The citizens of Auroville community in India have been living without politics, religion and money since 1968.
The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity
Hidden away in rural India, Auroville aspires to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.
Auroville in brief
What is Auroville?
Auroville is a universal township in the making for a population of up to 50,000 people from around the world.
How did Auroville begin?
The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – came to the Mother as early as the 1930s. In the mid 1960s the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry proposed to Her that such a township should be started. She gave her blessings. The concept was then put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement.
The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity – in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with – and practically researching into – sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.
When did Auroville start?
On 28th February 1968 some 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the States of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble- clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of the Amphitheatre. At the same time the Mother gave Auroville its 4-point Charter.
Where is Auroville?
Auroville is located in south India, mostly in the State of Tamil Nadu (some parts are in the State of Puducherry), a few kilometres inland from the Coromandel Coast, approx 150 kms south of Chennai (previously Madras) and 10 kms north of the town of Puducherry.
Who are the Aurovilians?
They come from some 49 nations, from all age groups (from infancy to over eighty, averaging around 30), from all social classes, backgrounds and cultures, representing humanity as a whole. The population of the township is constantly growing, but currently stands at around 2,500 people, of whom approx one-third are Indian.
Auroville: the city layout
At the centre of the township lies the Peace Area, comprising the Matrimandir and its gardens, the amphitheatre with the Urn of Human Unity that contains the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states, and the project of a lake to help create an atmosphere of calm and serenity and to serve as a groundwater recharge area.
A 109-hectare area to the north of the Peace Area, the Industrial Zone, a zone for "green" industries, is focused on Auroville’s efforts towards a self-supporting township. It will contain small and medium-scale industries, training centres, arts and crafts, and the city’s administration.
The largest of the four city zones, comprising of 189 hectares, the Residential Zone is bordered by parks on the north, south and west. Main access to the zone will be through the crown road with further traffic distribution via five radial roads that divide the zone into sectors of increasing densities. This zone wants to provide a well-adjusted habitat between individual and collective living. 55% of the area will be green and only 45% built surface, thereby creating an urban density balanced by nature.
The International Zone, a zone of 74 hectares to the west of the Peace Area, will host national and cultural pavilions, grouped by continents. Its central focus is to create a living demonstration of human unity in diversity through the expression of the genius and contribution of each nation to humanity.
Planned on a 93-hectare area, situated to the east of the Peace Area, the Cultural Zone will be a site for applied research in education and artistic expression. Facilities for cultural, educational, art and sports activities will be located in this zone.
The city area with a radius of 1.25 km. will be surrounded by a Green Belt of 1.25 km width. As a zone for organic farms, dairies, orchards, forests, and wildlife areas, this belt will act as a barrier against urban encroachment, provide a variety of habitats for wildlife, and serve as a source for food, timber, medicines etc. and as a place for recreation.
Presently an area of 405 hectares, the Green Belt – though incomplete – stands as an example of successful transformation of wasteland into a vibrant eco-system. Its further planned extension with an additional 800 hectares will make it into a remarkable demonstration site for soil and water conservation, ground water recharge, and environmental restoration. As lungs for the entire township, it will complete the healing process that Auroville started several decades ago.
Auroville: Mission & Vision
There should be somewhere upon earth a place that no nation could claim as its sole property, a place where all human beings of goodwill, sincere in their aspiration, could live freely as citizens of the world, obeying one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord, harmony, where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his suffering and misery, to surmount his weakness and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the care for progress would get precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the seeking for pleasures and material enjoyments.
In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their soul. Education would be given, not with a view to passing examinations and getting certificates and posts, but for enriching the existing faculties and bringing forth new ones. In this place titles and positions would be supplanted by opportunities to serve and organise. The needs of the body will be provided for equally in the case of each and everyone. In the general organisation intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority will find expression not in the enhancement of the pleasures and powers of life but in the increase of duties and responsibilities.
Artistic beauty in all forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, will be available equally to all, the opportunity to share in the joys they bring being limited solely by each one’s capacities and not by social or financial position.
For in this ideal place money would be no more the sovereign lord. Individual merit will have a greater importance than the value due to material wealth and social position. Work would not be there as the means of gaining one’s livelihood, it would be the means whereby to express oneself, develop one’s capacities and possibilities, while doing at the same time service to the whole group, which on its side would provide for each one’s subsistence and for the field of his or her work.
In brief, it would be a place where the relations among human beings, usually based almost exclusively upon competition and strife, would be replaced by relations of emulation for doing better, for collaboration, relations of real brotherhood.
Source & Main Image: Facebook/Auroville
That all sounds idyllic, but what are the potential problems in Auroville, Pondicherry?
‘If Auroville was perfect as it seems all liberal folks around the world would have relocated there keeping in mind they were aware about the place,‘ — a question raised on Quora.
ESPN Broadcast journalist, Arya Yuyutsu, who lived in Pondicherry, India, answers in his own experience and opinion:
It isn’t perfect. Nothing is. Besides, perfection is a very relative term when it comes to society. What you consider perfect may be severely flawed for me. So many people may just not like the concept of Auroville or what it stands for. Racists, for instance, would hate a place where different races and cultures mingle. The more conservative among us would also find it difficult to accept the freedom afforded to young kids there. But you’re talking about liberal people. Let’s get to that.
You can’t just become an Aurovillian because you want to. There’s a whole process. And often people don’t like to give up what they have (jobs in big cities, access to malls and theatres, luxury cars and big clean roads, big clubs with a lot of people partying, an airport nearby from where you can fly anywhere you want at a moment’s notice, etc. I’ve mentioned slightly richer things but you could also not want to move away from the security of actually owning a house (Aurovillians are given a house / land but it’s only theirs while they’re there. It isn’t transferrable or sellable), a strong job scene where you get paid more and more and can hop from company to company, a family life where you have some sort of control over your kids etc. That’s not just about being liberal or not, it’s something that many people crave for – stability, if you will, for want of a more suitable word right now.
The fact is that even if you want all that Auroville has, there’s still only a limited number of places going at a time. So there’s a waiting list. A process. A system. And it takes time. Which is actually a good thing since it avoids overcrowding and growing quicker than it can manage.
That said, the problems in Auroville are merely a reflection of the world. People don’t change just because they’re in a different place. I’ve met strong right-wing people there. I’ve also met people who are anarchists. It’s a society with a lot of different shades of grey. It doesn’t claim to be anything else really. The only thing that makes it special is the fact that there is a healthy respect for the others’ opinions, ideas and flaws. The only real rule is that you allow the other person the same freedom you’ve been afforded.
But you want concrete outward flaws? Well, there’s people who do drugs (like they do everywhere in the world), there’s people who believe firmly in some religion or God (like they do in many parts of the world), there’s people who moralise, preach, rebel, go wild at parties, have one-night stands, pray, cheat, lie, steal, behave badly, are rude… Remember, there’s people from all over the world there.
Admittedly, if you cross a line you’re sent away from the place which is something you can’t really do in a country or city, not until a legal line has been crossed at least. So the flaws abound. It’s an experiment. You need to want to be a part of it. And then live it. That isn’t easy. However liberal you may be.
It doesn’t help that you don’t earn any money in the community and work options in Pondicherry are very limited. But yeah, if you think you’re up for it, go give it a try. Start with being an Auroville Guest.
— Arya Yuyutsu is a broadcast journalist with ESPN. He lives and works in India. The views expressed are his and not necessarily the views of ESPN.
Become involved in Auroville
There are many ways you can become involved with Auroville; visit & stay, volunteer & intern, or study in Auroville. You can join Auroville, there are workshops and therapies, you can shop for goods made on site, or you can simpy donate to the vision. Just click the link to find out how you can get involved.