The Auroville Charter:
- belongs to nobody in particular but belongs to humanity as a whole. To live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
- will be a place of unending education, constant progress and a youth that never ages.
- wants to bridge the gap between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within. Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations
- will be a site of material and spiritual research for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity. (The Mother, 28/02/1968)
Ten kilometres north of Pondicherry exists a place called Auroville, home to nearly 3,000 Aurovillan’s. People from many countries and religions live together above all creeds, politics and nationalism, in a universal town of peace, harmony and human unity. If this sounds to good to be true, forgive me, I’m quoting this straight from the Auroville information leaflet I picked up from the bookshop. I obviously hadn’t read our trip itinerary closely enough to realise that we would be visiting, or that a place like this existed in India. On the surface the concept seems similar to the Findhorn community which exists in the north east of Scotland. However, after visiting, I’m not so sure.
We are on the bus, and the usual street stalls, wandering dogs and cows are along the roadside, but as we move towards Auroville….it changes. There are many more non-Indians and shops selling hippy style clothing and jewellery. As we drive into the car park, there is no litter and the surrounding gardens are immaculately manicured. We walk to the visitor centre and there are several lovely shops selling handicrafts made by the Auroville community…. up-cycling is big here! The cafes have a French feel and we have a very nice earl grey tea (the first in India), a pot of French pressed coffee (John is in heaven!) and an apple tart. They even sell biscotti biscuits …. it’s all a bit surreal. It feels like a chilled theme park in the middle of chaotic India. We watch an introductory film on Auroville and then start our walk to the Matrimander viewing point. Auroville is the vision of the Universal (also known as the Divine) Mother (a French women) and incorporates the teachings of Sri Aurobindo (an Indian priest and poet). Along the 2km walk to the Matrimander are various stones depicting the 12 qualities of the mother; progress, perseverance, peace, courage, peace, etc etc…. and then around the corner, past the 300-year-old Banyan tree which marks the geographical centre of Auroville, there it is…. the Matrimander, the soul of Auroville, the living symbol of this place’s aspiration, a gigantic, golden globe which dominates the freshly cut grass and trimmed bushes. Inside the Matrimander there is an inner chamber, a place for silent concentration (not mediation) which houses a spherical optical lens reflecting light from the sun into its chamber. However, we can’t go any further. Only Aurovillan’s and those with prior permission can enter.
Some of the principles of Auroville do hit a chord, but others just don’t sit right with me. Our trip leader tells us that apparently the community is mostly made up of non-Indians, and that despite the goal of collective humanity and reducing internal money exchange, newcomers wishing to join Auroville have to be in good physical and mental health and have financial means of their own to support them through the first few years. After joining the community any immovable assets created will then belong to Auroville. There seems to be a great importance placed on The mother and her teachings. So if this isn’t a religion, why are all Aurovillans following her teachings? There’s talk of man being surpassed by the advent of a new species and of developing discipline towards, and union with ‘the divine’, growth of true consciousness, and Auroville being the cradle of a new ‘superman’. Nevertheless, I am impressed with their research into new types of economy, governance, ecology and renewable energy. If this is a way to progress towards saving humanity, then I wish Auroville good luck in achieving its goal.
I’m interested in finding out more and pick some leaflets up from the bookshop. We are on the bus heading to Pondicherry before I realise that I should have paid 150 rupees for the leaflets I thought were free to ‘collective humanity’…… oops!