Auroville Ashram conceived as the ‘Universal Town’ is located mostly in Viluppuram District in the state of Tamil Nadu with some parts in the Union Territory of Puducherry. Auroville or the City of Dawn was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as “the Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger. Auroville has its origins in the French language ‘aurore’ meaning ‘dawn’ and ‘ville’ meaning ‘city’. It also gets its name after Sri Aurobindo.
In the words of Mirra Alfassa, “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.”
History of Auroville
The concept of Auroville was developed in the mid 1960s, was supported by the Govt. of India and the UNESCO passed a resolution in 1966 commending it as “a project of importance to the future of humanity”. The inauguration ceremony, held on 28th February 1968, was witnessed by around 5,000 people and attended by delegates of 124 nations including all the States of India. The Mother set forth the 4-point Charter of Auroville.
The Auroville Charter
The Charter forms a referent silently guiding the people who choose to live and work for Auroville.
Society and Population
Auroville is an emerging township intended to house 50,000 people, around 2,500 volunteers from India and some 50 countries from around the world. It is surrounded by 13 villages. As of January 2018, Auroville has 2,814 residents from 54 countries.
Organisation & Governance
The land and assets of Auroville are held by a Government appointed body called the Auroville Foundation that ensures the achievement of its goals. Bodies such as the ‘Working Committee’ and ‘Auroville Council’ and ‘working groups’ are elected from volunteers to meet the basic administrative needs of the community. Auroville maintains a totally non-hierarchical society and no one individual or group is in charge in the affairs.
The Govt. of India owns and manages the Auroville Foundation, but it only finances a small part of Auroville’s budget. A part of its finances comes from:
- NGOs and other organizations in India and abroad
- Profits of Commercial units within Auroville (around 180 commercial units are operating in Auroville)
- A number of ‘Auroville International’ centres around the world
- From guest houses, cash donations made by visitors and guests, outside well-wishers and families of Aurovilians
- Residents of Auroville are expected to contribute a monthly contribution to the community.
The structure of the city
The city of Auroville has an architecture as fascinating as the concept itself. The city is planned in a circle of radius 1.25 kilometres. The city area of the township occupies around 1,150 acres while the Green Belt occupies approx 2,780 acres of land. At the centre of the city is the Matrimandir surrounded by gardens. Just outside this lies the industrial zone, the cultural zone, the peace zone and the residential zone. The entire city is covered by a ‘green belt’. Cited near the Matrimandir and banyan tree at the center of Auroville is the Amphitheatre with a white, marble-clad, bud-shaped urn at its focal point containing soil from the 124 nations and all of India’s States that had participated in the inauguration ceremony of Auroville.
The Mother, from the outset, said that there would be a ‘Park of Unity’ at the center of her town and in the park would be a Pavilion which she eventually named “Matrimandir”. Matrimandir is translated in English as “The Mother’s Shrine”. She also added that the ‘Park of Unity’ would consist of twelve gardens which she named as: Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Light, Life, Power, Wealth, Utility, Progress, Youth, Harmony, Perfection.
She named Matrimandir’s North, South, East and West pillars after the four Aspects or Personalities of the Supreme Mother: Mahakali, Maheshwari, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswathi. There are twelve meditation rooms located inside Matrimandir’s twelve large ‘petals’, named after twelve Virtues or Qualities: Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality, Peace.
Matrimandir is equipped with a solar power plant and is surrounded by manicured gardens. The mandir is an architectural masterpiece with a lotus-shaped foundation urn and provides a perfect atmosphere for meditation. Botanical Garden – The southern half of Auroville’s Green Belt is being developed into a Botanical Garden on an approximately 50-acre plot of land. With an Environmental Educational Centre in the vicinity, the garden has more than 250 tree species planted in the 250-acre arboretum, 5500 specimens planted in its 10-acre conservation forest and a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest plant nursery created so as to produce 50,000 seedlings a year.
- All guests staying in Auroville are expected to pay Rs. 150 as ‘guest contribution’ per day of intended stay.
- Auroville has many registered guest houses, the prices of which vary according to the facilities, services and degree of comfort provided. It is advisable to book accommodation in advance, especially during the peak season of December to March.
- Auroville has a swimming pool and gymnasium complex including a floor space for martial arts, aerobics, dance, pilates, body awareness etc.
- The chambers at the Matrimandir are open to visitors are open at fixed times in the morning and evening. The visitors need to first go to the Visitors Centre, where an introductory video on the Matrimandir is shown. Later on, they obtain a Pass to see the outer structure, Banyan Tree and Amphitheatre. To visit the Chambers inside, they need to make a booking any day except Tuesdays at the Visitors Centre at 10-11 A.M. or 2-3 P.M.
- Auroville has two travel agents: The Travel Shop, an IATA-approved agency near the main Health Centre which opens Mon-Fri 9 A.M.-12.30 P.M. & 1.30-5 P.M. and Sat 9 A.M.-12.30 P.M., and Yatra Nova on the edge of Kuilapalayam village, open Mon-Sat 9 A.M.-5 P.M.. Both accept Credit Card payment.
How to reach Auroville
Auroville is about 150 kilometres south of Chennai and about 10 kilometres north of Pondicherry town. It can be easily reached via the East Coast Road (ECR) which connects Chennai and Pondicherry. You could take a train from Chennai Central Railway Station and get down at Guindy. Further, take a bus to Pondicherry and get down at the Auroville Junction on the ECR Road. You could also take a bus from Chennai Koyambedu Bus Station for Pondicherry to get down at Auroville Junction. Pondicherry and Chennai are the nearest airports.