From hand-spun towels to vibrant saris, Pondicherry (Puducherry) offers more than just Franco-Tamil architecture to the traveller, thanks to its thriving local industries. Dhara Vora picks the best buys for the shopper with a heart
Hand-spun towels placed in a traditional display case at the Ashram Weaving Department, Pondicherry. Pic/Dhara Vora
Cluny Embroidery Centre, housed in a picturesque heritage building was built in 1774 and is one of the few 18th century buildings in fine condition. The centre is run by Sr Stella, and Sr Augusta who tell us that they employ women who come from lesser-privileged backgrounds. The women create beautiful thread embroidered pieces such as napkins, bed spreads and cloth pieces that can be framed. They use encyclopaedias on plants and birds as picture sources for their embroideries.
Timings: 9 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm. Shut on Sunday and Monday
At: 46, Romain Rolland Street, opposite Hotel De L’Orient.
Call: (413) 2335668
The Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory lets you have a look at their paper-making process and shop for their products too. They produce fancy handmade papers that can be used for gift wrapping and crafts, papers for origami and drawing, and paper products such as envelopes, jewellery, diaries and sketchbooks.
Timings: 8.30 am to 12 pm and 1.30 pm to 5 pm
At: 44, SV Patel Salai.
Call: (413) 2234763
Pondicherry with its bohemian handcrafted options is a must-visit for footwear hoarders like us. The crochet shoes by Ganesh Beads would make Carrie Bradshaw go weak, thanks to its colour combinations. These are available without the tie-ups too. Also checkout silk tube sandals, and leather shoes for kids at the stores at Auroville and Kalki outlets.
Log on to: www.crochetshoes.in
According to their website, hand-weaving began at the Aurobindo Ashram in 1940 and products such as bed sheets, bed covers, napkins and towels were made available for visitors since 1954. The simple cotton hand towels costing as less as `30 are a must-buy.
Timings: 8 am to 11 am and 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm
At: 44, SV Patel Salai.
Outside the Manakula Vinayagar Temple is a stall selling pooja products. What stands out here are paper-made masks of Hindu deity Ganapati made by the owner’s family. They also stock masks that are placed outside one’s home or property (we spotted them on trucks too!) to ward of the evil eye. The temple has been a part of Pondicherry even before the French landed there, i.e. pre-1666.
Log on to: www.manakulavinayagartemple.com
If you’re in the mood to splurge, visit boutiques such as Amethyst and Via Pondichéry on Romain Rolland Street that house fashion and home decor products from across India.
Visit Auroshikha near the Aurobindo Ashram that is a haven for incense sticks and other fragrance-based products.
We picked up perfumed oils and sachets for our wardrobe. Maroma, another fragrance-based brand has its products stocked at Kalki outlets and offers a wide range of natural fragranced products.