"Auroville wants to be a universal township where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and nationalities. The purpose of Aurovile is to realize human unity."
Auroville (www.auroville.org) was one of the places Barbara and I visited on our road trip, and is one of the places I plan to spend a week or so in April. It is a beautiful and fascinating place. We were fortunate to be able to spend time with Joss, an Aurovillian Barbara was in contact with. Joss has been there since 1969 and was instrumental in creating the beautiful forest that grows there today. Many of these pictures were taken as he gave us a tour of the forest that grows around his living quarters.
This land was officially described as being in an advanced state of desertification when Auroville was begun. Many years of tree planting, mostly indigenous species, and organic farming have yielded amazing and beautiful results.
Whole books have been written about Auroville, so there is no way that I can begin to do it justice here. A short summary will have to suffice. Auroville's official inauguration was February 28,1968. Representatives from 124 countries and 23 Indian states placed a handful of earth from their homelands into an urn at the center of the planned township. Since that time, the desert has become lush and green, and the community has grown to include about 100 settlements with 2300 people from 50 different countries. In 1988, the Indian government passed the Auroville Foundation Act, which basically allows Auroville to be self-governing. All of the land, houses, infrastructure, etc. belong to Auroville. To become an Aurovillian, one must agree to certain principles, to have the financial means to build and furnish a residence that they can live in but belongs to the community, and to go through a one year probation.
Residents work on many different projects, including making musical instruments and other handicrafts, organic farming, health care, and research into a wide variety of topics, including bamboo farming, cashless economies and renewable energy. Aurovillians work closely with the surrounding communities, and are open to new ideas and technologies that are progressive from all over the world. The feel of the place is peaceful yet vibrant. In some ways it has become a tourist attraction, which has its pluses and minuses. Visitors spread the word and contribute to the economy by buying Auroville products. On the other hand, this is a serious, working community. So people are friendly but also busy.
Two people inspired Auroville. The first, Sri Aurobindo (http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/ashram/sriauro/) was born in Calcutta in 1879. He was sent to England to be educated at the age of 8 and returned when he was 21. He worked as an educator for many years, and in 1906 launched a newspaper where he declared openly for complete and absolute independence for India. In 1908 he was arrested for terrorist activities. He was acquitted after spending one year in jail, which he spent studying the Gita and the Upanishads, and in intensive meditation and Yoga. Shortly after that, he withdrew from active politics and moved to Pondicherry, a French enclave in south India. He went on to author and publish 35 books on his belief in the possibility for mankind to evolve to a higher consciousness that will enable us to live a life perfectly harmonious, good, happy and fully conscious. Sri Aurobindo "left his body" in 1950.
The Mother, ( http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/ashram/mother/) born Mirra Alfassa in 1878 in Paris, is the person who had the vision of Auroville and also the person who launched the project in 1965. Her written vision is very powerful, and she had to be a very charismatic person to have inspired so many people to work so hard to realize the vision. She first met Sri Aurobindo in 1914, but it wasn't until 1920 that she moved to Pondicherry to support his work. She authored and published 17 books. She left her body in 1973. Joss worked with the Mother when he first came to Auroville, and had nothing but the highest praise for her.
As those who know me will guess, Auroville fascinates me. My host, Ravi, lived there for a couple of years before he and Sheela were married, and he has very positive things to say about it. I am really looking forward to spending more time there in April. I'm sure I will have a more in-depth report at that time.
The Matrimandir, ( http://www.auroville.org/thecity/matrimandir/mm_main.htm) the soul of Auroville and the symbol of the Universal Mother, is the primary tourist attraction at Auroville. It is not meant to be a religious place, but rather "a place for concentration, for trying to find one's consciousness." Only a limited number of tourists are permitted inside, and only during very limited times.
This banyan tree, very close to the Matrimandir, is the geographical center of Auroville. It is also an amazing presence. I plan to spend some time there in silence when I go back.
The reforestation work continues.
The centerpiece here is petrified wood.