From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 37, Dated Sept 20, 2008 CURRENT AFFAIRS opinion
City Of The Dawn
Auroville is the laboratory for experiments that will contribute to human welfare
MARK TULLY Chairman, International Advisory Committee, Auroville
The Mother’s vision - Worshippers before a picture of The Mother
AUROVILLE IS the future in the making, a work in progress. The aims The Mother set for it are so lofty they may, in my view, never be achieved, but who can deny that “to realise human unity in diversity” is an aim worth working for? Aurovilians are doing just that but they are human, and we humans are frail creatures; so inevitably they have faced and still do face difficulties, and indeed, from time to time, failure. Because we humans are diverse we have our differences, and Aurovillians, who set out to be diverse, have theirs too. Over the last four years I have visited Auroville regularly as Chairman of the International Advisory Committee and I have come to know of difficulties, and heard different opinions on many issues, but I have also seen the progress that has been made towards achieving The Mother’s ideals and the potential for the future.
Ever since it was founded 40 years ago, Auroville has been trying to realise The Mother’s vision by attracting a wide diversity of people to live together as Aurovilians. People from 35 different nations now live in Auroville. Because it is very much an Indian city — The Mother herself stressed that — I believe it is absolutely right that a substantial proportion of the population, one-third, is Indian. There is no other country in the world I can think of which would have allowed Auroville to be established on its soil, and most Aurovillians acknowledge this with gratitude. A BBC reporter recently suggested that Auroville had ambitions to be a Vatican City but this was firmly denied by the Auroville organisation which liaises with the press.
Aurovilians are keen to increase their numbers, and a serious attempt is being made now to provide the housing which will be necessary if the population is to expand. Of course, the city must grow carefully, it must be sure that anyone who applies to be an Aurovilian shares the Mother’s vision. But the net does need to be cast more widely if Auroville is to be a truly global city. There are, for instance, so far no Aurovilleans from Africa.
Although small in number, Aurovillians have converted their city from a barren wasteland into a forest containing many native species which had disappeared from the area. It is the most remarkable afforestation I’ve seen in all my years in India. They themselves have also constructed the meditation centre that Mother said should be at the heart of the city. Called the Matrimandir, it’s a great golden sphere, reminding me of the rising sun, and symbolising the birth of the new consciousness Sri Aurobindo saw as the next stage in the adventure of evolution. The Matrimandir is regarded as an outstanding example of modern architecture in India.
Auroville has also become a laboratory for experiments that will contribute to human welfare. There are successful schools which continue to experiment, there are ventures in alternative energy, alternative building materials and architecture, organic farming, land reclamation, and many other fields. Afforestation continues and Aurovillians have developed their own botanical garden, one of Auroville’s resource centres for schools in the area. Some Auroville ventures have developed into commercial successes.
After seeing much, but by no means all, of Auroville’s work, and after many meetings with Aurovilians I have come to admire their commitment to The Mother’s vision and their faith in the future of their city. I believe it is a unique experiment which India can justifiably be proud of. But it’s clear that there is a long way to go with many potential hazards ahead. Both Aurovillians and the Government of India will have to tread delicately if the balance between the city’s autonomy and the government’s obligations is to be maintained. With their strong individuality, Aurovilians own diversity will destroy them if they don’t constantly remember The Mother’s vision was a vision of unity. (Tully is a writer and a former BBC correspondent) From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 37, Dated Sept 20, 2008