Why Tamil Nadu?
talks about the special relationship between Auroville and its
The Tamil Nadu-Auroville
dream is not new. Long ago, even before I came to Auroville, the
Tamil Nadu State government had put some efforts into creating
a Tamil Academy inside Bharat Nivas. The then Chief Minister,
Mr.Karunanidhi, and the great Tamil Scholar Navalar Nedunchezhiyan
were both behind this project that was going to benefit the international
community in Auroville and provide a link with Tamil Nadu. At
that time, there was an idea to have separate pavilions for the
various States, and the present Laboratory of Evolution was the
ex-Tamil pavilion. So this is the background we are starting from;
and all we have done is to revive an idea by giving it a new shape
In 1993, on the 25th
anniversary of Auroville, Varadarajan, Subhash and I got together
and brought out the first brochure on Auroville in Tamil. That
was a turning point - to bring Tamil publications from Auroville
about Auroville by Aurovilians. This brochure was special in that
it was an original work, not translated from English or French.
It covered a wide variety of topics such as Sri Aurobindo, The
Mother, Auroville and its Charter, India and Auroville, and Tamil
Nadu and Auroville, and was shared in a public forum.
We have all done a lot
of research on why Auroville is in Tamil Nadu. The Mother too,
chose the physical site of Auroville with uncanny precision when
so many other options were available that were more beautiful
and bountiful. Maybe the reason is not given clearly, but from
Sri Aurobindo's writings and the Mother's talks we realized that
they often refer to the great work of the Siddhas (wandering saints
of Tamil Nadu) done in the land of the Tamils. Mother was fascinated
by Saint Ramalinga Vallalar of Vadalur, who apparently achieved
the transformation of the body. In Sri Aurobindo's time, Bhagawan
Ramana was in Thiruvannamalai living in Arunachala, which was
discovered to be geologically one of the oldest rocks on earth.
So we are in the oldest land, surrounded by the works of the Siddhas,
Alwars, and Nayanmars, many of whose works have been praised by
There is something very
special about this place; otherwise Auroville could not have sprung
up here. Poppo has discovered an ancient civilization right below
us dating back 3000 years old. Materials from the excavations
suggest that a pastoral community may have lived in this area,
and they were probably the first settlers. Mother talks about
the people native to this area as the 'first citizens' of Auroville.
She also goes on to say that Auroville is not a Tamil village,
and the residents of Auroville have to strive to be 'True Aurovilians'.
When I came here twenty
five years ago, the feeling here and in Pondicherry was that the
Tamil people are the working class, and that the Tamil language
belongs to the servants. So at the time, there was no existing
medium to talk about the language of the people living here or
about their culture. Slowly we gathered historical anecdotes relating
to this geographical area, and over a period of years, we were
able to tell the Tamil people about their rich heritage and culture.
Now there is much happening
towards reaching out to the local Tamil people living in and around
Auroville. A journal in Tamil has been in circulation within Auroville
for the past six years, and Auroville News appears in Tamil. More
recently, a Tamil Heritage Centre has also come into existence.
Some may question the need for this Centre when there is already
the Centre for Indian Culture. But Tamil culture is one of the
oldest known living cultures, and there is the need to link the
Tamil population living across the globe. There is an idea now
to make Bharatipuram, which exists within the Auroville City region,
into a living Tamil Heritage Village. Thus slowly we find meaning
to our presence here and integrate with the people native to this
Nadu seminar has come about in this environment. Research at Auroville
has to be taken both within and without, and a seminar such as
this is only an extension of our initial efforts at reaching out.
There is a great need for links and communications from Auroville
with the people of Tamil Nadu. In this seminar, we invited people
who were already familiar with the teachings of the Mother and
Sri Aurobindo, and therefore invited people associated with the
Sri Aurobindo Centres in various districts of Tamil Nadu. One
of the aims of this seminar was to introduce Auroville and provide
correct information about it, thereby clearing any misconceptions.
A more philosophical goal of this seminar was to unify the different
Sri Aurobindo Centres, some of which have serious differences
of opinions, and perhaps pave the way for a new unity or a Tamil
Charter. Ultimately, our responsibility is to slowly make people
realize that we are Karma Yogis here in Auroville, and that we
give the utmost importance to our work.