Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Auroville: a utopian future?

Out of all the temples, palaces and holy sites belonging to cults we stumbled upon during our travels, Auroville had the deepest impact on me. I cannot really put a finger on why this is the case, perhaps due to the megalomanic grand narrative of it all, or its out of place futuristic architecture. The area, typically and literally in the sticks, is dedicated to the principles of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh’s teachings, still tangible in the thriving community set up after his death by his chief disciple Mirra Alfassa, the Mother. Ghosh, an early 20th Century Bengali nationalist set up an ashram in Pondicherry to practice his philosophy of a peaceful community. Auroville, or the „City of Dawn“, came into existence in 1968 and still attracts people from all corners of the world.
The Charter reads: "To live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness"... Auroville belongs to "humanity as a whole... the place of an undending education, of constant progress... a bridge between the past and the future... a site of material and spiritual researches." The community hosts its own schools and workshops, and is, I believe, more or less self-sufficient. Thousands of Indians have found work here, and in some ways, when interviewing inhabitants, one gets the impression that some things may not need a marketplace to work proper – just a framework of life to adhere to, albeit very different from the individualism we celebrate today in the West. On the other hand, the community does not share its treasures with the outside world very openly.
For example, in order to be able to explore the huge area freely, visitors should sign up for kibbutsi-style living amongst families in the community. A small sacrifice perhaps, or none at all considering the architectural landscape and scope for relaxation. The 30m high globe called Mathrimandir, pictured below, stands at the centre of Auroville and functions as a meditation room with a lotus bud shaped foundation urn and a crystal, apparently the largest in the world. A backpacker we met recommended Auroville’s guest houses at the beaches but, while a bit tempted, we played it safe and signed up for a guest house run by the ashram in town instead – possibly the best value we got during the journey. I guess we figured out where the money comes to fund the future of Sri Aurobindo’s dream. There is a marketplace after all. posted by K70 Sunday, September 25, 2005 @ 11:12 AM

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