Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India near Puducherry in South India. "Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity." runs the first public message of the founder of Auroville, Mirra Alfassa, known universally as the Mother.
Founded in 1968, on an impoverished area,which was in "an advanced stage of desertification" Auroville has successfully restored the health to the land by rigorous and disciplined approach to plantation and soil conservation. Side by side, Auroville has developed the activities of an emerging universal township, besides reaching out to the wider bioregion with many programmes and projects related to education, rural development, health care, vocational training etc.(Ref.http://www.auroville.org/environment/env_history.htm)
Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother. She was a collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, who believed that "man is a transitional being". The Mother expected that this experimental universal township would contribute significantly in the progress of humanity towards its splendid future by bringing together people of goodwill and aspiration for a better world.
There was nothing on the ground at the beginning but in the minds and hearts of the pioneers was the dream, a broad, comprehensive and luminous vision of future elaborated by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. "Auroville: at last a place where one will be able to think only of the future...At last a place where one will be able to think only of progressing and transcending oneself..." runs a message of the Mother.
"Auroville is the ideal place for those who want to know the joy and liberation of no longer having any personal possessions" runs another message. (Ref. The Mother on Auroville, page 1) The Mother also believed that such a universal township will contribute decisively to the Indian renaissance (Ref. Mother's Agenda, Vol. 9, dt.3.02.68). The Government of India endorsed the township, and in 1966, UNESCO also endorsed it inviting the member-states to participate in the development of Auroville. UNESCO re-endorsed Auroville three more times in course of last 40 years.
Auroville is composed of a cluster of properties some 12km north of Pondicherry. It can be easily reached via the East Coast Road (ECR) which connects Chennai and Pondicherry. The visitor centre and Matrimandir can be reached by travelling eight kilometres westwards from the signposted turnoff at the ECR. Turning east leads directly to Auroville Beach, several hundred metres away.
In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, which has been acclaimed as "an outstanding and original architectural achievement". It was conceived by The Mother as "a symbol of the Divine's answer to man's inspiration for perfection". Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquility of the space and entire area surrounding the Matrimandir is called Peace area. The Peace area in which the structure is situated is characterized by three main features: the Matrimandir itself with its twelve gardens,twelve petals and future lakes, the Amphitheater and the Banyan Tree.
Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air- conditioned chamber of polished white marble. "A place to find one's consciousness". At its centre, a 70cm crystal ball in a gold mount and glows in ringle ray of sunlight that is catched and directed on the globe from the top of structure. According to the Mother is "a symbol of future realisation." When there is no sun or after the sunset, the sunray on the globe is replaced by beam from a solar powered light.
Matrimandir has a solar power plant and is surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens.
Government, belief system
Auroville is governed by the Auroville Foundation through an act of the Indian Parliament. The Foundation, fully controlled by the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development, currently owns about half of the total land required for the township. Additional lands are being acquired through consistent fundraising activities by the Aurovilian residents with the help of Auroville International Centers.
Politics, religion, and most forms of private property are not allowed in Auroville. The township, not the inhabitants, owns the houses.
Three central documents articulating the vision of Auroville are the following:
To be a True Aurovilian
It is not necessary to be a disciple of The Mother or Sri Aurobindo to join Auroville.
Architecture, technology, and education
The dream of building a new city for the future on a clean slate, with the purpose of promoting research and experimentation alongside integral development, has been attracting architects and students of architecture from all over the world ever since Auroville´s inception in 1968. Not having pre-defined by-laws or being bound by the conventions of human society has allowed a multitude of expressions to manifest in the course of Auroville´s development, as natural extensions of the quest for the new.
Satprem Maïni a French Aurovilian architect, the director of the Auroville Earth Institute, is representative for India and South Asia to the “ UNESCO Chair Earthen Architecture, Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development”.
Some public drinking fountains feature "dynamised" water, which has been "made healthier" by having the water listen to Bach and Mozart. Read more about dynamised water here
Classes are held at the "Future School" in the shade of a tree. Attendance by children is not mandatory.
Paper and coin currency is not used in Auroville, by direction of The Mother. Instead, residents use electronic cards which connect to their central account. Visitors, however, are allowed to pay in cash.
According to Auroville Today, one has to be "able to save the substantial amount required – of the order of Rs 15 lakhs (approximately US $ 35,000) upwards – to start a life in Auroville."
Residents of Auroville are expected to pay a monthly contribution, and are asked to help the community whenever possible, by work, money or kind. "Guest contribution", or a daily fee payable by the visitors of Auroville, constitutes a part of Auroville's budget. There is a system of “maintenance”, whereby those Aurovilians who need can receive from the community a monthly maintenance which could cover simple bacis needs of life. Auroville's economy as its overall life are of evolving nature and there are ongoing experiments to reach closer to the vision.
Auroville finances itself mainly by receiving donations, and by its commercial units which contribute 33% of their profits to Auroville's Central Fund. There are guest houses, building construction units, information technology, small and medium scale businesses, producing and re-selling items such as handmade paper for stationery items, as well as producing its well-known incense sticks, which can be bought in Auroville's own shop in Pondicherry, or are sold around India and abroad. Each of these units contributes a considerable part of their profits to the township. Over 5000 Tamil villagers are employed in Auroville.
Communication and media
The Auroville website accesses journals and newsletters providing open as well as restricted forums for various projects, interests, organizations and outreach which make up the life of the community. Note: The opinions expressed in these publications are not necessarily shared by the community at large.
Auroville has a small but dedicated 'OutreachMedia' team who regulate visits of journalists and film/video makers. Their particular aim is to ensure that all journalists and filmmakers get the official, up-to-date information or relevant/representative footage from the correct sources so that generally their visit is a fruitful and constructive one.
A BBC journalist, Rachel Wright produced several reports about Auroville in May and June 2008 contrasting the idealism of its founders with allegations by some villagers living near Auroville that the community tolerates paedophile abuse. A follow-up BBC television report featured a response by Carel Thieme, an Auroville representative, rebuffing the BBC report and the witnesses as wildly prejudiced.