Auroville…The Grand Experiment

23 Dec

What do you get when you cross an arid plateau-which is now a lush forest, 25,000 Tamil villagers, 2,000 international residents from 71 countries, really bad potholes- which masquerade as roads, an alternative lifestyle, and a 70 meter golden golf ball?

You get Auroville International Township, a place where ecology and spirituality combine to make an alternative community open to people throughout the world. Auroville was founded in 1968 and the vision for it is that there will be 50,000 people living there in a sort of futuristic utopia where clean water, renewable energy, education and no money reign supreme. The charter of the city sums up these intentions nicely:

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

The center of Auroville is the Matrimandir or Temple of the Mother that does not belong to any religion or sect. It is known as the soul of the city. When the township is completed, the Matrimandir will be the absolute center of the city and all buildings will emanate from it in a spiral, galaxy-like fashion. The Matrimandir itself is really a sight to see. The entire surface of the ball is covered in large and smaller concave discs that are embedded with golden pieces of glass. It is an engineering marvel and totally beautiful from a distance- especially at dusk when it is lit from below.

There are many issues holding back progress in Auroville though- a lack of housing is causing newcomers to have a difficult time of integrating into the township. Newcomers must go through an entire year to become an Aurovillian and they must also be able to pay for their own land and house to be built- which becomes the property of Auroville. The money exchange system is difficult too- Aurovillians get a small stipend (called maintenance) on which they are supposed to live each month. The maximum amount an Aurovillian can receive is 5000 Rs per month, or around 112.00 USD. Now, it can be done but it is difficult to be sustained on this amount and newcomers are not even eligible for this maintenance.

So while there are problems, there are many great things about the community as well. Education plays a huge role in the township and local Tamil villagers are being educated both as children in integrated schools and adults in handicrafts and vocational work. Ecologically, the 20 sq. km have been transformed in the 40 years of Auroville’s existence from an arid plateau with very few trees to an amazing jungle teeming with flora and fauna. While Auroville has a way to go to realize their goal it is amazing to see what they have accomplished in such a short time.

Astrid and I were only staying for a week originally, but we decided to find a longer term place and spend a few weeks exploring the township, doing some yoga, and looking into life here. It’s not a place where I think we would ever live permanently, but it is an interesting experiment. We’ll post more later.



3 Responses to “Auroville…The Grand Experiment”

  1. A December 24, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    I miss Auroville…

  2. Adriana January 2, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    So that other A was not me. All I can say is that Auroville is one of my favorite places in the world.

  3. auroville2 July 31, 2008 at 7:40 am #

    Why would you never live there permanently?

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