Arikamedu, Pondicherry: How To Reach, Best Time & Tips

About Arikamedu

Arikamedu, an abandoned city of South India and a flourishing Indo Roman trade centre during the 1st century BC is located about 7 Km south of Pondicherry on the bank of Ariyankuppam River. Far from the din and bustle of a city, it is the only surviving historical place in South India with a cultural continuity from 300 BC-1800 AD which was acquired by the Archaeological survey of India since 2004.

As you enter the territory of this heritage site, you will come across the relics of walls, columns  and mortars standing forlorn along the bank of Ariyankuppam River that will take you back to the glorious days of Roman trade in this region. The dilapidated building of the French Jesuit Mission belonging to the 18th century is one of the striking relics of French architecture and a sight to behold! Such archaeological evidence as well as the travel accounts of the French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil clearly indicate that the city had a fascinating urban settlement between 100BC till 100 AD. 

As you make your way into the precincts of Arikamedu which is marked by a fencing by the Archaeological Survey of India, you will come across a derelict structure of a thoroughfare standing amidst palm and coconut fringed verdant meadow which is presumably the entrance to the main site. The place has a tranquil charm of its own being located in an offbeat destination and not much frequented by tourists.

The feeble existence of a storehouse amidst the ruins will remind you of the opulent economy of the Orient and its exchange of riches with the Occident. It is the only port which bears the history of Tamilian trade with Imperial Rome. Many of the valuable artefacts and relics belonging to the Roman era are preserved in the Pondicherry Museum for public view that give you a clear notion about the history and culture of Arikamedu.

How to Reach Arikamedu

The distance between Pondicherry bus stand and Arakimedu is just 8.5 Km and can be traveled by any public transport. Buses run by PRTC (Puducherry Road Transport Corporation) ply between places and will drop you at Arikamedu in about 20 minutes. 
As locating the gate of Arikamedu may be a task for you, it is recommended that you take a taxi or auto to if you are traveling for the first time. 

Best Time to Visit Arikamedu

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The best time to visit Arikamedu is in the months between the months of October till March. During this time of the year, the evenings are cool and pleasant making it an ideal vacation time for domestic and inbound travellers. Summers start from March and continue through the end of July.

The summer months are usually hot and humid and the place experiences a maximum temperature of nearly 41◦C.  At this time of the year, the traffic is noticeably low. Winters are pleasant in Arikamedu drawing the highest traffic of visitors during the months of December till March. The prevailing winter temperature is around 17◦C making it feasible for sightseeing, beach sports and other activities. 

What Not to Miss at Arikamedu

Attractions Near Arikamedu

1. Promenade in Pondicherry: The one and a half kilometer long rocky stretch of Pondicherry Beach starts from the War Memorial till the Dupleix Park at Goubert Avenue. As you take a stroll along the sandy coastline, you will come across Joan of Arc, old lighthouse, Le Café, remnants of the old jetty and a robust effigy of Mahatma Gandhi that give you a clear hint about the seamless amalgamation of the Indian and French cultures in Pondy.

Instead of going on foot you can go on a bicycle tour and cover a maximum number of highlighted spots along the promenade. If you go for a morning walk, do not miss out the chance of viewing the stunning sunrise on the eastern skyline creating a brilliant color show across the sky. One of the most sought after promenades in Pondicherry is at Paradise Beach where you can see the marvellous sight of the Chunnambar River emptying itself into the Bay of Bengal at its confluence.

2. Ayushman Ayurvedic Treatment and Rejuvenation Centre: Let your body gets purified and soul revitalized by the traditional healing therapy of Ayurveda. With the assistance of highly skilled and dedicated therapists each of your problems be it spondylitis, rheumatism or neurological problems is catered to with utmost care and sincerity. The Ayurvedic Centre houses an in-house hospital with modern facilities for treating specific ailments. The soothing ambiance of the place makes it a perfect haven for purification of your body and rejuvenation of your soul. 

3. Shri Aurobindo Ashram: Set up in 1926 by Aurobindo Ghosh in the eastern part of Pondicherry, the ashram accommodates more than 2000 inmates including 1600 members and counting, 400 students of the Centre of Education and hundreds of followers from the neighbourhood. Inside the premises there are interconnected blocks, library, community hall and a courtyard shaded by trees where the mortal bodies of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo were laid to rest under a white marble shrine. 

4. Goubert Market: Shopping at the Goubert Market is one of the highly recommended activities near Arikamedu. It is the most popular market for the locals and suburban people for their huge stock of fresh and organic products. The buzz of the market place with bargaining customers and sellers keeps on varying with the day.

From sea fish to colourful flowers there is a touch of freshness in every item you lay your hands on! There are boutiques for apparels, jewellery and handicraft items. The warmth and hospitality of the vendors will surely give you a pleasurable shopping experience outside your hometown.

Things to do Near Arikamedu

1. Pondicherry tour on wheels: 
  You can explore every corner of Pondicherry in a vintage bicycle within a very short time. As you pedal through the cobbled streets of the seaside town you will chance upon houses with colonial architecture that takes you back to the bygone era.

 On a short trip, you can visit the parks, serene promenades, and Muslim, Tamil and French neighborhoods that give you a taste of Pondicherry’s multicultural flair. Bicycle tour in Pondicherry includes breakfast, guide and bike gears. Start early to avoid road traffic and visit the places unhurriedly. 

2. Dining with a local family:  Trip to Pondicherry is never fulfilling without an immersive dining experience with the local folks. Enjoy a 5 course multicultural meal at Pushpa’s residence with the bonus of warm hospitality and light-hearted chat with the family members. Such one-to-one interaction with the local resident will enrich you about the history and culture of the place. After you are well acquainted with the host, you can also join them in preparing lunch or dinner. You can go for a tasting tour solo or in the group (maximum 12 people). 

3. Abhyangam full body massage:  Let your body be cleansed and rejuvenated by Abhyanga Massage therapy which has deeper effects than ordinary techniques used by therapists. Abhyangam is a specialized healing therapy in which specific essential oils are used for your whole body massage. It removes toxins from your body and brings it in perfect harmony with your spirit and mind.

4. Private tour to Pondicherry and Auroville: Get introduced to the little France in India in a day trip to Pondicherry and Auroville from Arikamedu. The major attractions to see in Pondy are the earliest French Quarters, Basilica, Botanical Gardens, Bharathi Park and Museum.  Head towards Auroville, a green oasis tucked on the shore of the Bay of Bengal where a spiritual community was founded in 1968. Talking to the locals will help you know about the distinctive culture and history of the place. 

5. Learn the art of Kolam: One of the hallmarking features of South Indian Culture lies in the unique craft tradition of creating patterns with rice powder at the doorstep of every household by women. You too can master this time-honored artwork by joining a 1 ½ hour course at the Sita Culture Centre in Pondicherry. Proficient instructors will help you learn Kolam mixing with rice powder and colour and making beautiful designs. Morning classes start at 10AM and evening classes start at 3PM. Children (above 6 years) and adults are welcome to this family friendly workshop. 

Other Essential Information About Arikamedu

Arikamedu is located halfway from the union territory of Puducherry in Kakkayanthope on the right bank of River Ariyankuppam in south Pondicherry. It is about 4 Km from Pondicherry after you turn eastward from the highway. 

Timings: Monday-Saturday 8:30AM- 5PM, Sundays 9AM -5PM

Entry fee: No entry fee

Parking Facility: As it is an open space there is no parking zone allotted for the visitors as such. You can seek the help of the locals or your tourist guide who can help you park your car in a safe place.  

Distance from Pondicherry bus stand: Arikamedu is located at a distance of about 8.4 Km from Pondicherry bus stand. 

Discovery of the Arikamedu

The name Arikamedu first occurred in the travel accounts of the French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil who visited Pondicherry during 1768-71. Later, in 1941 the French archaeologist G. Jouveau Dubreuil visited the place and related it with the ancient city of Poduke Emporium which occurs in the book Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Dubreuil’s postulations triggered interest among the French archaeologists who excavated the place in the subsequent years.

But none of the excavations were done scientifically until Sir Eric Mortimer Wheeler undertook the task in 1945 and discovered the existence of a port city under the ruins. He named the place Arikamedu which means “mound on a river bank”. Wheeler also claimed that Arikamedu was a sleepy fishing village before the emergence of the Greco Romans. Later it became a port city during the Yavana period. 

Excavations of the Arikamedu

As per the excavations of Prof. Vimala Bagley during 1989-92, settlement began in the southern part of the city in the 2nd century BC which is evident from the megalithic remains found in that region. In the northern part of Arikamedu near the port, remains of living quarters were found which testifies Tamilian settlement and overseas trade with the East during the Chola reign and thereafter.

 In the southern part of the city few Mediterranean merchandises or amphora were found after excavation that date back to the 1st or 2nd century BC. In the northern part bricks were found that also are supposed to have Mediterranean origin. 

 Findings of the Arikamedu

Arakimedu being an important hub of trade in ancient India have always been under the scrutiny of archaeologists who went on to excavate the place time and over again. The findings of Arikamedu contain ancient relics of Roman, Chinese, French and Chola dynasties. These include Roman pottery artifacts, coins, terracotta tiles, Chinese and Islamic pottery,Roman Lamps, golden beads, ring well,walls, arches and bricks of Roman constructions.

The most significant findings from this region are the Sigillata pieces that probably arrived here during the 1st century BC, Amphorae (narrow necked pink wine jars with two handles and a yellow slip) and Arretine wares (burnt clay utensils with motifs on their surfaces).  Coins belonging to the time of Constantine 1 were also among the significant findings from the site.

What to Expect While Visiting Arikamedu

As you stare at the forlorn arches and brick bases of the earliest Roman architecture in this place you can sense a strain of ephemerality hovering in the air. Once a bustling trade centre now lies as an abandoned site for archaeologists and common tourists to visit and bring out new facts about Arikamedu. After being hit by a devastating cyclone in 2011, one can only see the 18th century walls of the French Mission house.

History of Arikamedu

Arikamedu was originally a fishing colony which later became a trading outpost for carrying out commercial relations with Imperial Rome since the Megalithic (2nd century BC) through Medieval until the Modern Period. The city was connected with other cities of India and overseas by road and marine routes. Merchandise ships arriving from Anuradhapura and Muziris used this port as a station for the transshipment of goods to North India and the countries of Southeast Asia.

The city also had maritime relations with Kaveripattinam, Alagankulam, Suttukenii and Musini. Arikamedu was basically a manufacturing hub of the famous muslin cloth, terracotta items, glass, gold and jewellery from semi-precious stones. The city boasts of housing extensive glass bead manufacturing units that are considered the “mother of all bead centres” in the global trade. 

The Archaeological Importance of Arikamedu

The first excavation in Arikamedu was first excavated during the 1700s by the French astronomer Le Gentile who was a resident of Pondicherry. Later the place was excavated several times but the most notable excavation was carried out by Dr. Eric Wheeler Mortimer in 1944. Archaeological evidence from the site proves its once-thriving trade relations between the Tamils and the Greco Roman world.

Apart from numerous stoneware relics and archaeological vestiges that date back to the 2nd century BC, findings of Chinese celadon pottery, Chola and East Asian artifacts were also discovered after several excavations. Twentieth-century archaeological evidence testifies the existence of a booming urban settlement in Arikamedu. The northern part of the city was inhabited by the Yavanas while the southern part was inhabited by the locals. 

Tableware made of Terra Sigillata (Roman clay pots red in color) has been discovered in only two places outside Rome one of which is in Arikamedu which proves that there were trade relations between the two places. From the traces of beads excavated from Alexandria and other ports of the Red Sea, it is evident that the Romans used the Red Sea for transferring to India. 

Although there were multiple excavations in this place, the major scientific excavation was carried out by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1945. It is from his excavations that historians came to the conclusion that Arikamedu was a flourishing port city. 

Places to Stay Near Arikamedu

1. La Villa: The colonial architecture of the villa featuring colour cement flooring, century old bricks and tiles made of granite and handmade tiles complemented with furniture made of glass, metal and teak wood will inevitably remind of the colonial past of Pondicherry. The serene natural setting makes the place an ideal hideout for spending your vacation in comfort and luxury. Amenities include room service, suites, complimentary breakfast and toiletries, air-conditioned rooms, flat screen TV etc.

2. Le Chateau: Located centrally from the places of attractions in Pondicherry it is about 3.4 Km from Arikamedu. The boutique hotel reflects the heritage eminence of the place through its aesthetically designed interior. Amenities of the hotel include free parking, complimentary breakfast, rooftop bar, concierge, 24 hours front desk, laundry service, private balcony and bathroom, housekeeping, free internet etc. 

3. Le Duplex: Located in an 18th century old French colonial villa, Le Duplex stands as an insignia of Pondicherry’s rich colonial heritage and contemporariness providing plush accommodation for the guests. The heritage property specialises in housing 14 suites with distinct furnishing in each suite, classic platters and French wine. Other amenities include free breakfast, high speed internet, car parking, private balcony, mini bar, laundry etc. 

4. Villa Du Ocean: The luxury boutique hotel centrally located in the “white town” and a few steps away from the scenic promenade Villa Du Ocean gives you the best ever staying experience at Arikamedu. The interior of the hotel is decked with a perfect French colonial panache and modern amenities for a comfortable and stylish accommodation. The services include free internet, complimentary breakfast, airport shuttle, room service etc. 

 Places to Eat Near Arikamedu

1. Velo Café:
Velo Café is a must visit place near Arikamedu where you can enjoy dining with multi-cuisine platters. The restaurant serves French, Continental, European and local dishes, salads and snacks. It also arranges bicycle tours within the city limits. The interior is clean and well decked with bicycle theme. 

2. La Villa: The heritage property of an old villa also has an outdoor seating arrangement in its garden which creates a perfect ambiance for private dining. The restaurant caters to Asian, European, Indian and vegan platters with personalised service by staff. Prices start from Rs. 650 per person.

3. Zuka Choco La: If you have a sweet tooth, Zuka Choco La is the right place for you where you can savour French and Indian confectioneries with vegan friendly options. The menu includes chocolate truffle, homemade chocolate brownies, sandwiches, croissants and a wide variety of cakes. The must try of this confectionery is Belgium chocolate spoon. 

4. Crepe in Touch: The quirky little boutique café with a kids area and tables on the roof and downstairs makes it the choicest hangout place for young couples. Their veg and non-veg menu include smoked fish, Lorient, Batz, iced tea, crepes etc. 

5. Coromandel Café: The heritage property turned café is a great place for book lovers to enjoy reading and sipping into your favourite cuppa! Some of the must tries of this café are Mac&cheese, couscous, pasta, Black Pepper Prawns, apple pie, espresso martini and others. The café houses both indoor and alfresco seating arrangement amidst lush greenery which makes it a great hangout joint.

Tips Before Visiting Arikamedu

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Avoid visiting Arikamedu from March-July as the temperature soars up to 42◦C making it extremely difficult for sightseeing.

2. If you are travelling the place for the first time, it is better to hire a vehicle instead of travelling in public transport as language can be a barrier to communicate.

3. Wear proper outfit while visiting the religious sites.

4. Keep yourself hydrated to avoid dehydration.

5. Use sunscreen lotion while moving at daytime.

6. There are no places to eat at Arikamedu. It is advisable that you should carry water and food hampers. 
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People Also Ask About Arikamedu

  1. What is meant by Arikamedu?

    The name Arikamedu is derived from the Tamil word Arikanmedu which still exists in old governmental records and is termed by the locals. Among the tourists and French speaking historians and archaeologists, the place is known by the name Arikamedu which means “eroding mount”. According to a different view, the name Arikamedu is derived from the Tamil word Arugan which refers to the Shramanas (followers of Jain and Buddhist religions). Therefore, a section of scholars argue that the place had been an abode of some Buddhist or Jain saint and had been named after his name. Another sect of believers proposes that the name of the place had been coined after the Hindu deity Murugan who is widely worshipped in Tamil Nadu.
  2. What were the items of import at Arikamedu?

    During the reign of Emperor Augustus, ships with expensive commodities used to sail to India. Later, with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD trade activities in Rome experienced a major setback. But, surprisingly, Arikamedu continued smooth trade activities with Rome throughout the medieval period and continued to be a trading port to countries like Rome, China, Thailand and Indonesia. The things imported to Arikamedu were:

    -Mediterranean Wine in Amphora Jars
    -Cups and plates of Terra Sigillata
    -Ceramic Lamps
    -Unguentaria (vessel for holding unguent or aromatic oil)
    -Blue glazed Faience (bejeweled/tin-glazed earthenware originally made in Faenza in Italy)
    -Glass bowls
    -Olive oil
    -Olive products
    -Garum sauce in Spanish jars
  3. Is there any boundation on timings and entry fee while visiting Arikamedu?

    The timings for visiting Arikamedu is between 10AM -4PM. However, it takes about 2-3 hours for a complete tour around the place. There is no entry fee to visit Arikamedu.
  4. What is there to do at Arikamedu?

    In a half day guided excursion you can see the ruins of the bygone times when Arikamedu was a port city and had flourishing trade relations with the Roman world. Besides, you can enjoy photography and visit the nearest places of interest viz. Senkhazhaneer Amman Temple, Chunnambar river bank, Basilica etc. Being located near the famous promenade of Pondicherry, take a stroll along the seaside and let your soul be rejuvenated by the fresh air. You can also go for boating, trekking and picnic on the Paradise beach which is organised by the PTTDC.