Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, near Puducherry in South India. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (also known as “The Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger.
Approximately 2200 people from 43 different countries live in the city.As stated in Alfassa’s first public message about the township, “Auroville is meant 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. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”
In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, which has been acclaimed as “an outstanding and original architectural achievement”.It was conceived by “The Mother” as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection”. Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquility of the space and entire area surrounding the Matrimandir is called Peace area. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as “a place to find one’s consciousness”. The surface of the dome has 56 kg (123 lb) of Gold, which was sandwiched between as thin sheets. At its centre is a 70 cm (28 in) crystal ball in a gold mount which glows with a single ray of sunlight that is directed on the globe from the top of the structure. According to Mother, this represents “a symbol of future realisation.”Matrimandir is equipped with a solar power plant and is surrounded by manicured gardens. When there is no sun or after the sunset, the sunray on the globe is replaced by a beam from a solar powered light.
Radiating from this center are four “zones” of the City Area: the “Residential Zone”, “Industrial Zone”, “Cultural (& Educational) Zone” and “International Zone”. Around the City or the urban area, lies a Green Belt which is an environment research and resource area and includes farms and forestries, a botanical garden, seed bank, medicinal and herbal plants, water catchment bunds, and some communities.
To experience Matrimandir, you need to first head to the Visitor’s Center to watch a short film about the history of Matrimandir and Auroville. Then you can ask at the desk for a viewing point pass. They will direct you along a walking path to the viewing point where you can see the Matrimandir from a distance. If you want to go inside the Matrimandir, you must then go to the Matrimandir Tour Booking at Guest Accommodation Services (upstairs at Visitor’s Center) and get a pass for the tour. You must do this at least a day in advance, and you must do the booking in person, so make sure you give yourself time. You’ll be told to come the next day (or whatever day you booked) in the morning for another short video and a guided walk through the Park of Unity to the Matrimandir to sit inside in the Inner Chamber. After you’ve gone through this initial process you can then go book (at least a day in advance) for a 45 minute concentration in the Inner Chamber which takes place 10:45 – 11:30am. If you’re a registered volunteer and you work during those times, talk to the staff at the Matrimandir and they will help you find a time for concentration.Saturday and Sunday can be particularly busy and you may need to wait in line for 30-40 minutes. Bags, cell phones and cameras are not allowed in Matrimandir.
A couple of other places to visit are:
Auro Beach – Located at walking distance from the Auroville Bus Stop on ECR (East Coast Road), Auro Beach is considered one of the best beaches on India’s Eastern Coastline although it it is still very polluted. Most of the people found on the beach are either Europeans or Tamils.
Auroville Botanical Gardens, which are a work in progress. They aim to highlight and present through a number of themed gardens, species and varieties indigenous to the area and to Dry Tropical Evergreen Forests, including an Orchid Garden, Plumeria Garden, Cactus Garden, Ornamental Garden, etc. The Botanical Gardens are also home to a nursery and educational center for school groups from the area. Volunteers are also welcome.
There are a lot of activities in Auroville like Yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing and courses. The variety is wider during the visitors’ season (December to March), such as attending the classical Indian dance performances of young virtuosos organized by Auroville Cultural Exchange. There are a plethora of social/economic/environmental/agricultural projects going on regularly. Many of them welcome tourists, and many tourists welcome the opportunity to spend a week or more volunteering to get a much more intimate look at what goes inside Auroville. There are at least 14 farms in Auroville, any of which will take daily volunteers. There are also many schools that can accommodate volunteers, environmental restoration projects, and village action initiatives, just to name a few.
Other activities include:
Sadhana Forest: Every Friday at 4:00pm there is a bus from Solar Kitchen to Sadhana Forest, a reforestation/permaculture/sustainable community project started by an Aurovillian family across the main highway. It includes a short talk about the project, its history and the community, a walk through the forest, a movie, and a free vegan dinner.
Cinema Paradiso: Every night there is a movie showing at Town Hall or Sri Aurobindo Auditorium. They range in genre and language. Usually the movies start promptly at 8.