A highly condensed summary of the main points
people seek information on regarding Auroville.
Note: In the text which follows Auroville is sometimes abbreviated to AV. Whatever we cover here, there are sure to be dozens of other questions people will ask. Such questions can best be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org, but meanwhile here are some general facts to be getting on with. (Headings are in alphabetical order; AV = Auroville; Chennai is new name for Madras.)
Each commercial, research and service unit is responsible for keeping accounts and preparing its own annual balance sheet, which is then audited by a certified chartered account. All accounts and balance sheets are checked by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, and an audited balance sheet of all units under the Auroville Foundation (see separate note) is annually prepared for submission to India’s Parliament.
Act of Parliament
See “Auroville Foundation”.
Auroville is well served by a variety of international and national carriers operating into Chennai airport. Pondicherry has a small airport without commercial flights at present, but this situation is expected to change shortly.
The consumption of alcohol is strongly discouraged in Auroville. It cannot be purchased anywhere in the township.
Alternative energy systems
Auroville has the highest concentration of alternative and appropriate energy systems in India, including solar, wind and biogas generating systems. Of particular interest are the huge 15-metre diameter solar collector installed on the roof of the Solar Kitchen, designed to generate enough steam to cook over 1,000 meals a day, and the Matrimandir Solar Power Plant, believed to be the largest stand-alone system in India, comprising 484 photovoltaic modules with total capacity of 36.3 KW. Some 750 homes and/or offices operate entirely or mostly on solar power. See also “Wind energy generators”.
An Auroville ambulance is normally available on 24-hour standby at the Kailash Clinic for Aurovilians, Newcomers and registered guests of Auroville (ph.94422-24680). A charge is made for usage according to distance covered and user status.
Sited near the Matrimandir and banyan tree at the centre of Auroville, with a white, marble-clad, bud-shaped urn at its focal point containing soil from the 124 nations and all India’s States that participated in Auroville’s inauguration ceremony on 28th February 1968, the Amphitheatre has been the traditional site of a pre-dawn bonfire and silent gathering on Auroville’s and Sri Aurobindo’s birth dates (February 28th and August 15th respectively). It is also used occasionally for other types of gathering and events conducive to “inner” awareness and concentration.
A dedicated team of Aurovilians seeks to improve the health of locally owned animals, specially dogs and cats, by providing anti-rabies inoculation and other forms of treatment. They also try to control the number of semi-feral uncared for dogs and cats in the villages by offering free sterilization wherever required.
Appropriate Technology (AT)
Auroville has several business units dealing in alternative technology, including one specialising in windmills, and another in the design and installation of solar-powered lighting systems, pumps and water heaters. The latter unit works with local NGO partners all over India, providing them with design / consultancy and supply and installation of such systems for drinking water and rural village electrification.
See “Conflict resolution”.
Excavations in the Auroville area have revealed a number of ancient sites, some dating back 2,000 years, from which a variety of artifacts have been removed for safe keeping. These are now preserved in a small Museum of Archaeology at Bharat Nivas (see “Cultural Pavilions”).
Auroville, which is home to more than 40 practicing architects, is well known for its diverse and innovative approach to architecture. Of special interest is the widespread use of Compressed Stabilised Earth Block (CSEB) technology and ferrocement components (for roofing, etc) in building construction.
The Auroville Archives, located at Bharat Nivas, preserves all available important papers, letters, photos and audio/visual material relating to Auroville’s founding and subsequent development.
The total planned area of the township plus surrounding Green Belt is 3,930 acres (1,620 hectares, or approx 20 sq.kms), of which the city area will occupy approx 1,150 acres and the Green Belt approx 2,780 acres.
Arrival in Auroville
Everyone staying in Auroville, whether Indian or foreign, is required to complete an ‘Arrival Form’ at their guest house, the AV Guest Service or an AV Financial Service office as soon as possible after their arrival. The same applies to Aurovilians returning from abroad (done at the Residents Service office). See also “Guest registration” and “Residential Permit”.
The Auroville township project should not be confused with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which is an entirely separate entity. The relationship between Auroville and the Ashram, however, is close, not least because of a shared aspiration to realize the goals of integral yoga, and there is good regular interaction between the residents of both organisations.
All matters relating to Auroville‘s land, buildings and other fixed assets are overseen by a ‘Funds & Assets Management Committee’.
There are a number of competent astrologers living in Auroville, some of whom are willing to help with preparation and interpretation of birth charts. For names and contact information it is best to make enquiries around the township.
ATM (Automated Teller Machine) cash dispensers
Two local bank branches – State Bank of India and ICICI Bank (see “Banks”) – have ATMs outside their premises for dispensing cash to account holders.
The plastic Aurocard provides an alternative to cash payment throughout Auroville. All major guest houses, restaurants and shopping places have an electronic ‘reader’ to enable financial transfers to be done electronically. The card is normally issued by the guest house where the guest is staying, but may also be issued by the Financial Service offices. Most registered guest houses will issue one against Rs.500 deposit, even for a day-or-two stay if desired, but all other cash payments into the Aurocard account must be credited at one of the Financial Service offices. The card is also needed – or useful – for paying for bus trips to Pondicherry, borrowing books from the main Auroville library, entry to various Auroville facilities, and for classes in hatha yoga, dance, martial arts, etc. Essentially, it gives access to most of the facilities enjoyed by Aurovilians, and should be carried by guests at all times.
Auronet is a community network which facilitates electronic communication within Auroville and outside, and also provides internet access for residents and guests of Auroville.
People only become ‘Aurovilian’ after going through an ‘entry’ process overseen by the Entry Service group, usually lasting 15 months, in course of which they change from being a Guest to a Newcomer before becoming an Aurovilian. Aurovilian status is usually automatically conferred on any child born in the township to Aurovilian parents.
In 33 countries around the world groups of people interested in Auroville have come together to form Auroville International Centres (9) or Liaison Offices (24). These Centres and Offices actively support the development of the township by way of donations and other help, and provide information on Auroville in their own country.
Auroville has received a number of national and international awards in recognition of exemplary work carried out by its residents, specially in the fields of renewable energy, appropriate building technology, design and construction. Examples are the Hassan Fathi International Award for Architecture for the Poor; Best Building Centre award from India’s Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation; and not long ago an Ashden Award for Enterprise in the field of Sustainable Energy.
Auroville Foundation The Auroville Foundation is a statutory body created by Act of Parliament in 1988, in which all the assets of Auroville are vested in trust for humanity as a whole. It comprises three bodies – a Governing Board with Secretary living and working in Auroville, which has responsibility for the development of the township in collaboration with Auroville’s residents; an International Advisory Council; and a Residents Assembly. The Foundation offices are located in a separate building close to the Town Hall. (See individual entries for each of the Foundation’s three component bodies.)
There are two bakeries in Auroville – the main one near Douceur settlement, the other in Kottakarai – providing bread, biscuits, pizza, cakes, etc. Both also have a small café attached.
Banks There are two banks with branches in or close to Kuilapalayam village main street, offering the full range of normal banking services. State Bank of India (reference code 03160; Swift Code SBININBB474) located on the main street opens Mon-Fri 9am-3pm, and Sat 9-12am. ICICI Bank, located by the road from Kuilapalayam to Bommaiyapalayam (reference code 1631; Swift Code ICICINBBXXX) opens Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-2pm. Both have ATM machines. See also “Financial Service”.
See “Cultural Pavilions”.
Bookshops There are four Auroville bookshops – the Freeland Bookshop beside the road between Edayanchavadi and the Visitors Centre, the Auroville Papers Bookshop inside the Visitors Centre, the OASIS Auroville Boutique in Kuilapalayam Main Street, and the Janaki Outpost on the East Coast Road.
An approximately 50-acre plot of land in the southern half of Auroville’s Green Belt is being developed into a major botanical garden, with an Environmental Education Centre on site. More than 250 tree species have been planted in the 25-acre arboretum; 5,500 specimens have been planted in its 10-acre conservation forest; and a Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) plant nursery has been created, able to produce 50,000 seedlings a year to promote reintroduction of the indigenous flora of the region.
There is no collective annual budget for the whole township, though individual units and services commonly plan ahead based on a budget of their own.
Buildings / building construction
Nowadays virtually all Auroville buildings are constructed using fired bricks (bought locally outside Auroville) or compressed stabilised earth blocks (made in Auroville). Roofing is usually done with tiles or rows of arched ferrocement channels, though a few people still use palm leaf thatch (keet). There is no established building ‘code of practice’, nor is there any ‘Aurovilian’ style of building. As there are a number of competent qualified architects living and working in Auroville, there are many different design approaches. Permission to build has to be obtained from L’Avenir d’Auroville, a body which oversees the planning and development of Auroville. Building construction is mostly done by Auroville-run units.
See “Commercial / business units”.
Business premises / parks
The nearest thing to a miniature business park in the Auroville area is the Aurelec compound near Kuilapalayam village, which houses a variety of Auroville commercial units and services, plus a 7-days-a-week cafeteria. Eventually, the Industrial Zone of the township (Auroshilpam) is likely to resemble a more typical business park in its size and scope, but this won’t be for many years.
Car hire (self drive)
This is not possible in Auroville, but there are plenty of taxis available (see list under ‘Useful telephone numbers’ at the end).
See “Mobile phones”.
Auroville’s four-point Charter, shown on the inside front cover, was given by the Mother at the time of Auroville’s inauguration on 28th February 1968, and read out in many languages at the inauguration ceremony.
Auroville has its own midwife team, capable of delivering children in all normal circumstances. More complex cases are taken to hospitals in Pondicherry, or to PIMS hospital 15kms away.
Auroville provides resident parents with a special ‘maintenance’ allowance to help them care for their children, if needed. Crèches, followed by kindergartens, are available for young children.
Auroville has four choirs, two adult, one youth and one children’s choir. Performances are usually given two or three times a year.
See “Film shows”.
There are many opportunities to participate in regular classes – in acting, aerobics, dance, hatha yoga, ikebana, martial arts, pilates, healing, languages (specially Tamil, Sanskrit, English, French), etc. Details are posted on notice boards at class venues and around Auroville, or published in the weekly News & Notes or via Auronet. Guests attending such classes are normally expected to pay a ‘guest contribution’ towards maintenance of the premises and facilities.
The climate of Auroville is tropical, with high humidity and temperatures sometimes reaching 40oC (104oF) or more in May/June. Night time temperatures rarely drop below 20oC (68oF), even in winter, and can be as high as 30oC (86oF) in summer. The most comfortable season is mid December to mid March. Average annual rainfall, as recorded by Auroville met stations and rain gauges spread around the area, is 125 cms, most of it falling in the main monsoon season of October-December. See also “Meteorological data”.
Commercial / business units
There are around 180 commercial units operating in Auroville, falling under the following broad categories: Architecture & Construction, Clothing & Fashion, Electronics & Engineering, Food, Handicrafts, Shops & Boutiques, Travel, and Others. Currently all Auroville businesses are required to operate under the Auroville Foundation. Permission to start a new unit has to be given by the AV Board of Commerce, the Working Committee and the Funds & Assets Management Committee (including the Secretary to the AV Foundation).
See separate headings for E-mail, Intranet, Messenger Service, Mobile phones, Post Offices and Telephones.
Computer usage / facilities / servicing
Computers are used widely throughout Auroville and in the schools. Visitors/guests can make use of Auroville systems or use their own portable computers at Auroville browsing centres for reading/sending e-mail and accessing the Internet. They can also purchase software and hardware and benefit from servicing capability in the township. See also “IT Services”.
Conferences, Seminars & Workshops
A considerable number of internal conferences, seminars and workshops are held in Auroville, including ones occasionally sponsored internationally or by the Government of India.
Differences arising in Auroville are normally settled by sub-groups of the AV Council or by mediation involving fellow Aurovilians skilled in conflict resolution, though arbitration may be resorted to if both the above approaches fail. Matters affecting the villages are handled by an AV Village Liaison Group or by SEWA (Small Employers Welfare Administration).
Everyone is invited to contribute to the development of Auroville in cash, kind or work. Guests are requested to pay a financial contribution towards the ongoing maintenance of the township. The same applies to Aurovilians and Newcomers, who pay a monthly contribution to ‘City Services’. See also “Donations”.
In addition to a pre-crèche for Auroville children aged 6 months to 2½ years near Transition School, there are two other crèches – Kindergarten Crèche and Nandanam Crèche – for slightly older children, located in the area of Centre Field. There are also crèches for children from the local villages run with Auroville’s help at Isaiambalam (Kottakarai), and in Kuilapalayam, Sanjeevi Nagar and Bommaiyapalayam villages.
Credit Card payment
Presently credit card payment is possible at Auroville’s Financial Service, the
two Boutiques d’Auroville (Visitors Centre and Pondicherry), Mira Boutique (Visitors Centre), Kalki Boutique (Visitors Centre and Pondicherry), Inside India, The Travel Shop, Yatra Nova Travels, and the Visitors Centre cafeteria.
See “Entertainment” and “Festivals & Celebrations”.
Cycle hire Most major guest houses in Auroville have cycles available for their guests, or for hire by other guests at certain times of the year. Short-term hire is possible from the Kiosk at the Visitors Centre; a longer-term purchase-and-buyback scheme is available at Aurovelo, Reve. Otherwise ask at the cycle maintenance kiosk at Solar Kitchen.
A steadily expanding network of cycle paths exists in Auroville, mostly running through shaded areas beside the roads, which cyclists are advised to use whenever possible. A map showing their approximate routes is available from the Visitors Centre Information Desk.
There are a number of small dairies supplying milk in the township, though many Aurovilians also buy milk from the villages.
See “Entertainment” and “Classes”.
A ‘Farewell Service Group’ facilitates the cremation or burial of deceased residents on Auroville land set aside for this purpose, according to the wishes of the departed (if known) or those closest to them.
In all Auroville meetings, whether involving only a small group or the wider Residents Assembly, after everyone has been given a chance to speak and the subject under discussion has been thoroughly examined, the preferred mode of decision making is by consensus, though vote counting is also sometimes used.
Two main clinics operate in Auroville, one at Protection settlement (primarily for Aurovilians, but also accessible to guests), the other at the Health Centre (for local villagers). Another 10 sub-clinics – all staffed and maintained by Auroville – are located in the villages around the township.
Desk Top Publishing (DTP) work
A service, which includes text checking & editing, is provided by Prisma in the Aurelec compound. Other DTP providers are Auroville Press near Aspiration settlement, and the AV Design Service at the Town Hall.
See “Laundry facilities”.
Digital camera downloading
A service is provided by PRISMA, located in the Aurelec compound near Kuilapalayam village, and by the Graphic Section in the Multimedia Centre.
See “Health facilities”.
Financial donations to Auroville can be made by cheque, demand draft or money order issued in favour of “Auroville Unity Fund” and sent by registered post to Auroville Unity Fund, ACUR, Auroville 605101, India. Specified donations for a particular purpose should be indicated on an accompanying note. See also “Taxes / tax exemption”.
Dress / clothing
Noting that Indian women generally dress very modestly, Western and other non-Indian women are encouraged to also dress in a modest fashion, so as not to send out the wrong message and attract unwanted attention. This also applies at the beach, where one-piece swimming costumes are recommended. As regards men, they usually gain more respect in India dressed in full length trousers than in shorts, though the latter are widely worn throughout Auroville, specially in summer. Cotton fabrics are generally cooler and more comfortable than synthetics, and light colours cooler than dark colours. During the rainy season a good raincoat/cape/poncho, or at least an umbrella, is essential.
As possession or use of any type of narcotic drug is banned under Indian law, in no circumstances are they permitted in Auroville.
The eventual aim of Auroville’s economy is to reach a state of no monetary exchange within the township, specially between the residents, and experiments towards this end continue to be conducted (see, for example, “Prosperity Pour Tous”). The other overall aim of the Auroville economy is to reach a state of self-sufficiency.
Editing / text checking
See “Desk Top Publishing”.
There are no exams in most Auroville schools, and no certificates are given (though AV’s ‘Future School’ offers the possibility to those wanting to go on to a university to prepare for external entrance exams). The New Era Secondary School also follows a new national curriculum. Education is generally seen as a means of developing each child’s full potential, and of giving each the freedom and opportunity to pursue his/her own individual path of growth and progress. The same applies to education for adults, Auroville being seen as “the place of an unending education” (see Charter). See also “Schools” and “Classes”.
While a substantial number of Auroville residences and other buildings use solar-power-generated electricity, and there have been experiments with wind-generated power, still a majority of buildings are connected to the mains grid. The latter supply can be erratic, however, with frequent power cuts, specially in summer. Voltage is officially set at 220v but often falls below that level; it can also occasionally surge higher. All Auroville’s main electricity supply needs and maintenance requirements are monitored and coordinated by the AV Electrical Service (AVES). The Auroville Solar Service and units like Sunlit Future look after the needs of those not on the main grid.
Internet facilities exist at the Solar Kitchen (upstairs, open daily 9am-9pm) and at Arka settlement (open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm), both with wireless access (payment by Aurocard). A comprehensive e-mail directory listing Auroville subscribers is included in the Auroville Telephone Directory.
A service unit named ‘Connections’ – working from the Human Resource Team office at the Multimedia Centre – provides information on work opportunities in the township for Aurovilians and Newcomers with the aim of helping them find their right place in Auroville, and to help services and units find the staff they need. Work opportunities in Auroville for people from the local villages and surrounding area are handled by ‘Small Employers Welfare Administration’ (SEWA). Visitors and guests interested in working in Auroville are advised to contact the Guest Service office at the Solar Kitchen email@example.com, which maintains a list of volunteer opportunities, or visit the website
There are regular film shows, plus occasional theatre, music, dance and choir performances, exhibitions, powerpoint presentations, lectures, etc. Announcements appear in the weekly News & Notes and on Auronet and notice boards around the township.
Auroville is strongly oriented towards environmental protection and sustainable development. All development plans are scrutinized from the viewpoint of environmental impact, and waste disposal in particular is carefully monitored. See also “Waste treatment / sewage / recycling”.
Equality of the sexes
Auroville aspires to attain complete equality of the sexes. In practice this seems to be happening, with many women heading commercial units or services, and playing other leading roles in the administration and functioning of the township. Similarly in the villages, Auroville is playing a constructive role via its Village Action Group in encouraging the full empowerment of women.
Widespread use of earth embankments/bunds throughout the Auroville area, plus a number of check-dams in canyons and gullies, seeks to prevent water run-off and allow water to reach the aquifers from which the township and local villages draw their supplies.
Facilities/space for ongoing or fairly regular exhibitions exist at Aurelec Cafeteria, Bharat Nivas’ Sri Aurobindo Auditorium foyer and ‘Gallery Square Circle’, Citadines, Pitanga, Savitri Bhavan, the Town Hall, the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture, and Auroville Visitors Centre.
There are some 15 Auroville farms producing rice, eggs, vegetables, fruit and dairy products for the community using organic methods, though not yet in sufficient quantity to make Auroville self-sufficient in its food requirements (most food is still purchased in Pondicherry market). There is also a small ‘research farm’ experimenting with “energy plants”, with the aim of identifying suitable species to act as fossil fuel substitutes for diesel engines.
Festivals & Celebrations
Cultural festivals and celebrations recognised in Auroville, often involving a holiday, fall into 4 categories: strictly Auroville-related (e.g. Sri Aurobindo’s, Mother’s and Auroville’s birthdays); Indian/Tamil cultural (e.g. Diwali, Pongal, Tamil New Year); Indian Government (National Holidays); and international (Christmas, May Day, etc). There is also a biennial Film Festival now organized at Auroville, which includes international contributors.
Films are regularly shown at a number of sites around Auroville, the main ones being the Bharat Nivas Auditorium, the Visitors Centre and the ‘Cinema Paradiso’ facility at the Multimedia Centre.
Filming in Auroville
Visitors/guests are free to film for private purposes, but require Govt. of India permission to film anything in Auroville for later public viewing (in every case, would-be filmers should seek an “OK” from any individual, group or unit they want to film before proceeding). For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their office in the Multimedia Centre. There are a number of Aurovilians and Auroville units involved in video film making in the township.
Contributions to the development of Auroville have come, and continue to come, from a number of sources, including the Government of India, Indian and foreign NGOs and funding agencies, Auroville International Centres, private donors in India and abroad, the profits of Auroville’s commercial units (normally one-third), and the personal funds of Aurovilians.
Via its main office in the Town Hall and branch office adjacent to the PT Purchasing Service facility near Aspiration (both open Mon-Sat 9am-12.30pm and 3-4.30pm), Auroville’s computerised Financial Service issues Aurocards against appropriate cash deposits, handles the opening and closing of accounts, operates a ‘foreign currency exchange’ service, cashes travellers cheques, arranges internal transfers / payments (including via Credit Card) and handles Western Union transfers from abroad, though the latter two services are only possible at the main Town Hall office.
Footwear and flashlights
People are advised not to walk barefoot outside buildings, specially after dark, and to always carry a flashlight/torch at night to avoid snakes or scorpions. Footwear is normally left outside all residential buildings; others vary. Most common footwear is leather, rubber or synthetic “chappals” (open flip-flops or sandals), worn without socks.
Foreign exchange See “Financial Service” or “Banks”.
A Forest Group looks after Auroville’s forested land, deciding what to plant where, protecting the forested areas, and overseeing occasional harvesting of timber. The reforestation of the Auroville area, which previously was in a state of “advanced desertification”, has been one of Auroville’s major achievements to date, with an estimated 2 million trees now planted on Auroville land, and another 2 million or more on village land in collaboration with the local people.
See “Auroville Foundation”.
Free for all
As a general policy, Auroville tries to provide