With its flowery, fresh, green, softly exotic fragrance, the Pondichéry candle pays homage to one of France’s liveliest trading posts in India.
The history of French Pondicherry began in 1673 when a French soldier bought a tiny fishing village for the Compagnie Française des Indes. Twelve years later, François Martin, director of the Coromandel coast, founded the French trading post Pondicherry to satisfy Louis XIV’s passion for conquests. His development of trade, construction of buildings and setting up of a complete administration helped prepare the trading post’s prosperous future. Over the years, the city was transformed as tiled brick houses replaced the fragile wood and clay peasant dwellings, hotels and churches rose on the lush green coastline, the port expanded, businessmen made their fortunes and goods flourished. Textiles, fruit, precious stones, wood, exotic animals and spices were traded every day in the beautiful white city.
But this prodigious expansion worried the English who became jealous. Joseph-François Dupleix, the city’s governor since 1741, realized that the city had to be protected from its enemies. A defensive wall was constructed around Pondicherry and a new fort built. Unfortunately this didn’t prevent the city from falling to the British crown twice between 1793 and 1816, the year when France took it over for good.
Exhausted by these colonial conflicts, the little city never returned to its past days of glory. It was finally conceded to the Indian Union in 1956.
Today it still conserves traces of its French past. The street names and signs, old police uniforms and oldest buildings still recall Pondicherry’s colonial history.