Famous people from Pondicherry

Dr. Yvonne Artaud was born in 1924 at Lyon, France. She was a surgeon cum dentist for young children in Paris. She joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1952.


She is the author of various studies on animal psychology and early-childhood education, and is also credited with creating various innovative teaching/learning materials, especially the “Aurograms” which is a symbol language to be used as a means of self-expression and communication by children who do not share the same language.

Yvonne was a fervent disciple of Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa. She became an educator at the International Centre of Educationand also worked as an artist. She has also painted many canvases, wrote poems and plays.

All her works are archived at the Identity Research Institute in Puducherry, which was founded by her and Medhanada, athinker and philosopher, in 1978.



Sri Aurobindo:

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian Nationalist, freedom fighter, philosopher, spiritual guru and poet. During the British rule, he was a very influential leader who eventually turned into a spiritual reformer.

Sri AurobindoSri Aurobindo was a civil servant under the Maharaja of Baroda and later involved himself in politics. He moved to Pondicherry for his spiritual works where he evolved a spiritual practice called Integral Yoga.

Integral Yoga deals with the evolution of human life into a divine life. In 1926, with assistance from his spiritual collaborator Mirra Alfassa, he founded the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.

Sri Aurobindo holds the distinction of being the first Indian to create a major literary corpus in English. His main literary works are ‘The Life Divine’, ‘Synthesis of Yoga’, ‘Savitri’, etc. His works also include philosophy, poetry, commentaries and translations on the Gita, Upanishads and Vedas.




Subramanya Bharathy:

Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi, popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar was an Indian writer, poet, journalist, freedom fighter and social reformer from Ettayapuram, Tamilnadu.


Considered to be one of the greatest Tamil poets of the modern era, his works were usually themed on religious, social, political and social issues.

Known to famously sign off his letters with “May you gain immortality” and starting a letter with “Om Shakthi”, Bharathi is known to have fought against the caste system and also for advocating greater rights for women.

Bharathiar Museum

Bharathiyar moved to Pondicherry in the year 1908 to escape arrest from the British Government due to his freedom struggle. In Pondicherry, he was involved with journals and magazines like India, Vijaya, Chakravarthini, etc.

Subramania Bharathiar’s house in Pondicherry is a museum now. The museum houses a postage stamp released on Bharathiar which is framed in the museum along with various photographs of him.

The house address is: No. 20, Easwaran Koil Street, Pondicherry – 3. A collection of his letters, family photographs and books are found in the museum.

The last few years of his life were spent ata house in Triplicane, Chennai. The house is now named ‘Bharathiar Illam’ after it was purchased and renovated by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1993.

Bharathi was struck by an elephant that he fed regularly in the Parthasarathy temple in Chennai. His health deteriorated after this and he died on September 11, 1921.

Mirra Alfassa:

Christened at birth as Blanche Rachel Mirra Alfassa (21 February 1878 – 17 November 1973), also known as The Mother, was the spiritual collaboratorof Sri Aurobindo. The Mother came to Pondicherry, India on 29 March 1914. After leaving Pondicherry during the World War I, she got time to spend time with Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate.

Mirra Alfassa

She returned to Pondicherry in 1920 and in 1926 when Shri Aurobindo went on a recluse, she founded the ashram along with the disciples at that time. Mother’s life in the last three decades has been beautifully captured in a book titled ‘The Agenda’, which is a 13 volume tome.

Sri Aurobindo considered Mother to be an incarnation of the Supreme Shakti. Through letters and instructions to his disciples, he taught the path of spiritual surrender through devotion to Mother.

He reckoned that devotion to the Mother is a form of Bhakti Yoga.

The Mother created Auroville with the motive that it be a place where people from all over the world can live together in harmony.


Tamil poet Bharathidasan:

Born on April 29, 1981, Bharathidasan was a Tamil poet and a rationalist who was known for his work on social and political issues of the present.


He is known to have vociferously opposed the British and French government with the help of his pen. He was a strong supporter of Periyar and a highly influential leader of the Suyamariyadhai Iyakkam. His affinity towards the Dravida movement which was founded by Periyar, was not welcomed and he was put behind bars.

Annadurai, M Karunanidhi and M G Ramachandran were admirers of this great poet and his work was always encouraged by them.

Bharathidasan was elected to the Puducherry Legislative Assembly in 1955. He is known to have published many of his works under different pseudonyms such as Paavendar, Puduvai Kalaimakal, Desopakari, Desabhaktan, Anantapotini, Swadesamitiran, Tamilarasu, Tupleks, Kirukkan, Kindalkaran, etc.

He always talked of “Tamil race” and “Aryan race” as polar opposites.

Some of his works include Thamizhachi Kathi, Srimayilam Suppiramaniar Thuthiyamuthu, Sanjivi Parvathin Saaral, Edhirpaaraadha Mutham, Kaadhal Ninaivugal, Nalla Theerppu and Alagin Sirippu.

Periyar conferred the title of ‘Puratchi Kavingyar’ on Bharathidasan, it means ‘Revolutionary poet’, in English. His play, ‘Amaithi Oomai’, won the Golden Parrot Prize in 1946. Bharathidasan also received the Sahithya Academy award posthumously for his play Pisaranthaiyar, in 1970.

The postal department in Chennai released a stamp commemorating and celebrating Bharathdisan’s contribution to arts, culture and the language of Tamil.

To honor him, the state government of Tamilnadu gives the Bharathidasan award annually to a Tamil poet. Bharathidasan University, in Trichy was established in his name as a mark of respect towards the great man.

One among his famous lines is ‘Arivai virivu sei, agandamakku’ meaning “Expand Knowledge – make it universal”.

Manoj Night Shyamalan

Manoj Night Shyamalan is an Indian-American screenwriter, film-maker and producer who is famous for producing movies with a supernatural plot.

M Night

He has a penchant for setting his films in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Shyamalan was awarded the Padma Shri in 2008. Born in Mahe, Pondicherry, in a Hindu household, Shyamalan’s father is a traditional physician from Mahe and his mother is an Obstetrician and a Gynaecologist by profession. His father is a malayalee whereas his mom is a Tamilian.

Shyamalan spent the first six months of his life in Pondicherry and was raised in Pensyllvania in a very upscale suburb of Philadelphia. Shyamalan is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, in Manhattan. He graduated in 1992. He adopted Night as his second name while he was studying there.

Shyamalan made a semi-autobiographical drama, Praying with Anger when he was an undergrad at the NYU. It was a bootstrapped venture as he collected money from his friends and family.

Shyamalan became a world-wide sensation when he co-wrote the screenplay for ‘The Sixth Sense’, in 1999. The film was a huge box office success and was later nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best PictureBest Director and Best Original Screenplay.

He was planning a film adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi with 20th Century Fox, after the release of the Village in 2004. He later backed out of this as he wanted to make ‘Lady in the Water’.

He talks about Life of Pi with a touch of attachment as it has featured Pondicherry-“I love that book. I mean, it’s basically [the story of] a kid born in the same city as me [Pondicherry, India] — it almost felt predestined”, Shyamalan said. “But I was hesitant because the book has kind of a twist ending. And I was concerned that as soon as you put my name on it, everybody would have a different experience. Whereas if someone else did it, it would be much more satisfying, I think. Expectations, you’ve got to be aware of them. I’m wishing them all great luck. I hope they make a beautiful movie”.

Shyamalan founded Blinding Edge Pictures, a film production company based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. It has produced The HappeningLady in the WaterThe VillageSignsUnbreakable and The Last Airbender. It is run by Night and Jose L. Rodriguez. In 2012 the company started production on ‘AfterEarth’ with Will Smith and Jaden Smith.

Will Smith and Jaden Smith.

Jacques Lauriston

Born in Pondicherry, Jacques Lauriston was a French Soldier and of Scottish descent and was a general officer in the French Army during Napoleonic wars.


Jacques was born in Pondicherry where his father was a nephew of the financier John Law.

Lauriston’s name is inscribed under the Arc de Triomphein Paris.

Lauriston obtained his first commission about 1786and he was on the general staff during the early campaigns of the Revolutionand became brigadier of artillery in 1795. He was brought back into the service in 1800 after he resigned in 1796 as aide-de-camp to Napoleon.

Lauriston had been on friendly terms with Napolean. Lauriston was, successively, director of the La Fère artillery school and special envoy to Denmark before being selected to convey to England the ratification of the Peace of Amiens in 1802.

He took part in the war against Austria in 1805 as the rank of general of division. He occupied Venice and the Republic of Ragusa in 1806.

Lauriston was made governor-general of Venice in 1807 and he took part in the Erfurt negotiations of 1808 and was ennobled as a count, and served with the emperor during the Peninsular War in Spain (1808–1809), where he commanded the division that besieged and won Pamplona. He fought under Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais at the Battle of Raab in the Italian campaign and also in the subsequent advance to Vienna.

The nameLAURISTON is inscribed on Column 13 of the Arc de Triomphe.He died of a stroke in Paris on 11 June 1828.

Dr S Somasegar:

Dr. S Somasegar is a technology guru at Microsoft and is a huge pillar in Bill Gates’ team.


Currently SVP of the developer division of Gates’ Microsoft Corp (Redmond, WA), Somasegar was part of the team of pioneers that created Windows and its multiplicity of operating systems.

He is a mentor for coach and techies who work under the Microsoft standard.  With Gates’ approval, he sparked the setup of a world-class R&D facility in Hyderabad, India and, more recently, another in Vancouver, Canada.

He is considered the original architect of globally distributed development for Microsoft.

Somasegar talks about Microsoft- “We have a special breed of people here,” he explains. “As much as they want to be successful, they also have a passion for their work. They are highly creative people who want developers to have fun with the technologies they’re creating and be inspired to build innovative solutions. That means our goal is to create a platform and technologies that win the hearts as well as the minds of our customers.”

Somasegar quickly rose through the ranks after joining Microsoft in 1989. He was named an SVP in 2008, and is the company’s senior exec of Indian origin.

He oversees teams that provide tools and platform technologies for developers, designers and other folks involved in software development: products like Visual Studio, Expression Studio, Silverlight and Popfly. His teams also own key Microsoft Web properties: Microsoft.com, MSDN and TechNet as an SVP of the developer division.

In 1986, Somasegar received a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from College of Engineering, Guindy of Anna University, in Chennai, India. In 1988, he received an M.S. in computer engineering from Louisiana State University. He was working toward a Ph.D. in computer engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo when he joined Microsoft.

He blogs here.

In November 2006, Somasegar was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Anna University. In February 2008, he was presented the Asian American Engineer of the Year Award.





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