Auroville or the City of Dawn is a universal township with an experimental concept of human unity. Founded by Mirra Alfassa (better known as the Mother) in the year 1968 it aimed at achieving life in peace and harmony beyond the differences of caste, creed and nationality. The vision statement describes it as “…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.”
The term Auroville has a french origin and probably has a connection to the name of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo Ghose was a nationalist turned philosopher who founded Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry as a site for spiritual practice which he called Integral Yoga. He believed in the divine life that can be attained by spiritual liberation and realisation. Mirra Alfassa met Sri Aurobindo in Puducherry and became his spiritual collaborator.
Mirra Alfassa was born in Paris to a Turkish Jewish family on 21st February 1878 and was inclined to occultism since an early age. She also had numerous occult experiences in her childhood. In her early teens, she used to have dreams of a dark luminous figure which she called Krishna even without any prior knowledge of the same or the religion. Much later when she travelled to Pudducherry with her husband she met Sri Aurobindo and at once recognised him to be that ‘the dark Asiatic figure’ that she had visions of in her early days.
She realised the spiritual connection to him and later moved to Puducherry to live in the vicinity of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo considered her as his equal in yogic stature and called her ‘The Mother’. They started working together on internal yoga and supramental yoga and gradually a community began to grow and then the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was formed. After the death of Sri Aurobindo, the mother took over the responsibility of the functioning of the ashram.
Later the mother began to give her dreams the wings by conceptualising a place for humanity with no distinction and the decision to build the city of Auroville was taken. The concept was proposed and discussed in the annual conference of Sri Aurobindo Society and a resolution was passed. As the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, she wanted to dedicate the experimental city to his vision.
The experimental universal township was inaugurated on February 28, 1968. On this day 5000 people from 124 nations assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township and deposited the soil that they brought from their homeland in a lotus-shaped urn made of marble. Today the marble urn is kept in the Amphitheatre of Auroville. The mother also set forth the four-point charter of her vision for the township.
The city layout comprised of the central Matrimandir surrounded by the peace area. This area is encircled by the 109-hectare industrial zone comprising of green small to middle scale industries to enable a self-supporting township, the residential zone of 189-hectare with a green cover of 55%, the international zone of 74-hectare with national and cultural pavilions and the cultural zone of 93-hectare with facilities for cultural and educational purpose. These zones are encircled by the Green Belt of 1.25km width designated for organic farms, forest, orchard, garden and wildlife.
I happened to visit Auroville while I was in Pudducherry. It was a very short visit with very limited time in hand. I had little to no knowledge of the functioning of the place. I only knew about the existence of the place near Puducherry and its association with Sri Aurobindo and its founder Mirra Alfassa. Once I reached the place and entered the information centre, I became more aware of it and got a clear vision of the place and its functioning.
I regret visiting the place in a touristy way as there are a lot more to explore in this township and I could not do justice to the place in such a short visit. The best part of the place is the kempt and the unkempt greenery all around as we walk towards the Matrimandir in the centre of the township. The prevailing peace under the shade of the large Banyan tree seemed to be revitalising. I wish I could sit there for a long long time and meditate in peace, keeping in mind the concept of unity and the vision of Auroville.