praying around the samadhi. Many tourists can be seen meditating here as the atmosphere is full of spiritual bliss and peaceful bliss. We decided not to miss out any other place and left the Ashram and walked the streets to find the French colony and the French consulate, painted in yellow and white.
French Consulate

A brisk walk further down the street and we were at the art exhibitions by the tribal community and various shops with clothing and other accessories from all over the country. The other end of the exhibition was the shore of Promenade Beach(Rock Beach or Pondicherry Beach or Gandhi Beach). Known by many names, this beach is bordered by a street of the restaurant, this scenic place is the best for evening walks as you would enjoy the calm and quiet breeze caressing.

At the art exhibition

Rock Beach

This rocky beach draws crowd aplenty in the evening for the charming windy atmosphere,the tranquil and gorgeous sunset and amazing restaurants and Cafes. The Gandhi Statue, the War memorial and the old lighthouse are all on the seaside.

Gandhi Statue

We sat on the rocks till the sky turned dark blue and a few stars emerged. Holding hands and swaying them, walking with a faster pace now, we reached the Basilica of Sacred Heart Jesus Church as guided by the google maps, but we did not enter as there was a ceremony going on inside.

I checked out the list which I made for "Things to do" in Pondicherry to see our next stop. It brought a big wide smile on my face and made my tummy grumble a bit. Baker's street it was, I badly wanted to try some croissants. It was quite a long walk through the local markets to reach the bakery. Many kinds of bread and baked items and chocolates and sandwiches, everything neatly laid out. The food here was not enough after the tiring walk. Now,I did hear the tummy grumble louder and decided to try out a different Café for dinner and walked towards the Pondicherry Museum. In the same street, we found the café "1 Rue Suffren Street". It was a red carpet walk to the first floor with high ceilings and tall doors painted in bright maroon colour and walls were yellow and white. Tables laid out elegantly on the corridors, we sat inside the Café even though I wanted to enjoy the outdoor ambience, fearing mosquitoes. We had Gobi Manchurian and Chicken Ceaser salad. They have alcoholic beverages too. We thanked Pondicherry enough for the wonderful hospitality and rode back to the Hotel in auto-rickshaw.

Day 2:

After a pleasant breakfast at the hotel, we left at 7.30am from Pondicherry. Our next destination was Vellore which in enroute Bangalore. We reached Vellore by 11.30am. The primary attraction is the Sri Laxmi Narayana Golden Temple, Sripuram. After parking the car, we walked towards the entrance and the crowd was less than expected. The temple timings and Darshan details is as below

Two types of Darshan: Free Darshan and Paid Darshan -250/-
Seva Darshan :8am-8pm
Temple opens at 4am
Tickets not issued after 7 pm
Shorts and short skirts are not allowed
Photography is strictly prohibited.
Note: Best time to visit the golden temple is just before sunrise and just after sunset.

The primary attraction is the Sri Laxmi Narayana Golden Temple, Sripuram. The temple premise is a vast area, as large as 100 acres perhaps, and is situated at the foot of lush green hills. The main gopuram here is covered with pure Gold housing the deity Sri Laxmi Devi. This temple is built by the charitable trust called the Narayani Peedam, headed by the spiritual leader Sri Sakti Amma also known as Narayani Amma. You would find statues and photos of Sri Sakti Amma inside the premises. The trust also runs hospitals and schools. The temple complex is very well maintained and you have to be ready for a long walk to reach the main temple surrounded by a pond. The temple is located at the centre of a star-shaped compartment and each line on the star is 100m long and you have to walk along the star to reach the 15000kg gold carved temple, which is indeed a blessing and a divine sight to remember. The star-shaped pathways are surrounded by a beautiful garden on both sides and you would also find donation counters in the verandas. As we neared the centre, we felt the heart beating faster and louder. The sheer feeling of excitement and spirituality within the sanctum is just breathtaking. It took nearly 7 years to complete the temple and 400 goldsmiths and copper-smiths gave their sweat and blood to showcase their talent. The intricate sculpture work on the pillars and the ceilings are breathtakingly marvellous, finished with perfect panache. It is said that 70 kgs of pure gold were used to carve the main deity of the temple. Pristine pure stones of rare origin too had found a place in embellishing the divine beauty of the deity.

After the darshan, we got down from the golden temple and reached few other smaller temples of Shiva, Venkateshwara and Narasimha on the way back. The way out is also a pathway, exit only and it passes through many shops run by the trust. Once we reached back to the main entrance, we had some cold buttermilk at one of the shops. The crowd of devotees swelled considerably by now and everyone waited in line for the entry pass. It was almost 12.30pm and there was Lunch served at the temple. But we decided to carry on with our journey back home. We had lunch on the way and reached Bangalore by 3pm. How is the experience at the end of the day probably would be your question and my answer is just one word -- Superb!


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