Known as the 'French Riviera of the East', Pondicherry history has a mix of both Hindu kingdoms and European rule. If you think that the French were the first European connection to have linked with the city, then know that this is not the case. The history of Pondicherry takes you back to the first century. Historians and archeologist suggest that the city had long established trade routes that connected to Rome and the region close to the city of Pondicherry. With a distinction of being a flourishing trading center, Pondicherry was the most sought-after region after by several monarchs. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Vijayanagar Emperors contributed to the growth and development of the place in the fields of art, culture and economics. Like few selected regions in the continent, Pondicherry escaped from the autocratic rule of the Muslim rulers. By mid 1600's, Pondicherry was dominated by the French, the Dutch and the English officials, each trying to outclass themselves in the rat-race only to emerge as the leaders on the commercial front in the Indian trade. Towards the 18th century, the French refused to cower down by the powerful British army despite being overpowered several times. Several years after India's independence, Pondicherry merged with India and later became a union territory. Scroll down to know more about the history of Pondicherry.
According to the fable circulated by the local inhabitants, the place was visited by a powerful erudite known as Agastya who founded an ashram known as Agastiswaram. The writings on the Vedhapuriswara shrine also indicate that the belief of the local people was not altogether untrue. The excavations in the year 1940 that took place in Arikamedu close to the city is said to shed light on a different perspective to Pondicherry's history. The wide variety of ceramic artifacts found in the region bears the impressions of Roman designs that only go to show that the place was possible trading post through which goods were imported from Rome. In the following centuries, the place came under the dominance of several powerful Tamil dynasties that played a dominating factor in giving the city a local language, literature, beliefs and culture of its own.
The impact of the European rule in Pondicherry changed the political and cultural scenario in the district. In 1674, when the French invaded the place, the town became a French colony in India. The enormous profits from this trading route attracted other European settlers like the Dutch and the British to the region. As a result, the area soon became overpopulated by several foreign officials with each desperately wanting a sizeable share from the benefits of trade in India. This led to a fall out in the region that later ended in a combat among the European countries. The period from 1693-1793 witnessed a frequent change in the reigning supremacy in the province. Towards the second half of 1850, when the English rulers had become the undisputed rulers in the sub-continent, they decided to let the French retain Pondicherry under their rule. After the British and French agreed for an armistice in the region, Pondicherry went on to be ruled under the governance of the French East Indian Company till the year 1954.
In spite of India gaining independence from the British in the year 1947, the city of Pondicherry remained under the hands of the French command. The campaigning against the anti-French rule started right from the year 1857. Over the years, the protest took different forms such as the trade union strife, anti-French movements caused by students, party workers of Indian Congress and a monthly periodical known as 'Swatantram' that also supported and joined the rally against the French. Despite all these efforts, India continued to remain unsuccessful in merging the French boundaries to Republic India. In 1954, the Indian Government was determined to settle matters with the French Government by holding several ongoing negotiations and meetings. It was only in the year 1956 did India see positive signs of its former efforts of its dealings with the French foreign dignitaries. The country went on to sign a cession contract in the same year. Although the cession truce was signed before, it was only in 1962 was the treaty validated and France relinquished complete and absolute autonomy of its Indian occupied territories. On July 1, 1963, other districts close to the city such as Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam merged with the city of Pondicherry and eventually the province became a union territory. Until recently, the city was referred as Pondicherry. However, in 2006 the name of the territory underwent a change based on linguistic lines. Henceforth Pondicherry was renamed as 'Puducherry', which deciphers as a 'new village' in Tamil.