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Digging deep into the history of the French town, J B P More turns tour guide

Did you know that Arab navigator Sulaiman al Mahri called Pondicherry Bandikari in the late 15th century? J B P More’s book, From Arikamedu to the Foundation of Modern Pondicherry, has nuggets  like this  on the French town. The  Paris-based   historian explains that this was after the Nayak of Senji, Muthu Krishnappa, allowed the Portuguese to set up a godown for trade. Goods were transported by bullock carts, known as ‘vandi’ in Tamil. As a result, a chery or market had come up in the area, which became known as Vandichery. In Telugu, it became ‘bandi’ and therefore ‘Bandicheri’. Over the course of time, Vandicherry and Bandicheri became Pandichery, for the Tamils who were predominant in the area. The historian and teacher, who moved to France for his higher education, is working on the sequel to the book. Last week, he also launched another book, Origin and Foundation of Madras. He has others, Rise and Fall of the Dravidian Justice Party and a biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, coming up. We got him to highlight four heritage spots in Pondicherry.

100 and beyond
No matter the name change, even 100 years later, Pondicherry will be known for its Ashram in the name Sri Aurobindo, and the enduring French presence in some form or the other. To soak up some heritage flavour, More suggests the coastal and seasonal
market of Arikamedu, the Villianur temple and the Kakayanthope Buddha statue.

-Mrinalini Sundar

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