It is a city of fascination, a universal township in the state of Tamil Nadu, near Puducherry. Entering the place by a taxi or a bus from Puducherry or Chennai, one experiences the change in the air. Founded by The Mother (Mira Alfassa), a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, based on the philosophies of the duo, Auroville is a place with people hailing from 50 different nations and it leaves no chance to mesmerize you.
Since I think the place is not worth touring but worth experiencing, I have tried to emphasize more on uniqueness that separates it from other destinations than on the attraction spots to visit. The place has such a spell on the guest that even walking on its roads or sitting under a tree, touches the person. It is very difficult to put in words the relation with the place but I have tried to bring it as very close to the actual experience.
One of the key features of this place, that one would experience here, is freedom. One might live in a hostel or a guest house, or opt for a home-stay or a tree house; fears that you might have in any other city do not even strike your mind. Citizens’ professions, conversations, attitude and lifestyle speak aloud about their free minds. People practice what is rational and likeable to them. People do what they love and love what they do. And when there is passion; perseverance, dedication, satisfying results, money, recognition and the most important peace and gratification automatically follow. This was one thing common in all the discussions with the Aurovillians, with whom I got the chance to interact. We have already read all this, in books and quotes but we find it be quixotic, but examples prove the truth.
The economy is debt free based on needs and not wants, which is an audacious feature. I think this is the reason why people, in general are humble, simple and close to nature as it is human’s greed that ruins the balance in our ecosystems. The rule that one cannot own a land in the premises of the city erases the concept of ownership and idea of possession. The thread of ideals runs through the entire system, and thus each element reflects the forethought behind it and collectively makes Auroville what it is.
The education system is really interesting, in that it supports the alternative schooling that promotes creativity and intellectual growth. Learning matters more than marks and knowledge; and ability more than degrees and certificates. The system endeavours to seek tabula rasa for the students by bringing them up in an environment that does not impose any predetermined notions. The way people live is really inspiring. Their clothes, food, houses, languages, spiritual practices, landscaping speak all about their minimalism, modesty, prudence and propinquity with nature.
Another vital element is of equality. Here all are equal participants of the experiment irrespective of their caste, education, profession or status. The organization of the society is linear and not hierarchical. It is infact very commendable that without a person being responsible of the system people are still working cohesively towards the realization of the success of the experiment. There is respect for each other’s work and sentiments unlike the cities where we have created watertight compartments for the division of work and social status. For instance, here, the household helps (ammas) are given off on Sunday just like all other professionals in the city; this shows how people are concerned about their fellow mates.
Auroville has the two aspects of liberty and equality, well maintained with the element of fraternity. People are united as a team working on an experiment. Mutual respect, understanding and cooperation are the essentials. Vasudhev Kutumbkam, which seems to be just a cliché as countries are going hammer and tongs with each other, regains its meaning and purpose here. We can see kids from Indian origin speaking in foreign accent and foreigners in Indian attires. Solar kitchen, a common food outlet where solar energy is the fuel, is the perfect place to observe this diversity.
The question which arises here is that there is something which keeps people here together, what is that? Despite being used to the world outside and the opportunities available there; what is that keeps Aurovillians here? Some people tag it to be a spiritual and meditative place with a very slow life with no material gains, then why is the population increasing here? There are different answers like the divine purpose, spiritual unity, richness of life etc. This might be only answered by delving into ideas of the visionaries who could forsee the evolution of human race beginning to take place here. One has innumerable avenues to explore one’s interests and discover oneself. If one visits the place with less hand in time and visits the Matrimandir (the center point of the place and the meditative center), Sadhana Forest (international brothers and sisters turned a barren land into lush green cover over years of perseverance), Svaram (the music center) and interact with the localites, they would be definitely marveled.
Whether you are a tourist, intern or volunteer, whether you visit Sadhana forest, work in your office, or just loiter about the city you will experience something unique. The place cannot be defined; looking at the muddy roads it seems to be a village, a town when one calculates the area, its organization and structure makes it look like an independent country state and if you see the people living, it is a condensed world. Once a piece of barren land unfit for human inhabitation is now a well established settlement with lush green forest cover inviting people across continents to fall in love with it.
This entry was submitted for Holidify’s Travelogue Writing Contest, Wanderlust in association with Mood Indigo, IIT-B. The content and pictures may not be used without prior permission of the author.
Submitted by: Shivani Agarwal