Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
VEDAPURI, AGASTYA, AND THE ASHRAM (ANALYSIS OF A LEGEND)
The Bahur Plates
Extract from the Sanskrit text. (The text followed is that of Professor E. Hultzsch as published in Epigraphia Indica, vol. 18 (2) (1925-26): 11; Hultzschs text has been compared with the one published in South-Indian Inscriptions, vol. 2, part 5 (1916): 516. The Grantha script of the original has been transcribed in Devanagari.)
English translation of the above extract by Prof. Hultzsch (op. cit., p. 14)
(Verses 21-23.) This promoter of the family of Kuru gave to a seat of learning (vidyāsthāna) three villages in his own province (rāshtra) which, at (his) request, (he had) received, provided with an executor (ājnapti), from that lord Nripatunîga viz. the village of Chettuppākkam, rich in fruit, then another village whose name (consisted of) a word ending in an r and beginning with Vidyāvilāngā,5 (and) thirdly the very prosperous (village of) Iraippunaichchēri.
(Verses 24-26.) Just as the god Dhūrjati (Śiva) carried on the single lock of (his) hair the approaching Mandākinī (Gangā), agitated by the velocity of waves, thus the deep river of learning, filled with troops (of scholars) from the four directions,6 stayed after it had filled the seat of the residents of the village of Vāgūr. Therefore they call this seat of scholars a seat of learning.
(Verse 26 f.) This ruler of land thinks highly of himself after he has given to those (scholars) the (three) villages, provided with an executor, their limits having been circumambulated by an elephant,7 accompanied by all immunities, (and) protected by freedom from taxes.
Extract from The Private Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai, vol. 5, ed. H. Dodwell. Translated from the Tamil by order of the Government of Madras.
Saturday, September 7.8 When I went to the Governors [i.e. Dupleixs house] this morning, I heard the following news:Yesterday the English advanced to Perumâl Nâyakkans Choultry. Then the Europeans and sepoys abandoned the bound-hedge, and set fire to it, to the potters village, the parachêri and other places; and withdrew to the walls, gates and batteries of the town. The English occupied my big garden and all the bound-hedge[.] This morning tents were pitched round St. Pauls Church,9 and two hundred soldiers and a hundred sepoys were quartered there. The Governor, M. Paradis and others went thither and desired that a mortar might be mounted there. But they10 asked that the Îswaran temple should be pulled down. I think the Governor may have arranged (through Madame [Dupleix]) for their help in certain Europe matters; so, as this is a time of war, there was much talk, a council was held, and the priests were told that the Îswaran temple would be demolished. The Governor then went home.
[T]he priests of St. Pauls Church have been trying for the last fifty years to pull down the Vêdapuri Îswaran temple; former Governors said that this was the country of the Tamils, that they would earn dishonour if they interfered with the temple, that the merchants would cease to come here, and that the town would decay; they even set aside the Kings order to demolish the temple; and their glory shone like the sun. But the Governor listens to his wife and has ordered the temple to be destroyed, thereby adding shame to his dishonour.
Sunday, September 8.11 Yesterday, 200 soldiers, 60 or 70 troopers and 200 sepoys were stationed at St. Pauls Church in view of the matter in hand [i.e. the British siege]. This morning, M. Gerbault (the Engineer), the priests with diggers, masons, coolies and others, 200 in all, with spades, pick-axes and whatever is needed to demolish walls, began to pull down the southern wall of the Vêdapuri Îswaran temple and the out-houses. At once the temple managers, Brâhmans and mendicants came and told me. I have already written what I heard last night.
Now all have left the town by reason of the troubles. The English are besieging us, and the few that remain cannot depart. The four gates of the Fort have been closed by reason of the troubles; and he [Dupleix] has ordered the destruction of the temple. What can we do? There are not even ten of the heads of castes to assemble and speak. We can do nothing, because he has taken advantage of this time of war to accomplish his long-standing object and demolish the temple. So I told them they could do nothing but remove the images and other things to the Kâlahasti Îswaran temple. They again asked if I could not speak, but I repeated what I have written above, and told them at once to remove the images used in festivals, vâhanams,12 etc. The managers departed, saying that they would tell the heads of castes.
[A delegation of notables came to Ananda Ranga Pillai, saying, We will speak to the Governor about it, and tell him that if he insists, some of us will die, and none will care to remain here. He tried to dissuade them, saying:] Formerly the Governor sent for you, and told you that the temple must be destroyed, as it was near the church and in the middle of the street; and so there has always been a struggle between you and him, as he has been urging you to build it elsewhere, and promising to pay the cost and give a good site, never more interfere in your religion, and allow you to do as you like. For the last fifty years he has been promising to give everything in writing; but you have replied that the svayambhu13 lingam cannot be removed elsewhere; yet you have agreed among yourselves to build the temple in some other place. Understanding this, the Governor reflected that if he consulted you, you would make great demands; and Madame has assured him that you are disunited and will not cry out, however much you are beaten; so he has not consulted you before he gave the order. Do you not know this? Not ten of you think alike, so can you talk boldly and becomingly? By his wifes advice, M. Dupleix has accomplished what has been attempted in vain for the last fifty years. But now the time has come. I cannot describe the boundless joy of the St. Pauls priests, the Tamil and Pariah converts, Madame Dupleix and M. Dupleix. In their delight, they will surely enter the temple, and will not depart without breaking and trampling underfoot the idols and destroying all they can. So go quickly and remove all the articles.
Just then news was brought that Father Curdoux, the Superior of St. Pauls Church, had kicked the inner shrine with his foot, and had ordered the Coffrees [kafirs?] to remove the doors, and the Christians to break the vâhanams. I then told them that my words had been justified, and went to the Governors, telling them now at least to go to the temple.
The Governor and Madame ordered the ancient Muhammadan mosque, that stands opposite to and west of the Capuchins Church and behind M. Godiviers house, to be pulled down; and when he sent men to pull down the Îswaran temple, he told them to pull down the mosque also. When they were pulling down the walls round the mosque, some Lubbays went and told Abd-ul-rahmân; so he came running to the Governor, salaamed and said, It is said that you have ordered our mosque to be demolished. If so, not a sepoy will be left, for they will all fall upon the workers and perish. On this the Governor revoked his order, for he depended upon them in certain matters; and so, having dismissed him, went to St. Pauls Church. If the Tamils had only had some among them as brave in word if not in deed as these Muhammadans, none would have thought of touching the temple.
I then heard that the priests of St. Pauls Church told the Coffrees, soldiers and Pariahs to beat the heads of castes when they went to the temple to remove their articles. They were scarcely suffered to approach the temple, and when they were removing the vâhanams, shoulder-poles14 and temple documents, each man was beaten twenty or thirty times. It was with extreme difficulty that they rescued the idols used in the processions and the Pillaiyâr.
Then Father Curdoux of Kârikâl came with a great hammer, kicked the lingam, broke it with his hammer, and ordered the Coffrees and the Europeans to break the images of Vishnu and the other gods. Madame went and told the priest that he might break the idols as he pleased. He answered that she had accomplished what had been impossible for fifty years, that she must be one of those Mahâtmâs who established this religion in old days, and that he would publish her fame throughout the world. So saying he dismissed them.
Then Varlâm also kicked the great lingam nine or ten times with his sandals in the presence of Madame and the priest, and spat on it, out of gladness, and hoping that the priest and Madame would regard him also as a Mahâtmâ. Then he followed Madame. I can neither write nor describe what abominations were done in the temple. I know not what fruit they will reap. All the Tamils think that the end of the world has come. The priests, the Tamil Christians, the Governor and his wife are more delighted than they have ever been before, but they have not yet considered what will befall them in the future. I have written what many persons have told me.
I afterwards heard that the temple had been levelled with the ground, and that the whole people were troubled at heart. That has to-day been done which for fifty years has been impossible. The wise man will say that the glory of an image is as short-lived as human happiness. The temple was destined to remain glorious till now, but now has fallen.
No doubt the time had come for the temple to be destroyed; yet they who have done this thing will surely meet with misfortune.
Article by G. Jouveau-Dubreuil first published in Le Semeur, September 1935. Translated here from Revue Historique de lInde Française, vol. 8 (1952): 158-60.
A Thousand Years of the History of Pondicherry
In the June 1935 issue of the Semeur, page 142, we wrote the following: We arrive at the conclusion that our city is extremely ancient. This hypothesis has been confirmed in the most comprehensive fashion possible. We reasoned thus: every ancient city in this country generally has an old temple, often covered with inscriptions. Now, at the time of Dupleix, a temple was destroyed whose ruins were used to construct the Catholic cathedral. The inscriptions on those blocks of granite are enough to demonstrate the antiquity of the city.
We asked dear Brother Faucheux to look for Tamil inscriptions at the cathedral. He, with the assistance of the Reverend Father Lourdessamy Marie, found five inscriptions of immense importance for the history of our city. Without delay we sent a copy of these inscriptions to Professor K.A. Nilakanta Sastri of the University of Madras.
Of the first inscription, the learned professor says: This is the most ancient of the fragments that you have sent me and I believe it belongs to the tenth century, not later than the era of Raja-Raja I. If the inscription dates from the tenth century, the temple may have been built long before this. Such a discovery ought not surprise us. In fact, even in our own time, the cathedral is called by the people Swayambhukoil, from the name of the temple that was situated in the same place. Now, Ananda Ranga Pillai, writing in his diary under the date 8 September 1748, tells us that the lingam of the temple was swayambhu, and Gopinatha Rao (Hindu Iconography, vol. II, part I, page 81) informs us that when a lingam is swayambhu, that is, owes its existence to itself, it was not made by the hand of man and has existed in that place from time immemorial. Thus the very name of the cathedral proves that Pondicherry has existed from time immemorial.
As to the second inscription, Professor K.A. Nilakanta Sastri writes: One reads here the names of the king Kulottanga Chola and of the god Agastya, in characters of the twelfth century. The inscriptions thus pass all our expectations, since we find in them even the name of a Chola king.
A third inscription is in the writing of the thirteenth century. Finally there are two other inscriptions of the fourteenth century.
We thus have inscriptions which cover all the Middle Ages, in this way showing the continuous prosperity of the city.
We have proved that it is very old. We now will demonstrate that it was consecrated to the Vedas.
We read in fact on page 70 of the book LInde antique by P. Masson-Oursel: The Veda, in the widest sense, designates not a text, but the totality of knowledge.
Was Pondicherry a city of intellectuality, a city of knowledge. This is what we intend to demonstrate.
Each time Ananda Ranga Pillai spoke of the temple destroyed in 1748, which was located on the present site of the Catholic cathedral, he called it The Vêdapuri Îshwaran Temple.
What does this word mean?
Many temples have names containing the word Puri which means City. Now the city in question is the one in which the temple is built. For example, the temple of Brahmapurishwara at Brahmadesam (Villupuram Taluk), the temple of Vygrapurishwara at Thiruppulivanam (inscription no. 198 of 1923) for Puli-vanam is the translation of Vygrapuri.
Thus there is no doubt that Vedapurishwara of Pondicherry signifies: Shiva who lives in this temple situated in the city consecrated to the Vedas.
Now a city called Vedapuri is a Vedakki. For example the city of Vedikkudi, in Tanjore Taluk, has a celebrated temple of Vedapurishwara.
A city consecrated to the Vedas was always inhabited by men learned in the Veda, a city (kudi) inhabited by Brahmans instructed in the Vedas. These professors of knowledge were known as Vedis.
Thus, from time immemorial, the City of Pondicherry, inhabited by sages, has been dedicated to the Vedas, that is to Knowledge.
Let this thought be a stimulant for the young generations; the men of today and tomorrow ought to be worthy of their ancestors.
Article by G. Jouveau-Dubreuil first published in Le Semeur, 20 October 1935. Translated here from Revue Historique de lInde Française, vol. 8 (1952): 161-63.
Pondicherry in Antiquity
A fact that has not been sufficiently stressed until now and that is of great importance is that the place where Pondicherry is located enjoys absolutely exceptional conditions of habitation.
First and foremost, there is the miracle of its artesian wells. Here, alone in the whole of South India, drinking water issues naturally from the earth. The region of Pondicherry is therefore an oasis on the burning Coromandel Coast. In addition one can have two or even three harvests a year, because this well-watered soil is also very rich.
With clay are made the bricks that are used to build a durable city and, by a marvellous coincidence, in the neighbourhood are chalk quarries that give excellent lime.
Finally Pondicherry is located on the seashore at the mouth of a river. Given such exceptional conditions one cannot but conclude that Pondicherry has always been a great city.
At the present time Brahminical cremation is performed in the suburbs of the town. Now, it is at a short distance from that place that, in the prehistoric period, the dead were buried. Dear Brother Faucheux has discovered at Pakkamudiyanpet a very old prehistoric cemetery, where one finds hatchets of polished stone.
When Aryan civilisation penetrated South India, Pondicherry was one of the first cities to adopt Brahmanical culture, because it was situated on the Kashi Road, that is, the highway between Benares and Rameshwaram. We have a proof of this assertion in the fact that the Swayambhu-lingam of the temple of Vedapuri was worshipped by the sage Agastya. The god of the temple in fact carries the name of Agastyeshwara in the inscription discovered by dear Brother Faucheux near the Catholic cathedral, to be precise in the garden of the present archbishops mansion.
In Nangupatti, in Travancore, the god Agastyeshwara (Inscription no. 157 of 1914) was worshipped by Agastya, as it is very clearly said in Inscription no. 343 of 1914. The word Agastyeshwara means god of a temple where Agastya worshipped.
The Rishi Agastya is one of the authors of the Rig-veda (see Agastya in the Tamil Land by K.N. Sivaraja Pillai, page 1) and his famous exploit is to have brought Aryan civilisation to South India from the North.
Thus the Swayambhu-lingam of the town of Vedapuri (Pondicherry dedicated to the Vedas) was adored by one of the authors of the Vedas, who brought Brahmanism to South India following the Kashi Road; and, because of this, Shiva, god of the Pondicherry temple, was known as Agastyeshwara, that is to say, the Lord of Agastya.
Now, in principle, every temple that possesses a Swayambhu-lingam has existed from time immemorial; and every temple whose god was worshipped by Agastya is among the most ancient in South India. This is precisely the case of Pondicherry.
It is therefore indubitable that Pondicherry was a celebrated city in antiquity. We have a striking confirmation of this in the fact that Pondicherry was mentioned by Ptolomy. The celebrated geographer who lived in the first half of the second century of our era described the Coromandel Coast from north to south. He mentioned Khaberos (Kaveripatnam) and Subura, both situated at the mouth of the Khaberos (Kaveri) in the land of the Soringes or Sores (the Soras or Cholas). To the north, the geographer speaks of the land of the Aruarnes, which evidently is Aruva-nadu. Now this country is well known because, in the plates discovered at Bahur, near Pondicherry, by Mr Delaffon, it is expressly said that Bahur is one of the cities of Aruva-nadu. Moreover, Ptolomy says further: In the land of the Aruarnes, Pokuke, market-place. This evidently is our Pondicherry.
Many authors have thought of making this identification and dear Brother Faucheux was of the opinion that it should be accepted. But until now I considered that the antiquity of Pondicherry was not proven.
Today, now that we know that the cemetery of Pondicherry goes back to the prehistoric epoch, that the lingam was swayambhu and that the sage Agastya worshipped it, that the city, visited by this author of the Vedas, was consecrated to the Vedas, today we have absolute proof that a temple covered with inscriptions, and already extremely old, existed in the tenth century. All these considerations force us to accept that Puduchery, the Poulecere of the Dutch, is in fact the Poduke of Ptolomy.
Article by G. Jouveau-Dubreuil first published in Le Semeur, 4 November 1936. Translated here from Revue Historique de lInde Française, vol. 8 (1952): 147-48.
A Very Topical Discovery Pondicherry, Suburb of Ozhugarai
Barros, in 1553, mentions Pondicherry among the Portuguese settlements on the Coromandel Coast, spelling it Puducheria. It is now certain that Pondi is a corruption of pudu. The Pudu of Barros became Pude on the map of Samson dAlberville around 1600, and the letter e was changed to i.
The name of the town thus is Pudu-cheri, that is, the new cheri. The word cheri has a very clear meaning. It is a suburb. By definition it is not a hamlet or a village but a district outside a large town. This supposes the existence of a large town. What was the name of that town?
At the end of October 1936 the epigraphic service of Madras was kind enough to send to Pondicherry M.V. Venkattasubba Ayyar to copy the inscriptions in French territory. We applied ourselves to a very attentive study of the old stones of Pondicherry.
Normally, on almost every inscription, one ought to read the name of the city where the temple is located. But one might have feared that our inscriptions were too fragmentary. Happily, as chance would have it, on three of our five inscriptions the name of the town has come down to us, and three times we find repeated the name Ozhugarai.
It is known from inscription no. 1898 of 1902 that Villianur was in Mattur-nadu; now the inscription no. 42 of 1919 at Marakkanam has revealed to us that Ozhugarai was also known as Kulottunga-Chola Nallur and that it was located in Matta-Nadu.
At Kottakuppam, to the north of Pondicherry, there exists, on the Marakkanam road, a little temple dedicated to Anandishwara, where I had previously found a stone with an inscription. M.V. Venkatasubba Ayyar read that this inscription commemorated the gift of a plot of land to the temple of Anandishwara by an inhabitant of the place and that the name of the city was Ozhugarai alias Kulottunga-Chola Nallur.
At the Pondicherry Cathedral there are two stones that have written on them the name of the god Agastishwara (Shiva adored by Agastya); so it is certain that these are parts of the ruins of a temple of Agastishwara that existed in the same place.
Now, the deciphering of one of these two stones, the one discovered a year ago by dear Brother Faucheux, is absolutely precise. It is clearly said in this inscription that a donation was made to this temple, which is a temple of the god Thiru Agastiswara, and which is situated in the town called Ozhugarai, alias Kulottunga-Chola-Nallur. Thus, it cannot be denied that the place where the cathedral now stands was in the old city of Ozhugarai. Here is the text of this inscription which is of the twelfth century: Ozhugari yana Kulottunga Chola Nallur Udaiyar Tiruvagattisira Mudaiya Nayanar ivur Kani udaiya Mongattu Tannu . This cannot be translated other than this: This Tannu of Mangadu has made a gift of a Kani (plot of land) to Agastishwara, god of this temple, situated in this town called Ozhugarai alias Kulottunga-Chola-Nallur.
We thus have a complete and clear sentence, and it is impossible to interpret it in different ways, for we are certain from two inscriptions that the ruins found at the cathedral come from a temple of Agastiswara and that this temple, standing on the site of the present cathedral, was located in the town named Ozhugarai.
But this is not all. There is an inscription on the edge of the well of the kitchen of the Mission (next to the cathedral). A translation of this inscription lets us know that this inscription commemorated a donation to the same temple. But this donation was recorded by the official of the town where the temple was located, and this town was called Ozhugarai: Nattukkanakku Ozhugarai Udaiyan eluttu.
Finally, the inscription of the tenth or eleventh century that we studied last year calls the temple kil-kovil (kij-koil), that is to say, situated on the eastern part of the town. Ozhugarai thus extended from the present cathedral, which was to the east of the town, up to on the western side, the present village of Oulgaret,15 whose temple doubtless was the mel-koil, that is to say, the temple of the Lord at the western end of the town.
It is worth noting that the inscription on the edge of the well is of the fourteenth century. It follows that at the time of the coming of the Portuguese, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Pondicherry was still a suburb of Ozhugarai.
At the present time Oulgaret is the name of a part of the suburbs of Pondicherry which has kept the illustrious name which formerly was used to designate the entire urban agglomeration stretching between Pondicherry and the present Oulgaret, Pondicherry being the eastern part, and the present Oulgaret the western part.
The king Kulottunga who attached his name to the town, and who, consequently, was the patron of the old city of Ozhugarai, was probably Kuluttunga I (1070-1120).
We know that our city was called Kulottunga-Chola-Nallur in 1192 (inscription no. 364 of 1918) and that Kulottunga I was interested in the area (inscription no. 198 of 1919 at Tirubhubvane, 1097 A.D.).
It is probable that it was at the end of the eleventh century that Ozhugarai received the title Kulottunga-Chola-Nallur. The good city of such a great king certainly must have been noble, and its suburb Pondicherry, celebrated as a grand port in the era of the Periplus (first century) and of Ptolemy (second century) was proud of its rich temple of Agastishwara.
The old inscriptions proclaim that Ozhugarai and Pondicherry, its suburb, were noble, rich and celebrated.
Four kilometers from Pondicherry, in the country, is the village of Ozhugarai, sometimes called Ulavarkarai.16
Professor S. Vaiyapuri Pillai of the University of Madras, who is the most competent Tamil scholar, informed me that it was absolutely impossible to derive Ozhugrai from UlavarKarai which would mean village of farmers. As to the word Ozhugarai, found in the inscriptions of Pondicherry, it is not possible to hesitate among several meanings. There is only one possible etymology: Ozhugu-arai. Now, Ozhugu means oozing, and arai, rock. The word thus means the country where the rock oozes. When I communicated this information to dear Brother Faucheux, who is not only a great archaeologist but also a geologist, he answered, the stone which constitutes the soil or the sub-soil oozes during the monsoon, and even at the end of January. I have clearly observed this phenomenon.
Thus no doubt is possible: the Ozhugarai of the Pondicherry inscriptions is the village which is four kilometers distant, in the country where the rock oozes.
And so everything is very well explained. In the prehistoric ages the oozing of rock characterized this village. At that time all the region where Pondicherry now stands was made up of lagoons and marshes. But very close was a steep hill, Mortandi (the grave of the Englishman). Owing to the run-off from that hill, the neighbouring lagoons and swamps were filled by alluvia, thus forming new land, and the town of Ozhugarai became larger by an entire suburb won from the water. On this new ground was raised a new district, long before the Christian era because the Periplus and Ptolemy mention Poduke. But until the sixteenth century Puduve, the new town, was considered as forming part of Ozhugarai.
The deciphering of the inscriptions has thus completely clarified a subject that until the present has remained very mysterious.
Extracts from Yvonne Robert Gaebelé, Histoire de Pondichéry: de lan 1000 à nos jours (Pondicherry: Government Press, 1960): 8. (Translated from the French)
The copper plates found at Bahur by Mr J. Delafond, Magistrate of Pondicherry, in 1887, give us information on Bahur in the year 860 A.D. We know from them that a Sanskrit College was located in Vahur (Bahur) and that at this vidyasthanam the fourteen ganas were taught, namely,17 the four Vedas, the six Vedangas, the Puranas, the Mimamsa.18 This college was maintained by the revenues of three villages. Thus we have the certitude that Bahur was an intellectual centre more than twelve centuries ago. Its temple goes back to the tenth century.
From the twelfth century the city of Ozhugari, literally, the town where the rock oozes, was located on the site of the modern village of Oulgareth. This important town had a temple dedicated to the God Agastishwara (Shiva Adored by Agastya).19
This town of Ozhugarai, built on terrain of the secondary era and situated at the foot of a slight elevation, later saw the swamps and lagoons to the east become filled by alluvia, and on this ground was built an extension of the town which would serve as its port. This port was Pondicherry. Stones of the ancient temple were found which had Tamil inscriptions in the character of the twelth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
One can read there the name of the Chola king Kullottunga and we learn that this temple was known by the name of Temple of Vedapurishwara, which means: Shiva who lives in this Temple in the town consecrated to the Vedas.20
Thus this Puducheri consecrated to the Vedas was always inhabited by Brahmins learned in the Vedas. We know that the Linga of this Temple was Swayambhu, a Tamil word meaning self-created and that the sage Agastya, the author of the Vedas worshipped this Lingam. Which shows that the temple already existed before the 10th century.21
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969): 47. (Translated from the Bengali).
In those days there was in the Collège de France [sic] in Pondicherry a French professor named Jouveau Dubreuil later on he became quite a well-known name who had been engaged in research in ancient history and archaeology. We knew him quite well. He was at that time working on the early history of Pondicherry. From a study of the ancient documents and inscriptions he discovered that the city of Pondicherry, which I have called a city of the dead, had at one time been known as a city of the Veda, veda-puri. That is to say, it had a centre of Vedic learning. And this Vedic college, our professor found from ancient maps and other clues, was located exactly on the spot where the main building of our Ashram now stands.
According to ancient tradition, the Rishi Agastya came to the South to spread the Vedic lore and the Aryan discipline. His seems to have been the first project for the infusion of Aryan culture into the Dravidian civilisation.
Extract from Narayan Prasad, Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1965), p. 7.
According to the archaeologist, Prof. Dubreuil of Pondicherry, on this very site there stood thousands of years ago, a Vedic College, a centre of culture. The legendary Patron of the city was the great sage Agastya.
Dubreuil further says that the towns real name was Puducheri, which meant a new town. But it was quite ancient. It is not known exactly how old it is. From what is engraved on the stone wall of the temple of Vedapurishwara, we know Pondicherry was once called Vedapuri, that is, a city of Vedic culture.
Extract from M.P. Pandit, Light from Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: M.P. Pandit, 1966), pp. 6-7.
The Uttara Yogi [Sri Aurobindo] came and settled down for tapasyā at Pondicherry, not far from a place where, tradition records, a great centre of Vedic learning had once prospered under the aegis of the legendary Agastya, the patron saint of the South.
Extract from K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo: A Biography and a History (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972), p. 676.
A French savant, Professor Jouveau Dubreuil, who was then at the College du France [sic] in Pondicherry, did some valuable research in local history and archaeology and came upon the discovery that at one time long long ago the place had been called Vedapuri and was a centre of Vedic studies in the South, with a temple dedicated to Vedapurishwara; and by tradition the sage Agastya himself was the guardian spirit of the city which was also a university. The French professor even proved from ancient maps and other clues that this old centre of Vedic studies had been located in the exact spot where Sri Aurobindo ultimately fixed his permanent dwelling in Pondicherry.
Extract from a text appearing as a display at the entrance to the Pondicherry Museum.