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India builds own version of Eiffel

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Three-legged, 333-foot monument will be a concrete and metal structure, official says
  • More than half the cost of the $10 million project is shouldered by a large private Indian firm
  • Yanam Tower will reside in Pondicherry, which has a French past
  • Pondicherry didn't officially become part of India until 1963
  • India
  • France

New Delhi, India (CNN)) -- India's British past stands imposing in some of its most splendid buildings. But the country is erecting a tribute to its French connection to attract tourists.

A former French colony tucked along India's southeastern coast is building its own Eiffel Tower, a small version of the massive Paris monument.

The former colony of Pondicherry, also called Puducherry, has already completed half of the four-phased construction of the Yanam Tower, named after one of the four coastal enclaves of the federally-controlled territory.

Construction is expected to be completed by the end of November, Pondicherry's revenue minister Malladi Krishna Rao said.

The three-legged, 333-foot monument will be a concrete structure for the first 90 feet, and the rest will be metal, he said.

Being built on sprawling 20 acres, the Yanam Tower will have a restaurant overlooking the sea.

More than half the cost of the $10 million project is being shouldered by a large private Indian company. The rest is being pooled by the federal and local administrations, according to Rao.

"There's a lot of French culture in Puducherry. We also have French pensioners," he said.

Tree-lined boulevards, quaint colonnaded buildings, tall statues and a tiny Tamil French community define Pondicherry. Unlike the rest of India's uneasy accounts of its British history, Pondicherry displays its French past nostalgically.

"It's a trip down France as one crosses symmetrically-designed streets in Puducherry," says the official Web site of its tourism department. It also praises French governors for their administration and has listed the statue of one of them -- Marquis Joseph Francois Dupleix -- as a heritage site for tourists.

India gained independence from the British in 1947. But the French stayed longer, at least until 1954 when their possessions in Pondicherry were de facto transferred to the new government in New Delhi after 280 years of rule. Officially, though, Pondicherry didn't become part of India until 1963 when the French parliament ratified its treaty with India.

More than 55,000 foreign tourists visited Pondicherry in 2007, according to the latest statistics from the tourism department. Authorities hope their own mini Eiffel Tower will attract more.

"It will give boost to tourism," said Rao.