Craft and dogs are ubiquitous in Auroville
Is there an ideal place on earth… where money would no longer be the sovereign lord, where work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself, where education is given for discovering oneself rather than for certificates, where people do not amass personal wealth but create sustainable communities, is there a place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages… Ah! Sounds like yet another naive idealist searching for utopian Shangrila! For a moment let’s imagine that there could be a place which aspires to create a global community of free living and spiritual thinking. For a moment, let’s forget that we are in a materialistic world where everyone lives on their own and nobody cares about the society at large. But if there is a possibility of a global commune which aspires to create a sustainable township of human unity, then it is Auroville.
Stay at Auroville
Athithigriha – the best haunt for every Auroville visitor
I got to know about Auroville when I was working for Madhyam, an NGO in Bangalore. One visit to the nearby Auroville shop was truly enchanting with all its handmade papers, organic soaps, cotton and jute clothing, terracotta and ceramic pottery, natural fibre. Since then I always wanted to visit the place which is outside Pondicherry and get a feel of how a global commune looks like. I visited it for the first time in 2006 and it was love at first time! Since then I have visited the place three times and the hunger is not quenched at all. This time I made an effort to stay in the beautiful Atithi Griha near Visitor’s Centre, which may be the only place outsiders would visit. I was mainly fascinated by the sustainable architecture designed by the Earth Institute mainly using mud and other local material.
Enchanting view of the Matrimandir
Every visitor to Auroville eagerly looks forward to a visit inside the Matrimandir. Built like a compressed sphere, it is an ethereal experience to meditate inside the sanctum. There is no deity, no flowers or incense sticks, no image and no ritual. You just sit on white mats lied on white carpeted floor, wearing white socks and stare at the large crystal sphere which is sparkling white due to the sunlight falling on it from a hole above. That 20 minutes of silence can provoke existential questions in you!
Ideals of Auroville and a rare view of Matrimandir’s interior
Courage, serenity, solitude, certitude, revelation, samasti, samriddhi, names that seem to suggest the steps to attain nirvana are actually the names of various communities in Auroville. Each one is self-sustaining commune inhabited by people from all over the world. So you will find a French man milking a cow, a German working on a wind mill, an American teaching yoga, local Tamilian doing the plumbing and visitors like us gaping at the strange confluence of people!
Earth Institute director Sat Prem Maini’s eco-friendly house
Since one important aim of Auroville is that Aurovilians receive no money equivalent as ‘payment’ for their work, and that there be no circulation of money within the township, the community is responsible for providing for the regular needs of each person as much as possible. Many ideals at Auroville derive from Sri Aurobindo’s vision, whose ashram at Pondicherry is now an international study centre. The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – was conceptualised by Aurobindo’s spiritual companion the Mother in 1968.
Recycled designs by Upasana
On 28 February 1968, 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the states of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble-clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of the Amphitheatre next to Matrimandir.
A sample of the gold plated covering of the Matrimandir
Aurovilians research on environmental regeneration, organic farming, renewable energy, building technology, handicrafts, and various small scale industries. Although, their research is rarely at the cutting edge in any given field, their aim to lead a sustainable living. Strong emphasis is placed on artistic pursuits. Aurovilians also assist neighbouring Tamil villages with infrastructure development, healthcare, and education. To an outsider, the idea of Auroville may evoke the Jewish Kibbutz, the American Peace Corps, and an Indian ashram, all rolled into one.