What is Auroville?
Located 10 kms north to the Union Territory of Pondicherry (Puducherry) in south India, Auroville is a universal township in the making for a population of about 50,000 people from around the world. Many people across the globe, looking for spiritual means of existence, have found solace and a place to live sustainably in Auroville.
How was such an idea even conceived and brought into reality? This concept of an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity came to Mother (aka Mirra Alfassa; a spiritual guru, occultist and collaborator of Sri Aurobindo) in the ealry 1930s. This concept was developed and presented to the Govt. Of India in mid 1960s, who backed it in the General Assembly of UNESCO. Once the UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution, giving their full encouragement to the project in 1966, an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations was held on 28th Feb 1968 on a site approximately 20 sq. kms in area.
Why was this done? The idea behind Auroville is to realise human unity, in diversity. This is a place where anyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, religion and such can exist in harmony. The ongoing experiment also involves transformation of consciousness, practical research into sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.
Aurovilians? People from 49 nations, across all age groups, social classes, backgrounds & cultures; they represent humanity as a whole. With steady growth, the population currently stands at around 3,000 people (as of 2019), out of which 1/3 rd are Indian.
How has this shaped up? Aurvolille is laid out in the form of a radial layout, with the Matrimandir at its center. This is a dome structure for meditation & internal reflection. Matrimandir & its surrounding gardens encompass the "Peace Area". To the north lies the "Industrial Zone" that contains small scale industries, training centres and industries that support the township. To the west and east lie the "International Zone" that hosts national & cultural pavilions, and the "Cultural Zone" where facilities for cultural, educational, art & sport activities are housed, respectively. The largest of the four city zones, the "Residential Zone", is located in the South; it promotes both individual and collective living in an indigenous community. This whole city network is surrounded by a "Green Belt" that consists of orchards, farms, forests, dairies, etc. It acts as a barrier for urban encroachment.
When I first visited Auroville in the early 2000s, the Mantrimandir - a geodesic dome edifice, was still an exposed steel structure bereft of its signature shining facade of golden discs. Having been completed in 2008, on Mother's 93rd birthday, it is a prominent symbol of spiritual significance for practitioners of Internal Yoga and is essentially the "Heart and Soul of Auroville".
The dome represents a flower bud that is surrounded by 12 petals, each of which stands for a quality of human nature. Matrimandir, sanskrit for "Temple of the Mother", appears as a large golden sphere emerging out of earth, symbolising birth of a new consciousness. Although it is no tourist place and entry access must be gained months prior by applying online, many tourists visiting Pondicherry make a beeline to this spectacle to feel the spirituality it invokes for themselves. Their access is limited only to the gardens around the petals.
Inside the edifice, a spiralling ramp leads up to a chamber of polished white marble, or the meditation hall, where resides the world's largest optically perfect glass globe at the center. This crystal globe suffuses a ray of electronically guided sunlight that falls on it through an opening at the dome's apex; it is the only source of light in the hall. This inner chamber is devoid of any imagery or ornamentation; silence is maintained throughout the experience.
Auroville is a beautiful, serene escape from the idiosyncrasies of daily life. It helps realise how small humans & their problems are in the grand scale of the universe. This is a must visit place for some perspective.
A place...for trying to find one's consciousness.
It is like the Force, the central Force of Auroville, the cohesive Force of Auroville.
- The Mother
For more information on Auroville & Matrimandir : https://www.auroville.org
For Matrimadir : https://youtu.be/WuR8ChgjWNI