What is Auroville?
Auroville, also known as the city of dawn, is an international community in the southern part of India, Tamil Nadu. Auroville is the brainchild of The Mother – Mirra Alfassa, spiritual partner of Sri Aurobindo. ‘Auro’ in Auroville come from his name.
Auroville is likely the most diverse community in the world. At the time of inauguration on 28th February, 1968, the members came from 124 countries and all Indian states. All of these members got earth from their homeland that was put in an urn that stands in the amphitheater in Matrimandir garden. In my eyes, it is a living embodiment of unity in diversity.
Auroville charter was defined by The Mother.
- Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the divine Consciousness.
- Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
- Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
- Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human unity.
Design of Auroville:
Before visiting Auroville, I had imagined Auroville to be one large gated community where one would be let in through large iron gates. The reality is quite different, so much so that I didn’t even realise when I entered Auroville.
In the centre of this ‘city of dawn’ stands Matrimandir. Matrimandir is the soul of Auroville, a place meant for concentration and silent reflection. Radiating out of Matrimandir are four zones –
- Industrial zone
- Cultural zone
- Residential zone
- International zone
Auroville has multiple settlements (over 80) of different sizes. These settlements (also called communities) are separated by villages and temple lands. This means, one keeps hopping in and out of Auroville quite ordinarily.
Who owns the assets of Auroville if not citizens?
According to the Auroville foundation act passed in Indian parliament in 1988, the assets are vested in an autonomous institution, Auroville foundation.
Auroville foundation itself comprises of:
- Auroville council
- Governing board (elected for 4-year period)
- Residents assembly (all residents of Auroville over the age of 18)
What do Aurovilians do?
It is difficult to imagine what this land was 50 years ago, a barren land with dry red soil. It was the determination of few committed Aurovilians that changed the landscape of this area (hopefully) forever.
The main activities that Aurovilians engage in are:
- Organic agriculture
- Educational research
- Village development
- Appropriate technology
- Small and medium scale businesses
- Town planning
- Cultural activities
- Community service
How to reach Auroville?
Reaching Auroville by flight:
The nearest large airport is the Chennai airport. There is an airport in Pondicherry as well but it’s very small and doesn’t operate many flights.
Chennai airport is located about 140 km from Auroville.
Reaching Auroville by train:
The nearest railway station is Pondicherry railway station. It is located 14 km from Auroville.
Reaching Auroville from Chennai:
Bus: There are frequent buses plying between Chennai and Pondicherry.
Cab: A cab from Chennai to Auroville costs Rs. 2500-3000.
Reaching Auroville from Pondicherry:
A rickshaw charges about Rs. 300 from Pondicherry to Auroville. But be specific with address before taking the auto because your guest house can be 7-15 km away from the first Auroville community while coming from Pondicherry.
Auroville Farms, Gardens, and Forests
Auroville is covered in green blanket and most of it can be categorised into farms, forests, and gardens.
Size: 6 acres
Location: Opposite visitor center
Developed using the ideas of masanobu Fukuoka, Krishna McKenzee along with other young Aurovilians started the farm in 1996.
The farm runs a restaurant and serves breakfast and lunch mon-saturday.
Tip: Visit Solitude farm on Saturday at 11:30 am for a free walking tour by Krishna McKinzee.
2. Annapurna Farm:
Size: 135 acres
Location: Near Vanur, 10 km from Auroville centre
Annapurna is the largest Auroville farm and only farm that is capable of large scale field crop farming. The series of water catchment ponds allow them to irrigate more land without tapping into the groundwater reserves.
3. Auro Orchard:
Size: 45 Acres
Managed by Gerard from the beginning, this farm is the biggest supplier of vegetables to Auroville.
Some other farms of Auroville:
- Ayarpadi farm
- Botanical garden: This is a beautiful garden with various sections like butterfly garden, water lily pond, etc. I especially love their Orchid plants section. One can prebook lunch here and buy plants from their nursery for as low as Rs. 40.
- Buddha garden: This is a good place to find volunteer work. Volunteers work in the garden every morning for two hours.
- Matrimandir nursery
- Shakti Nursery (Herbarium)
- Sadhana forest: Yorit and Aviram are the people who undertook the project to grow a forest in the outskirts of Auroville center. With the help many volunteers, they have built something extremely beautiful.
- Pitchandikulam forest: This is closed for tourists.
- The Auroville forest
Auroville Green Practices:
- Houses in communities located in the green belt run completely or mostly on Solar energy.
- Ferro-cement is used widely for roofing.
- Many buildings are made with compressed earth blocks which is made using a mixture of earth and sand and only 3-5% cement. CEBs are about 4 times less polluting.
- Auroville doesn’t have tar roads that allows for rainwater to be absorbed by the soil more easily.
Where to stay in Auroville?
Auroville Season: December to March and July to September
Auroville has multiple stay options ranging from hostels to home-stays to guest houses, however, during the season time, they all get booked out fast.
Best way to look for accommodation is on their website – https://guesthouses.auroville.org/
You could also drop the team an email at – firstname.lastname@example.org
They respond with a list of appropriate guest houses, however, they do not have the updated availability. You can get that data only from the guest house.
- Isai Ambalam guest house – Private rooms, shared kitchen and toilets
- Joy community – Dormitory available
- Center guest house – Private rooms with attached toilets. Includes breakfast and dinner, cycle, and laundry.
- International house – Private rooms with shared kitchen and toilets (compost toilets)
Tip: Many guest houses have a special price for monthly stays. At times the monthly rate is as much as two week’s stay on daily rates.
Where to Eat in Auroville?
Organic farm food:
- Botanical garden
- Solitude farm
- Solar Kitchen
- Sakura Sushi
- Secret garden
- La Terrace (No cash or gpay accepted, payment only through Aurocard)
- Dreamer’s cafe
- Bread and Chocolate
- Marc’s cafe
- Richie Rich
- Auroville bakery
- Neem tree cafe (No cash, accept gpay)
- Auroville Bakery
- Gelato Factory
- Cafe 73
Note: Alcohol consumption is discouraged in Auroville. There are no alcohol sale units within Auroville.
Tip: I would recommend breakfast at Auroville Bakery/Bread and Chocolate, lunch at Solitude farm, coffee at Marc's cafe, dinner at Nowana/Tantos, and desserts at Gelato factory.
Where to Shop in Auroville?
- Spirulina farm
- Taste of Nature
- Colors of Nature – Clothes in organic dyes.
- Auromics – Knitted tops and sweaters are a speciality
- Cottage Industries (Pondicherry) – Products at very affordable prices from Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Places to see in Auroville
- Sadhana forest
- Svaram (Sound garden)
- Visitor Center (Museum)
- Botanical Gardens
- Sound therapy – Book an appointment with Svaram (Sound garden)
- Horse riding
How to commute in Auroville
Bicycle – you can rent one at visitor center
Motorbike – Available at various guest houses and some dedicated places like Youth camp.
Car – Owing to dirt roads that are narrow in places, commuting by car may not be the most comfortable.
Scorpians are a common sight in Auroville but there are no poisnous species in the area. It’s painful but not deadly.
There are quite a few snakes in the area including some poisonous ones.
In case you get bitten by a snake, please visit Jipmer hospital straight away, they have serum to treat snake bites.
Auroville is a unique place not just in India but around the world, please respect the sanctity of the place when you visit.