CULTURE IS THE ART OF LIVINGPondicherry is not only home to people from different parts of the state of Tamilnadu as well as people who come from far- off other countries, but mostly the aboriginal people are of Tamil origin. Even after the French people had left the place half a century back still their influence is highly reflected in various cultural and ethnic factors. The local policemen of Pondicherry follow the French and wear the red kepi. The graph of Pondicherry shows a record of comparative growth in the total population which varies between zero to six years of age and ratio of literate people to the total inhabitants of the Union Territory. When it comes to the culture of the people it is very clearly evident that the people follow their life style like those from any part of the southern states of India. The origin or the ethnicity of the majority of people in Pondicherry is Dravidian. The culture of Pondicherry can be best expressed as comprising the following :
ORIGIN AND ETHNICITYIt is believed that these people are the original dwellers of the subcontinent of India. There are records and history which say that these people were forced back to the Indian Peninsula by the Aryans which is calculated to be at least thousand years before Christ. Physical traits state that the complexion of the people of Pondicherry is similar to those in other parts of the southern states. The people speak Dravidian languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. French is also spoken widely. The religion and the community of the people is a blend for it is inhabited by people from round the world seeking the same goal and having the same paths to achieve those goals.Atleast 80% of the population living here are literate which is a vital indicator showing the positive growth of the people of Pondicherry. The population also includes of those who put down roots in Pondicherry for they are very attracted by the Aurobindo Ashram. Many of the locals born during French rule opted for French citizenship and continue to have close ties with France sending their children there for education and employment.
CULTUREThe people of Pondicherry are multi-national and multi-ethnic by nature and thus have a cosmopolitan culture but still they have a strong hold to the native tradition of the region. One of the characteristic feature native to the territory of Pondicherry is that they have a diverse culture and thus resulting in a secular attitude. When it comes to the music and the dances of the people of Pondicherry it is a very visible picture of the extension of the southern styles of classical music and dance. The classical music mainly follows the southern style of Carnatic and the dance forms include Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi. Despite its French character, Pondicherry is a perfect example of Indian culture.
All the festivals are celebrated with great excitement and enthusiasm by the people of Pondicherry like elsewhere in the country. The month of March witnesses the festival of Mascarade or the Mask Festival where the people parade on the streets merry making and it is more like the French version of Holi in North India. Masimagam is another major festival celebrated by the people of Pondicherry in February-March, during which the idols from various neighborhood temples are taken out for immersion in the sea. The people line up in the seafront and witness the spectacle. Apart from the celebration of the Independence Day on 15th August, the people of Pondicherry also celebrate Sri Aurobindo's Birth Anniversary on 15th of August. On this day, devotees queue up at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for paying homage to the great soul. The Aurobindo Ashram is also the ground for the International Yoga Festival which is celebrated every year in the months of March-April. Indo-French war pageantry is presented on the eve of Bastille Day, a French commemoration. Once in every three years the people of Pondicherry celebrate the Sani Peyarchi Festival and the Panguni Uthiram in the months of March-April every year.
CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONSOne of the most ancient and rich traditions in the world is that of the Tamilians and this is also followed by the people of Pondicherry. The traditions are part their life and they also strictly adhere to it, which includes lot of rituals and ceremonies. These rich traditions of the people of Pondicherry which are deep- rooted are supposed to be quite old and have evolved over many centuries. The tradition of drawing figures at the doorstep called the "Kolam" is supposed to be a unique culture followed by the Tamils. They believe that the closed continuous figures of the kolam depicts the never ending cycle of birth and death. Also it is believed that the rangoli separates the inner and outer world guarding the household and also gives a warm welcome to the guests. As a practice of thanking the god for the birth of a child, when the child is nearly a year old, the custom of donating the child's first hair to their god deity is celebrated as a grand and happy ceremony. Attaining of puberty by girls is also celebrated as a major ceremony. Marriage is a sacrament and occupies an important place in the life of the people. The system of wearing the 'thali' or the sacred thread worn by the bride is indigenous to the southern part of the country which was incorporated by the Brahmans into their ritualistic pattern. The belief of marriage here is considered as great honour and is celebrated as a big occasion. Each community follows their own customs and tradition specific to their caste and sub caste. Another important tradition in marriage is that, it is usually confined to eligible spouse within the caste or community. Traditions of these people are also attached to various other factors like that any dealings of the cash in the morning is supposed to be very auspicious and it is dealt with great reverence and solemnity. According to their tradition, the maternal uncle of the family plays a major role as the master of the ceremony at the time of family functions.
COSTUMESThe costume of the people of Pondicherry is more like those of the Tamilians in Tamil Nadu only for that of the Policemen whose costume differs. The people of Pondicherry wear traditional Indian dresses which include pants and shirts for men and women prefer wearing saris, long skirts and blouses. On special occasions men also wear silk dhotis like the women opt for silk saris. Otherwise all the western outfits are used by the people of Pondicherry.
ART AND CRAFTSThe people of Pondicherry exhibit both traditional and contemporary art and crafts. But however some are original to this area and use local materials in long-established ways. 'Puducheri bommai' is one of the most traditional handmade crafted dolls which is famous across the country and is made of terracotta, papier-mache and plaster. The people of Pondicherry are famous for their old craft of casting of bronze which dates back to the 8th century AD. There are lot of craft work in which we can see the influence of the early Frenchmen. The people are experts in mat weaving, 'korai' mats especially from a particular kind of grass present here locally.
The contemporary crafts of Pondicherry owe much to the ethos and philosophy of the Aurobindo Ashram. From the Ashram come such ecologically sound crafts as handmade paper, rice paper, incense sticks, candles, hand-woven cotton textiles, hand embroidered and painted fabrics, crochet, macrame bags, wall hangings and mats, wooden furniture, paper lamps, perfumes, rose water, cosmetics and herbal beauty products. The people are also noted for their traditional designs of handloom cloths with hand printed designs on it.
-Both in vegetarian and non vegetarian the people of Pondicherry follow the Tamil cuisine. Added to the feature of the Tamilian cooking which distinguishes it from the rest is tempering which involves heating a little oil to which small amounts of mustard seeds and curry leaves are added. The Tamil people are accustomed to good food whether vegetarian or non vegetarian. The non vegetarians take mutton, turtle, fish, venison and flesh of the hare. The Chettinadu recipe is one of the food items in Tamil Nadu which tops the list and makes the foreigners coming here to smack their lips. Sambhar is an unavoidable dish of the Tamils which is a must for either one of the meal in a day. Rice is a staple food of Tamil Nadu. Traditional cookware enjoys pride of place in the food of Tamilains with very good reasons. Iron vessels like karhais help to increase the level of iron in the food. Serving food in a plantain leaf especially for the guests is a traditional practice which is still followed. Also being influenced by the French culture and being visited by French people frequently the cuisine of Pondicherry includes dishes like French baguettes, brioches and pastries.
The major occupation of the people of Pondicherry is agriculture and nearly 45% of the total population of Pondicherry depends on farming and other related activities. Some of the main crops grown by the people are sugarcane, cotton, groundnuts, coconuts, areca nuts, pulses, chilies and condiments. Another main source of income or the people of Pondicherry are milk production. The rate of literacy in Pondicherry shows that there is well trained and highly qualified IT professionals as well.
FAMOUS PERSONALITIESSri Aurobindo and Subramanya Bharathy -who took part in the Indian independence movement.
M. Night Shyamalan -American film director born in Mahe, Pondicherry .
Abhishiktananda -French Benedictine monk.
Andre Beteille -Indian sociologist.