The Pondicherry Heritage Festival strives to create and strengthen a distinct identity of belonging to Pondicherry, highlighting the essence of being Pondicherian. Through its rich architectural heritage reflecting a unique blend of Tamil and French cultures, Pondicherry remains a perennial source of pride for its residents while continually attracting visitors from all over India and the world. The immense need to conserve and celebrate Pondicherry’s architectural heritage became imperative after the 2014 collapse of the ‘Mairie,’ an iconic building on the beach promenade.A groupthen emerged called the People for Pondicherry’s Heritage, conceiving the idea of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival, which was held for the first time in 2015. It became an annual event with its celebration in 2016, and now with the third festival in February 2017.
With the wide vision of preserving and understanding the heritage of Pondicherry, the Festival has sought to restore tangible heritage by creating a platform for heritage conservation expertsfrom all over the world to meet and engage in discussion with residents. It has also celebratedPondicherry’s intangible heritage – its spiritual legacy from ancient to modern times, heritage through the written word, poetry, literature,and visual and performing arts.The crafts bazaar showcased Pondicherry’s folk crafts at the 2015 festival, and hosted various children’s activities at the 2016 festival. Attention was drawn to Pondicherry’s natural heritage through talks on the coast, wetlands, and forests of the region, an urban forest walk and a visit to see the migratory birds in one of its the wetlands in the 2016 festival.
As the Heritage Festival of 2017 draws near, it remains imperative to celebrate and strengthen pride in Pondicherry’s rich and diverse heritage. Every year, the number of people involved in this realization is expanding, with locals and tourists alike sharing and contemplating the distinctive character of Pondicherry. Creating a Pondicherry Identity is a theme worth expanding, as each workshop, lecture, and performance aims toinspire those attracted to Pondicherry to understand the history and culture of this beloved town.The collective aim is to make Pondicherry one of the Heritage Cities of the World, making it a great place for all who live here and a desired destination for visitors.
This year’s festival will focus on Bahour, one of Pondicherry’s most ancient areas dating to the Chola period. It starts with a dance drama in Bahouron the legend of two sisters, Bangari and Singari, who constructed the canal and brought water to the area. An entire morning on the last day will be spent in Bahour, walking around this area full of a rich heritage dating back a thousand years. The Crafts Bazaar will host “Made In Pondy” featuringwell-known known Pondicherry brands and live demos of traditional arts and crafts.The discussion “How the heritage of a city informs its future and forms the base of its development”will focus on understanding the need to plan the development of a city in accordance with its heritage. Intangible heritage will be celebrated through offerings of dance and music. “Kids on Roller Skates” which will announce the 2017 Heritage Festival to Pondicherians. Other festival attraction include a Magic show, a photo contest and a ‘revisit Pondicherry Photo Walk’ followed by a photo exhibition, a “Where is your Pondicherry” interactive installation, heritage walks, and more.
Celebrating Pondicherry’s architectural, cultural, natural and spiritual heritage continues to remain the vision of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival. A celebrationof our town’s unique heritage will best raise awarenessonthe need to preserve and protect it, now and for the coming generations.