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French Inde (Tour Code : IN/024) – India was an attractive proposition for Europeans and it was this fixation that led to many wars, not only between the European forces and the natives, but also between the Europeans for supremacy and control of territories. French presence in India through Établissements français dans l’Inde (meaning : French Establishments in India) was till 1954, when they eventually left their dominance in Pondicherry, Mahe (optional), Karikal, Yanaon and Chendernagore, handing over their territories to Independent India. These places till date have strong French influence, from language to food and from lifestyle to architecture. On this tour we explore these places and understand the delicate relations that French in India had, along with the challenges faced by them to coexist with the British who had brought almost all of India under the crown after 1857.
Upon arrival in Chennai, we will be met and assisted at the airport. from here we drive to Pondicherry (175 km / 4 hrs). Arrive Pondicherry and overnight at the hotel in Pondicherry.
Day 02 Pondicherry
Breakfast at the hotel and post breakfast we explore Pondicherry. The French acquired had Pondicherry in 1674 and held control, with occasional interruption from the British and Dutch, until 1954 (de jure in 1956), when it was incorporated into the Indian Union. Today we will visit large churches in Pondicherry, most of which were built in the 18th and 19th centuries. A number of heritage buildings and monuments are present around the Promenade Beach, such as the Dupleix Statue, Le Café, The French War Memorial, 19th Century Light House, Governors Palace, Romain Rolland Library, Legislative Assembly, Pondicherry Museum and the French Institute of Pondicherry at Saint-Louis Street. It sure is a revelation of sorts to visit Pondicherry and see the French influence it inherits till date. Back to hotel and overnight.
Day 03 Pondicherry
This would be yet another day to explore Pondicherry and understand its lifestyle and hoe French way of life is so very intricately woven with the native Tamil culture. Explore the cross influence of food and habits. Pedal around the streets to see the hidden quarters and talk to locals to examine the French influence. Back to hotel and overnight at the hotel.
After an early breakfast we toady take a day long excursion to Karaikal (150 km / 3 hrs) and en route visits Cuddalore – Britsh stronghold, or rather an answer to French Pondicherry. The French and English, while engaged in the Seven Years’ War, fought the naval “Battle of Cuddalore” on 29 April 1758. It was an indecisive battle between a British squadron, under Vice-Admiral George Pocock and a French squadron, under Comte d’Aché and the newly appointed Governor General Comte Thomas Lally. Cuddalore surrendered to French troops on 29 April 1758. From 1789 to 1794, there was further unrest in Cuddalore due to the War of American Independence and the Second Anglo-Mysore War culminating in the siege of Cuddalore, after which the town was returned to Britain as part of a peace treaty. In 1782, during the Second Anglo Mysore war, the French troops allied with Tipu Sultan and won over the British, after which Cuddalore became a chief port against the French. In 1783, General James Stuart (1735-93) led his troops to fend off French troops. There were five different naval actions off the coast during the same year, all of which were indecisive. Continuing our drive further we will reach Karaikal. On 14th February 1739 the French took possession of Karaikal town, the fort of Karakalcheri and eight dependent villages. The villages so received included Kilaiyur, Melaiyur, Puduthurai, Kovilpathu and Tirumalairayanpattinam. Pratap Singh, who succeeded the throne assigned eight more villages to the French, Codague (Kondagai),Vanjivur, Arimullimangalam, Niravi, Dharmapuram, Uzhiapathu, Mattakudi (probably Mathalangudi) and Polagam. The same year he pledged Thirunallar Mahanam to the French and also pledged 33 more villages to them in security of the loan that the French extended to the King. By a treaty signed on 12 January 1750 Pratap Singh ceded to the French 81 villages around Karaikal. This was all the territory the French possessed around Thanjavur when they surrendered to the British in 1761. The territory then passed twice to British control before it was finally handed over to the French in 1816/1817 under the Treaty of Paris, 1814. We explore this area and for a night we will stay at the hotel in Karaikal.
Day 05 Karaikal / Chennai
This morning after an early breakfast we will drive to Chennai, of course back again via Pondicherry (300 km / 6 hrs). Upon arrival in Chennai , check-in at the hotel and later we have an option to explore a bit of the city or relax at our hotel in Chennai for this night. Overnight at the hotel in Chennai.
(As a diversion we can also cover Mahe, another strong hold of the French in Malabar. This will involve 02 extra days. Fly from Chennai to Calicut and then drive further (65 km / 1.5 hrs) to Mahe. We would be happy to include this place in the Malabar and may be off this theme you may take a bit of Kerela – 3-5 nights exclusively in Kerela may serve well)
We take a morning flight out of Chennai to Vishakhapatnam and then drive to Kakinada (160 km / 3 hrs). Arrive Kainada by lunch and post lunch we will further drive to Yanaon (35 km / 45 min from Kakinada). Explore this French municipality. During French rule, the Tuesday market (mangalavaram santa) at Yanam was popular among Telugu people in the Madras Presidency, who visited Yanam to buy foreign and smuggled goods during Yanam People’s Festival, which is held in January. Also, after implementation of the Sarda Act in British India in 1929, many Andhra people came to Yanam to conduct child marriages, which remained legal under the French administration. Yanaon was primarily a Dutch colony prior to French takeover in the 1720s. ‘Neelikundilu’ (indigo wells) are still found in the west of Yanam. The Dutch built a fort, which they used to store their currency, minted in nearby Neelapalli. The location of the fort is today referred to by locals as ‘saali kota’. After the Dutch, the building was taken over by cloth weavers. The region of Yanoan was presented to the French general, Marquis de Bussy by the Vizianagaram King as a token of gratitude for the help rendered by him in his fight against the rulers of Bobbili. There still remains a street named after Bussy in Yanam. And return to the hotel in Kakinada by dinner. Overnight at the hotel in Kakinada.
Day 07 Kakinada (Yanaon) / Vishakhapatnam
We will have some time this morning again today till lunch to explore Yanaon, while post lunch we will drive back to Vishakhapatnam for one night stay in transit to Calcutta. Overnight at our hotel in Vishakapatnam.
Post early breakfast, we fly from Vishakhapatnam to Calcutta and then further drive to Chandernagore (60 km / 1.5 hrs). Arrive Chandernagore and check-in at the hotel. Later afternoon explore Chandernagore that was established as a French colony in 1673, when the French obtained permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal, to establish a trading post on the right bank of the Hughli River. Bengal was then a province of the Mughal Empire. It became a permanent French settlement in 1688, and in 1730 Joseph François Dupleix was appointed governor of the city, during whose administration more than two thousand brick houses were erected in the town and a considerable maritime trade was carried on. For a time, Chandannagar was the main center for European commerce in Bengal. In 1756 war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Colonel Robert Clive of the British East India Company and Admiral Charles Watson of the British Navy bombarded and captured Chandannagar on 23 March 1757. The town’s fortifications and many houses were demolished thereafter, and Chandannagar’s importance as a commercial center was eclipsed by that of Calcutta just downriver. Chandernagore was restored to the French in 1763, but retaken by the British in 1794 in the Napoleonic Wars. The city was returned to France in 1816. It was governed as part of French India until 1950, under the political control of the governor-general in Pondicherry. Evening we return to our hotel and overnight.
Day 09 Chandernagore
Breakfast at the hotel and post breakfast we have yet another day to explore Chandernagore. Visit Institut de Chandernagor, this is one of the oldest museums of the region. It boasts a collection of French antiques (like cannons used in Anglo-French war, wooden furniture of 18th century, etc.) which are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The institute still teaches French through regular classes. Also visit l’Eglise du Sacré Cœur or the Sacred Heart Church of Chandannagar that was built on 1691 and designed by French Architect Mr. Jacques Duchatz. The church stands for over two centuries to mark the beauty of the architecture during the French period. The remains of the Church of St. Louis are also quite interesting. Apart from this we will also visit many other French buildings and abodes, a few houses and entertainment centers are quite a treat. Back to hotel and overnight.
Day 10 Chandernagore / Calcutta / Home
This morning we will drive back to Calcutta in time to connect our international flight back home or may be extend a day or two in Calcutta to experience the British imperialism.
We stay in a old French Bungalow/Mansion in Pondicherry now converted to a hotel and in Karaikal.
In Pondicherry we experience the French-Indian fusion cuisine with cooking demonstration.