As a student of architecture, I keep searching for new and better things to read, new and hitherto unread abstracts, to find finer solutions for thick problems. In the same endeavor, I came across a name- Auroville.
Heaven is the word which would best describe this place! Situated near the Union Territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry), this area’s stated purpose is to realize human unity in diversity. It is a place devoted to the spirit of humanity. Its diversity can be judged by the fact that even though it is situated in India, out of total 1880 residents of Auroville, 15% are French, 12% are German, 5% each are Dutch and Italian, and just 40% are Indian nationals!
Mirra Alfassa, known as ‘The Mother’, had organized the followers of late Sri Aurobindo into the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, and conceptualized the idea of the universal township. Later on, the Sri Aurobindo Society and the Indian government took up the idea, after which the concept was presented to United Nations. Soon, United Nations gave their acceptance and support to this unique project. The community was founded in February 1968 in order to create an area for a new awareness programme, which was seeking, and to enter in a new world, according to the Sri Aurobindo’s vision. The project’s name is a combination of two French words, aurore for “dawn” and ville for “city”. At present, the Auroville project is governed by the Auroville Foundation, which is fully controlled by Ministry of Human Resource Development through an act of Parliament called the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988.
The shape of the town is fashioned after a spiral galaxy which symbolizes life and humankind’s evolving existence. In the middle of the town, there is a Matrimandir which is the the “Soul” of the city. It symbolizes the birth of a new era where human unity, cognizant living and inter-cultural collaboration will reign. I as a town planner also found Matrimandir as the “cohesive force” of the township. Radiating from this centre, are the four “zones” as indicated by Aurovillians. They are the”Residential Zone”, “Industrial Zone”, “Cultural Zone” and “International Zone”. Around the city area, a Green Belt has been formed through steady rehabilitation of the land. Here, Auroville’s farms, forestry and a large botanical garden-in-the-making can be found. In the future, it will act as a buffer zone and an area for recreation.
The thing that I found and appreciated the most, is that Auroville community is not based upon adherence to any specific religion, but a shared humanitarian goal. Auroville’s aim is to become a sustainable and self-governing township. An important aim of Auroville is to work out class and culture differences in a radical and higher way. This is through a fusion of East and West in hopes of realizing the model of human unity in diversity. Aurovilians are not supposed to engage in any political activities inside or outside the township. It has been seen that creative and pro-active individuals get drawn towards the Auroville project since it is a place where each one can make a difference.
Another major emphasis is harmony with nature and the environment. It is a thriving community in many areas and a site for research and experimentation in architecture (that attracted me to this place!), alternative energy and a site of workshops in various self-growth and cultural realms of activity. The most shocking part of Auroville is that it is a drug-free society, with no internal circulation of money and no institutionalized marriage!
This all was fine enough for me to think of making a dash to this place with my entire luggage. Yet, I am still in Jaipur, because to reside in Auroville, one has to be able to save the substantial amount required – of the order of Rs 15 lakhs upwards – to start a life in Auroville. Furthermore, the residents of Auroville are expected to pay a monthly contribution, and are asked to help the community whenever possible, by work, money or kind. “Guest contribution”, or a daily fee payable by the visitors of Auroville, constitutes a part of Auroville’s budget. There is a system of “maintenance” (salaries), whereby the community supports some Aurovilians.
So definitely, it’s a heaven on Earth, but to go to this heaven, apart from your good deeds, your green deeds are also counted! Therefore, if you want to LIVE life, either first save enough money in your piggy bank or try to get some aided work!