For better or worse, Auroville is now a popular topic in the blogosphere. This diverse selection is drawn from weblogs (or blogs) posted on the internet over the past two months by visitors.
I have been to Auroville. I don't know if you have ever heard about this place, but it is truly amazing. It is hard to describe what is it about, it is a kind of spiritual hippy commune.
Garden of Eden
What I see is a veritable paradise on Earth, a garden of Eden, germinated and nurtured from dry desert shrub land.
A community of multi-national inhabitants, participating in the creation of a city without nationality, aplace where free expression is encouraged and whose centre is the Matrimandir, a symbol of the Aurovilian hopes and aspirations, and also of the Divine's answer to man's inspiration for perfection.
A community that is not just introverted and isolated, separate from the global community, but endeavouring to consciously connect, interact and communicate with all other groups and communities throughout India and the world.
Its role and goal is as a haven, example and blueprint, for the future development of our questing species.
AV sounds interesting, but it's actually rather weird in my opinion. It's set up like a galaxy, with this golden orb at its centre. By the time our group arrived, the orb was already closed. But being the adventurer that I am, I bought a town map and jauntily set out. At first we were on the main road, down which a lot of Aurovilians were coming. They all looked rather odd, kind of Ithaca commons, hippy-esque, and whenever I made eye contact, which was probably not a good idea, they gave me this strange smile.
India 's tolerance
I just spent a week and a half in Auroville. I was here years ago but back then I really wasn't so receptive to such things as eco-living and communal experimentation. This time I'm happily switched on. Of course, one needs at least six months to a year of living among the people of Auroville to understand the place, and to feel the attitudes which exist just beneath the surface. But the constitution is sound and it's yet another example of the great tolerance of India , to allow such an experiment on their own soil. For all the drawbacks of such a complex, populous, and conservative society, there is a certain aspect of Indian thinking which is way ahead of its time.
We also visited Auroville, a rather creepy commune, where some 2000 people live in a fashion laid out by Sri Aurobindo and Mother, two beloved teachers of international repute. It's very cultish, with weird rituals and education systems that do not seem quite up to snuff. They say they're waiting for the coming of a new human species on earth. The settlement was sadly built in the shape of a galaxy (what board of directors sat around and said “OOOH! Shaped like a galaxy, great idea Pierre . Let's go with galaxy shape) I mean come on people, I am a physics major and even I acknowledge that that is a silly idea.
There is a peacefulness in Auroville, and it was nice to just ride bikes, and be in a clean environment, and eat wonderful food. Oh my god, the food was good. So many restaurants and bakeries. Pan-o-chocolat, and real bread, and crepes, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and cheesecake even. It was a self-indulgent week, but I really needed it. I feel so well rested and better able to take on India again.
Wandering about the settlements, I saw a breathtaking diversity of housing ranging from huts of woven palm fronds and bamboo to graceful stucco-and-wood cottages and jaw-dropping spaceship designs in poured concrete, as well as earth-fired, postmodernist studio residences.
Everywhere there was evidence of sophisticated aesthetics and venturesome innovations.
The defining moment of a visit to Auroville is the introduction to the Matrimandir. This is an astounding sight: an enormous sphere, supported by four pillars, seeming to emerge from a crater in the ground, like consciousness emerging from matter. Inside the great sphere, the inner meditation chamber is lined with white marble. In the center of the intense whiteness of the chamber is a large crystal globe. Sunlight pierces a vent in the roof above and is transmuted by the sensational translucent globe into a rainbow of delicate pastels. I found myself there, sinking into the profound silence, aware of a powerful tug into a wordless dimension of feelings and heightened sensitivity.
Later, over tea at Bharat Nivas at a table with four Aurovillians, I tried to speak of the unutterable peacefulness and radiance of that chamber and the bewitching effect it had on me. Conversation with the four confirmed the certainty that these are no tie-dyed, crystal-dangling free spirits. Their comments – friendly, candid, rueful – indicated that they consider themselves tough pioneers and rugged individualists in a living laboratory, dealing with real, pressing and pivotal concerns affecting the entire planet.
As I left Auroville, I felt strangely exhilarated. The elation was linked, I realized, to renascent hope. Having lasted well beyond the 15-year shelf life of the average visionary utopia, Auroville indisputably raises the possibility that people – in this case a bewildering national and ethnic mix – can reinvent community and point the way to a sustainable planetary civilization.
We went to see the Matrimandir and actually got attacked by a bus full of school girls all shaking our hands in turn and asking us our names and how we were, funny for the first couple but it did get slightly tiresome after 25!
I did a workshop on eating healthy as a cure for serious illnesses, which was very interesting and the food was great! Also I was getting ayurvedic massage every day for about 3 weeks and did a couple of Yoga therapy workshops, I now feel fantastic! Other than that I have been hanging out with my mates and just generally being busy doing not much at all. I finally managed to drag myself away from Aspiration and Auroville. I was nearly kidnapped by Aspiration and a nice Italian man who was doing his best to get me to stay for another month so he could romance me. We hit it off one night talking about the benefits of consuming your own urine!
Auroville is kind of like the actualization of John Lennon's “Imagine.” No countries, no religion, no private property, just people living together in harmony, with an emphasis on their spiritual development. It's a very sublime place.
Place to reassess
Auroville is a pretty unique and fascinating place. We met some wonderful people. Although I don't feel that draw that many have, people wanting to live there or have spiritual connections, but I feel like I have learned a lot. I feel like it was a great environment for me to think about my own life and my future, and to perhaps reassess the kind of life I want to live.
What I love about this place is that everyone is here with a great deal of hope and faith that they are creating an ideal human community. Of course it isn't perfect, but it's a fascinating experiment. There's a great mixture of spiritual types, creative people and people who work the land… everyone is particularly intelligent. The music scene is superb, we've met some exceptional musicians. In the words of one of the resident musicians, Auroville is a community for black sheep… it's a great herd!
All too human
It's a place that's at the same time out of the “mainstream” and also very cosmopolitan because of the many highly educated people from all over the world that live here. But mostly it's still human, all too human, not quite an arcology populated by levitating sages. And perhaps that's the most promising aspect today: that it goes on attracting and holding together people of all persuasions.
Horroville, Orriville, Auroville – the place should be burnt to the ground, or even better, given back to the people it belonged to before. Let's get something sorted out about it. It has a population of 1,800 including the Indians from the village which Auroville engulfed. To be able to live there you are on probation for a year to see how you fit in. So being judged by an overwhelming white middle-class bunch of educated westerners means that it's a pretty white, middle-class roots you are going to have. It's this self-perpetuating myth that this is a universal city for everyone, when in fact it's an exclusive country-club.
Staying this week also gave me the chance to go see the Matrimandir in Auroville. It's a whole hassle to get an appointment, they make you wear special socks, and you have to be silent inside. I was a bit sceptical, even as I entered inside. Then I got to the inner chamber – as soon as I got to the doorway, I felt a whoosh of energy (and also air conditioning-nice). The room was low-lit, completely white, circular, with maybe eight pillars. There were pillows to sit on. And in the centre was a HUGE crystal ball with a ray of light passing through it from above. It was otherworldly, really. Everyone I talked to had a different comparison – I thought of the end scene in The Dark Crystal, when the Mystics and Skexies join and they become those crazy lookin spiritual beings, someone else thought JRR Tolkien and Gandalf, someone else thought of blueprints transmitted from aliens. Very mystical, very otherwordly, very beautiful.
White and outdated
It looks like we're in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY everything but the globe is white and outdated, like yesterday's dream of the future, it was after all built in the 1960's.
Hey guys im back after a long time..... with some fresh news frm my find....guess wht AUROVILLE, an amazing place to rewind urself.... refresh.... and have a wonderful time..... A sprawling campus with a lot to give.... a system whch is simple.... people with different ideas, religion, countries, interests, wht not gud food too.... and amazing cottages to stay.... it ws a gr8 experience for me and my partner to have spent two days and after tht coming back to chennai seems to be returning to your abnormal self.....
Getting sucked in
I was only planning to stay for two days but it ended up being six. It's easy to get sucked in when so and so offers to teach yoga in the morning and someone else volunteers to teach qi gong in the evening. Vedic astrology readings and energy meridian type massages were also floating around. I had a reading by this amazing lady, and she told me a few things that really hit home.
One of the big questions when wandering around Auroville is how successfully it manages to bring together different cultures and ethnicities. On the surface, everything and everyone seems quite separated but when you dig beneath the surface, you see that actually it is quite a successful melting pot. The musicians here played across all cultural barriers, but it was also great to see this happen on a social level too. The youth of Auroville are amazing people, and it's a shame that it takes quite a lot of effort for the outsider to realise what they have to offer to the rest of Auroville.
Peace and serenity nazis
Auroville can take itself very seriously and until you tap into the youth culture, it seems rather lacking in fun and energy. There seems to be a bit of a firm establishment which is rather serious. This is most pronounced around the Matrimandir where the peace and serenity nazis make sure silence is aggressively maintained. So it was nice to see a fundraising evening for a project in Africa involving much dancing and merriment.
We caught a tuk tuk to nearby Auroville which is a community established to promote unity of cultures and countries and is a social experiment on group dynamics, community involvement and sustainability which turned out to be quite an unfriendly place. We were greeted by signs saying ‘only residents and their visitors allowed entry', which we ignored and strolled on through, and we left shortly after arriving after being snubbed by the women working in the cafe.
Amazing it exists
We couldn't get inside the Matrimandir as we needed special passes but it looked something out of a Kubrick film. In fact the whole Auroville looks like the futuristic films of the 70s and actually that's precisely what it is, cause it was all inspired and designed in the 60s and 70s in the heat of the cold war when human civilization looked about to be exterminated by nuclear war and people desperately seek a new society. In this almost 40 years of existence they have done interesting things but are still a long way from the goal. It is very difficult what they want to achieve considering there isn't an enlightened leader guiding the project, so it became a community of people practicing each their own personal spiritual path doing the best of their ability. Although the whole project seems to be a bit stuck and not growing fast enough, it is just amazing that a place like Auroville exists in this world.
Not just yet
Those living in this community have renounced all forms of nationality, politics, religion and money in order to live in a state of human unity. The idea of living in harmony and equality was very inviting but may mean that we will never see most of our family and friends ever again. So we decided that we would not make the move just yet.