I got a opportunity to spend a few days in Auroville – the universal city in the making. I have been reading a lot about Auroville, mainly from sustainable living groups. Then there was a International Conference on Frontiers of Statistics and its Application (ICONFROST 2012) at Pondicherry. This double reason was good to make me book myself for a few days at Pondicherry.
Auroville is a riddle that do not disclose itself to outsiders. If you go there as a tourist all you see is a golden globe situated in middle of a forest. The city around is invisible.
All you will ever see are trees. There are some two million of them planted by Aurovillians that was once a barren land in last 40 yrs. This social forestry has made the land cultivable. Auroville now produces most of their requirement locally.
There are quite a few restaurants and industry that produces products that are sold all over the world. Auroville is one of the pioneer in Earth Stabilized Bricks. It produces presses that make these bricks without
using any fire. Normally it will use locally available clay, that will not leave any unnatural residue. Thus making it one of most environmentally sustainable building technique. Here you see a pillar that some time can be used as watch tower.
Actually this is a water tank that do not use iron or concrete. Bricks are are made of compressed stabilized earth.
These architecture is supported by UNESCO as the technology of choice. On right you see a building made of arches. This one do not use any concrete. All bricks are made of stabilized earth.
If you come to Auroville as tourist for a quick view, you will never notice these. Nor you will appreciate the pleasure of morning call of peacock from your roof.
Car is used in a little unconventional way in Auroville. Below is the recommended use of car. For personal mobility one is expected to use bicycle. For someone like me, who has lost those muscles which once upon a time powered 180Km/day trip, scooter or motorcycle are a loathsome option. It is pretty easy to rent a bike @Rs 100-200/day.
If you stay at Auroville do not forget to have food at Solar Kitchen. Here you get simple food – dal chawal stuff. That is cooked using solar heat. The slow cooking in combination of organically grown vegetables gives it an awesome taste, which can only be experienced.
One word of caution when you interact with the locals. It is not like most cities though. Take my tour guide for instance. Bunty as he is known in Auroville. This guy who landed up in shorts and slippers to take me around for a guided tour. The tourist guide was making a little too many noise that was not sounding like a tourist guide. A little prod later he let me know, he had worked in Godrej as its Sales RM – after IITB, IIM-A he got fed up with corporate life and landed up as tour guide in Auroville.
One can not leave Matrimandir away while being in Auroville. It is the soul of Auroville. A concentration center, it is not a temple in usual sense. This magnificent golden dome is in the center and will attract you for its beauty. It is a marvel of architecture and involves some pretty hi-tech engineering. Whole thing is nicely explained at Auroville website so I won’t repeat it here.
It is better to leave technical details away and enjoy the beauty in its full grace.
Aurovillians are very sensitive about this symbol being taken anything other than symbol. They do not want it to be a temple where one will come and offer prayer.
Before one enters this structure one needs to attend a 22 min video session which explains its significance.
Auroville makes pretty good use of solar power. Although it is located very near to coast wind speed in not good here. At this speed wind turbines are not so attractive as power source. But thanks to only approx four hour of power supply from grid, Auroville has developed pretty good backup with solar power. Most street lights are from solar panel. This gives reliable 4-5 Hrs of street lighting.
Current population in Auroville is only 3000 It plans to become a city with 50000 population. There is a master plan that has come into effect some 4-5 yrs back. Current development happens as per master plan. At right, you see a model on how the city will look like.
Main place for outsider is called visitor center. It is a place for all touristy kind of work. As I walked into the compound, I was greeted by a nice gong.
This is the biggest wind chime I have seen.
For stay one has many choice, starting from 5 star island spa to comfortable house. I stayed in a guest house in Samasti community. Nice house type of ambience. You have solar heated hotwater. That remains hot even at 5:00 am in the morning.
Here is some pot sculpture within the compound
Pondicherry is just 10Km from Auroville. Takes about 30min in a scooter. If someone gets a bit bored or needs some special things it is easy to make a trip.
Aurobindo ashram is a must visit, if you are from Auroville.
At beach you have some nice status of people who never visited here during freedom struggle.
This is some nice work of branding to extend the aura beyond its reaches.
Here the author is also motivated by the great men to record his presence in the place.
French presence can be guessed from the Notre dame copy of the church.
Auroville is a universal city. Other countries have been given some place to showcase its culture.
Here is a building from Tibet.
Canada has also showcased its culture in its designated place. From here one can guess its care for human unity.
American fair is typical in its use of hi-tech and wheels. The building is build by Americans students. USP being walls made of tetrapack – that seems to protect the environment.
Thankfully AV does not have much use of tetrapack either.
For cultural show, there is a amphitheater that can seat about 300 people.
AV has its own beach, where one can enjoy the sea without typical noise and crowd. It also has some blue lagoon type huts for spending the night at beach.
Pondicherry beach has been washed away due to some faulty planning AV beach is still there.
AV do not use money. There is no circulation of money and every Aurovillian has equal rights to its resources.
For day to day need Aurovillian becomes member of a shop called pour tous. Unfortunately, here all only means Aurovilians. This looks like a shop but one need not pay here. One can take whatever one needs.
Here is another view of pour tous to show the range of products stocked for consumption.
Fresh vegetables grown within AV are also available here for distribution.
ICOFROST conference was good, with some 300 people from various countries.
Some nice discussion on Stats and OR
Followed by cultural program from the students was a break from AV
Some nice dance
Followed by some more
Followed by a nice Veena
But a visit to AV is incomplete without a meditation trip in Matrimandir. The visuals are stunning and atmosphere is very different. Lotus temple also has a nice ambiance but this one is gripping.
At inside chamber you have this huge crystal globe being lit by a heliostat.
But this is not a temple of a religious place. AV do not recommend following any religion. At matrimandir you are urged to meditate to the tune of Sri Aurobindo’s mantra — Anandamayi Chaitanyamayi Satyamayi Parame