A "French" Street in Puducherry

The discrete charms of colonial India

19th century India was a colony to some influential European countries. From the French colony in Pondicherry to the Anglo-Indian colony in McCluskiegunj, Jharkhand, the culture, cuisine and language of those colonizers live on long after they have left.

Firstly, take a look at the very “differently” named town of McCluskiegunj, which is one of the most eminent Anglo-Indian colonies of Eastern India. A nondescript little train station leads to the town which is located just 40  miles northwest of the state Capital Ranchi. The town was founded by one Ernest Timothy McCluskie in 1932 and soon became home to more than 400 Anglo-Indian families. However, of the 400 original settlers only 30 remain as most of the Anglo-Indian families left right after World War II. The old abandoned mansions have now been converted to beautiful guest-houses for tourists. One of the most amazing places to visit is the cluster of a temple, a mosque and a gurudwara that had been established as a symbol of the brotherhood of India. The Dugadugi river is also a tourist spot which makes for a cosy picnic spot on a balmy Sunday morning in December.

 

The Mosque-Temple at McCluskiegunj
The Mosque-Temple at McCluskiegunj

 

Cut to south-east India, to the beautiful union-territory of “Puducherry”. The older part of the former French colony is peaceful, serene, clean and and lined with mustard-yellow French-style villas. Puducherry was under the French rule till 1954 and the old part of town boasts of French restaurants, hotels and lifestyle shops which provides one with a brief passage to France, itself. Puducherry’s value as a tourist spot lies in it’s wonderfully relaxed lifestyle and it’s authentic, never-seen-before, distinctive French vibe. The part of the tranquility stems from the presence of the internationally famed Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville. People from all over the world visit the ashram to imbibe it’s spirituality and calmness in themselves.

 

A French-style Hotel in Puducherry
A French-style Hotel in Puducherry

Goa comes next in the list, having been a Portuguese colony for centuries. The Portuguese established their dominion over Goa as early as 1510 and did not completely leave till 1961. The Portuguese influence on the union-territory’s culture and lifestyle is more apparent than any other colonizer’s anywhere else in India. The population mainly comprises of Roman Catholics and Hindus, and the distinctive Goan culture is shaped by these two sub-groups. The Goans are easy going, and shopkeepers take their siesta breaks very seriously- you wouldn’t find a shop open from late noon till early evening. Goa’s heart is in its villages and of course its churches and mansions  which are completely inspired by the Portuguese style of architecture. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the places to visit in old Goa. It is one of the few instances of “Baroque Architecture” in the sub-continent. Best time to visit Goa is around mid-November till February.

 

Inside the Basilica of Bom Jesus
Inside the Basilica of Bom Jesus

Foreign traditional culture is palpable in various places in the subcontinent. All these not only impart a very distinctive character to our country but also showcases it for what it truly is: a land of diversity!

 

Image Courtesy: Featured Image: Flickr

McCluskiegunj: mccluskiegunjrocks.blogspot.com

Puducherry: Flickr

Goa: Flickr

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