A magnificent large-scale manuscript plan of Pondicherry, the capital of French India, drafted during the city’s historical apogee.
This exceptionally large military engineer’s plan depicts Pondicherry, which founded as the capital of French India in 1674 and developed into the finest European-planned city in India. Here the city is depicted as it appeared in 1741, during the height of its prosperity. Focusing tightly in on the walled city, the exactingly drafted and finely coloured plan is adorned, in the lower right quadrant, by an elegant rococo cartouche. The map’s grand appearance suggests that it was intended as a presentation piece for a senior French official, although, curiously, it is unsigned.
Pondicherry was then enveloped by walls, graced by broad tree-lined streets and many beautiful buildings and public squares. Thirty-eight key sights are identified on the map, corresponding to the ‘Renvois’ (Reference), located within the rococo cartouche (designated A-S, 1-19). The lettered sites describe the city’s military defensive works including: A. Fort St. Louis; B. the planned extension of the fort; and D. to S. Bastions and batteries along the city walls. The numbered sites refer to important public edifices and grounds, including: 1. Capuchine Church; 2. Jesuit Church; 3. Company Gardens; 4. Jesuit Gardens; 5. Capuchine Gardens; 6. Hospital; 7. Former Company Gardens; 8. French East India Company Office; 9. Governor’s House; 10. Mint; 11. Indian Cemetery; 12. French Cemetery; 13. Great Market; 14. Indian Prison; 15. Outer defensive works constructed in 1740 and 1741; 16. Outer defensive works constructed in 1740; 17. St. Lawrence Market; 18. Military Viewing Marquis; and 19. Military Parade Grounds.Notably, Pondicherry was then divided into four districts: the French Quarter was located towards the waterfront to the south (left) of the Fort, while the north (right) was the New French Quarter. Inland from this district was the Indian Town, home to the vast majority of the city’s residents, while the New Extension, comprising the southwest portion of the town (the upper left), was built up only recently.
Unfortunately, the city as depicted here was almost totally destroyed by the British, following their seizure of Pondicherry in 1761. Although the city was subsequently rebuilt, it never regained the same splendor.