The ''Mairie'' (town hall), Puducherry, a fine colonial building where first election process held in India -1870-1900

Restored the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry, India.

the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry, India.

Restored the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry,

The historical structure, popularly known as Marie Building earlier known as the Town Hall or Hotel de Ville in French on Goubert Avenue with several rooms and a huge hall  once served as the center of French settlement  in this part.  A popular  French Settlement  like Chandanagar (French name Chandernagor) city  near Kolkata of West Bengal, the city of Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry) still boasts of  many fine  buildings and bungalows built in Indo-French architecture. In 1674  the French East India Company established a trade outpost here. The French  Consulate here has been functioning in this coastal city since the early colonial days.

Restored  the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry, India.

Restored  the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry, India.

Restored the Mairie (town hall), Puducherry,

The building  carries B grade heritage tag and  A grade tag based on its architectural and historical values. There are  several heritage buildings near by - such the Custom House, light House and Consulate House on the beach road. Rue de la Caserne, rue Mahe de Labourdonnais and rue Mahe de Labourdonnais and rue Dumas form part of the French quarter

Pondicherry Town Hall Hotel de

Ever since it was built in 1870-71, Hotel de Ville in French  had not undergone any major building  repair work or renovation  even after India's independence. In 2012 the building became vacant as it was not in a good shape and  had  been kept vacant to carry out the restoration works.  In November, 2014, the  northern and central part of the building collapsed due to incessant rain. The NE monsoon was active during this period. Soon the ruling government responded and  allotted fund to restore the historical building back to old glory. Though the project that began in 2016 was stalled due to a freak accident in which part of the building collapsed, decision was made to restore the old town with the left over structure- the outer walls and southern portion. Glad the restoration work was completed in 2020 at a cost of about Rs.15 crore after considerable delay. It was dedicated to the nation by the PM Modiji.

Location map Puducherry

For the restoration engineers it is a challenging job to reshape the  colonial building with fine aesthetics and unique design style. The restoration work was done in association with the ASI, Chennai Circle, INTACH, IIT and  NCSHS, With a view to retaining the heritage  aspect  of the remaining structure, INTACH was particular about using old construction technique  and materials - lime-mortar to rebuild the structure. Main attention was focused on the old features  on the eastern and western façade of the building-  arcaded entrance with a verandah on high plinth accessed by a broad flight of steps in dressed granite and  colored galleries on the first floor and a large ceremonial hall with wooden flooring. Refurbished with extra care, the  façade makes the building stand apart among others and look impressive. 

Pondicherry. Town hall/Hotel de Ville 2012

collapse of Mairie, Podicherry.

Above images: The town hall building of Pondicherry was in ruins

The following are some historical facts: 

01.The historical aspect of Marie and its link with the growth of the French settlement  can not be denied. It has been there for more than 153 years and out of which for about 100 years the town hall served as the the administrative  hub of the French government with capital in Pondicherry.

02. A section of the municipality also functioned here, taking care of the registration of marriages. 

03. In the 1880s, the building housed both the Municipal and Local Assembly. 

04. Marie - Town hall has the rare distinction of being the first building in the Indian subcontinent  to have witnessed the  democracy in action.

05. During the period 1871-1900, every nuisance of democratic process was in full flow in this building. No other historic colonial building has taken the credit.

06. The credit goes to the French government of India to have introduced the democratic elections for the first time in India, while the other colonies failed to do so.  

07. During this period,  the Portuguese rulers were busy ruthlessly fighting with neighboring rulers and openly encouraging the Jesuits to engage in forceful religious conversion of non-Christians, though Goa-inquisition ended in 1812. As for the British, they were busy with their land-grabbing spree and in 1876 Queen Victoria became the Empress of India. The British India government held the general election in India in the later period.   

08. The democratic aspect of the French rule is intertwined with this building in the 1880s. and the French acted as a beacon. 

09. Soon after transfer of power   the Legislative Assembly of Puducherry  was functioning for four years from 1964 in the Town hall till its relocation in 1969 in the present site. It also housed  the Mayor’s office, (Photo credtt: