The modern history of Pondicherry, now known as Puducherry, is largely dominated by the French, and the impressions of the colonial rule can still be found out everywhere, from the symmetrically aligned streets to the layout and design of the city. Though the credit for the transformation of a merely fishing village to a big port city goes exclusively to its colonial rulers, it is not hard to find traces of its history before the coming of the Europeans, which included the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English and the Danes in addition to the French.
Pondicherry has a history that can be said to have begun in the very first millennium, as the findings of the excavations at Arikamedu have led us to conclude. It was supposed to be in contact with the Romans, mainly for trade of dyed textiles, semi-precious stones and pottery.
Later in its history, it came under the regime of the Pallava Kingdom of Kanchipuram in the fourth century AD and after the demise the Pallavas, it was ruled by various dynasties of the south until the tenth century AD. Before becoming a part of the Pandya Kingdom in the thirteenth century, it was ruled for a short time by the Cholas of Tanjavur. The emergence of the Vijayanagar Empire overshadowed all its contemporaries in the south, and Pondicherry remained under their control until 1638. It was also ruled by the Sultan of Bijapur after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire.
When the route to India was discovered by the Portuguese, Pondicherry began to receive large influx of foreign merchants, who were found to be different from the early traders as they sought to establish their rule over here. The inauguration of a factory by the Portuguese at the beginning of the 16th century was followed by a series of establishments from the Europeans of different nationalities, like the Danes, the Dutch and the French.
Soon the French became the master of the region, who began an era of colonial rule hardly challenged by any of its rivals. The French era, which is known to have begun in 1673, remained unchallenged except for sporadic clashes with, first the Dutch, and later the English. After a fortification of the town by the Dutch for a period of four years, the French regained their possession by a treaty with them in 1699, and within a century, they transformed the town into one with remarkable lay out and beautiful architecture.
The skirmishes of the French with the British saw several ups and downs in history of the eighteenth century Puducherry. The French finally came to be the master of the region once it got hold of it after a peace treaty with England in Europe. They started to rebuild the city, which was bruised savagely by the English, and Pondicherry succeeded to some extent in regaining its lost glory. By 1816, the French got permanent control of the region and did commendable job in improving its infrastructure, law, industry and education.
The French left Pondicherry in 1954, seven years after the independence of India from the British rule. Pondicherry became a Union Territory of India and a Lt. Governor was commissioned to rule it on behalf of the Indian President. The legacy of the French, though still dominates the region, has now started to fade out, which can be seen in change of its name from earlier Pondicherry to now Puducherry.