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Auroville

Auroville (City of Dawn) is an "experimental" township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, near Pondicherry in South India. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (also known as "The Mother") and designed by architect Roger Anger.[1][2][3] 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."

Contents


History

Auroville was founded as a project of the Sri Aurobindo Society on Wednesday 28 February 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, "The Mother". She was an equal spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, who believed that "man is a transitional being". Alfassa expected that this experimental "universal township" would contribute significantly in the "progress of humanity towards its splendid future by bringing together people of goodwill and aspiration for a better world." Alfassa also believed that such a universal township will contribute decisively to the Indian renaissance (Ref. Mother's Agenda, Vol. 9, dt.3.02.68). The Government of India endorsed the township, and in 1966, UNESCO also endorsed it inviting the member-states to participate in the development of Auroville. UNESCO re-endorsed Auroville four times more in the course of the last 40 years.

In the inauguration ceremony attended by delegates of 124 nations on 28 February 1968, Alfassa gave Auroville its 4-point Charter setting forth her vision of Integral living:

  1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
  2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
  3. 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.
  4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

The Matrimandir

The Matrimandir, a golden metallic sphere in the center of town.
The Matrimandir, a golden metallic sphere in the center of town.
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" (Alfassa) as "a symbol of the Divine's answer to man's inspiration 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". At its centre is a 70 cm 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 Alfassa, 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.

Government, belief system

Town hall of Auroville V rit Learning Centre Auroville is governed by the Auroville Foundation through an act of the Indian Parliament.[4][5] The Ministry of Human Resource Development appoints the Governing Board who, in turn, appoints the key committees such as the Funds and Assets Management, the Budget Co-ordination, l'Avenir (city planning authority). The Foundation, thus fully controlled by the Indian Government, currently owns about half of the total land required for the township. The remaining lands are being purchased whenever funds are available.

Politics and religion are not supposed to be in Auroville. It is the Foundation, not the inhabitants, which owns the houses.[6]

In 2004, the then president of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited Auroville and expressed his utmost appreciation of and moral support to Auroville. In January 2008, the current president of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil also visited Auroville and expressed her deep appreciation of the vision and work of Auroville. "It is India's destiny to support this work for the future of mankind" were her closing words in a message on the occasion of Auroville's 40th anniversary.

Central documents articulating the vision of Auroville are the following:

Society and population

Although originally intended to house 50,000, the actual population today is 2,200 (1,553 adults and 454 minors), coming from 43 nationalities, 836 of whom are of Indian origin.[7] The community is divided up into neighborhoods with English, Sanskrit, French and Tamil names like Aspiration, Arati, La Ferme, and Isaiambalam.[8]

Architecture, technology, and education

Auroville Earth Institute V rit Learning Centre Bharat Niwas Auditorium Savitri Bhawan Afsanah Guesthouse Sculpturous House in Auroville According to the Auroville webpage, "The dream of building a new city for the future on a clean slate, with the purpose of promoting research and experimentation alongside integral development, has been attracting architects and students of architecture from all over the world ever since Auroville s inception in 1968. Not having pre-defined by-laws or being bound by the conventions of human society has allowed a multitude of expressions to manifest in the course of Auroville s development, as natural extensions of the quest for the new."

Satprem Ma ni a French Aurovilian architect, the director of the Auroville Earth Institute, is representative for India and South Asia to the UNESCO Chair Earthen Architecture, Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development . Satprem and other architects have won many national and international awards for their works, in and out of Auroville.

Some public drinking fountains feature "dynamised" water, which has been "made healthier" by having the water listen to Bach and Mozart.[6]

Under the umbrella of Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Educational Research (SAIIER), Auroville runs several educational institutions in and around Auroville.

Economy

Instead of paper and coin currency, residents are given account numbers to connect to their central account. Visitors, however, are requested to get a temporary account and an Aurocard (a debit card).

Auroville currently is not in position to provide free accommodation to all newcomers who come to Auroville. Consequently, the newcomers are expected to contribute financially towards building their house in Auroville. The house can be simple, a one room apartment or, if need be, it can be of a larger size. Thus, the housing cost forms the largest item of expense for newcomers, though there are ongoing efforts to provide free accommodation to the long term Aurovilians who have proved their commitment to the progress of Auroville.

Residents of Auroville are expected to contribute a monthly contribution to the community. They are asked to help the community whenever possible by work, money, or kind. "Guest contribution", or a daily fee payable by the guests of Auroville, constitutes a part of Auroville's budget. There is a system of maintenance , whereby those Aurovilians who need can receive from the community a monthly maintenance which cover simple basic needs of life. Auroville's economy and its overall life are of an evolving nature and there are ongoing experiments to reach closer to the vision.[9]

As states Auroville Today, "there are two more obstacles the lack of work opportunities and the low levels of maintenance'. Auroville has only a small economic base and newcomers often cannot find suitable work in the commercial units or in the services. If they can, the levels of maintenance' paid Rs 5,000 for those who work full-time for Auroville's services, are just sufficient to cover basic living costs, but not to pay for a house, or for paying-off a loan".

Although the Government of India owns and manages the Auroville Foundation, it only finances a small part of Auroville's budget, which is mainly formed by contributions from Auroville's commercial units which contribute 33% of their profits to Auroville's Central Fund, and by donations. There are guest houses, building construction units, information technology, small and medium scale businesses, producing and re-selling items such as handmade paper for stationery items, as well as producing its well-known incense sticks, which can be bought in Auroville's own shop in Pondicherry, or are sold around India and abroad. Each of these units contributes a considerable part of their profits to the township. Over 5000 people, mostly from the nearby localities, are employed in various sections and units of Auroville.

Other activities include afforestation, organic agriculture, basic educational research, health care, village development, appropriate technology, town planning, water table management, cultural activities and community services.

Location

Auroville Main Road Auro Beach on ECR Auroville is composed of a cluster of properties some 12 km north of Pondicherry. It can be easily reached via the East Coast Road (ECR) which connects Chennai and Pondicherry. The visitor centre and Matrimandir can be reached by travelling six kilometres westwards from the signposted turnoff at the ECR. Turning east leads directly to Auroville's private beach called Repos, several hundred metres away.

Auroville Village Action Group

The Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) was founded in 1983 by a group of Aurovilians, villagers and social workers who wanted Auroville and the villages to have a community-to-community relationship. AVAG has sought to encourage the local communities to organise themselves to recognise that they can themselves make improvements in their lives, their children's education, and in the village itself. Including the participation of women and young people, village groups have rebuilt schools, run evening classes for young students, mended streets, repaired street taps, and generally helped raise the standard of collective living in some 50 villages around Auroville. Presently the primary focus is on women's empowerment and microfinance. Since 2005 the project is supported by social servants of the Austrian Service Abroad.

Communications and media

The Auroville website provides open as well as restricted forums for various projects, interests, organizations and outreach which make up the life of the community.[10] The opinions expressed in these publications are not necessarily those of the community at large. Auroville radio website provides a lot of recordings and daily news covering events in Auroville. Auroville has a small 'OutreachMedia' team to regulate visits of journalists and film/video makers. Their aim is to ensure that all journalists and filmmakers get official, up-to-date information and representative footage from reliable sources.

Films about Auroville

At present, any filming within and about Auroville requires permission from the Government of India[11]. In May 2008, the BBC produced a 10-minute Newsnight film about Auroville, which was aired on TV.[12] A short version was aired on Radio 4's "From Our Own Correspondent". It also appeared on BBC On-line.[13] The reports contrasted the idealism of its founders with allegations by some people that the community tolerates pedophiles, especially in a school that Auroville has established for local village children. Auroville complained to the BBC that the report was biased, untrue and contravened BBC editorial guidelines. The BBC Editorial Complaints Unit did not uphold any of the complaints. Police officers of the Tamil Nadu government visited Auroville and surrounding area to check the truth of BBC allegations and found it false.

In 1971, the National Film Board of Canada released The India Trip, a documentary film about Auroville as seen through the eyes of a Concordia University professor who had spent a year in the community, with his family.[14]

See also

  • Sri Aurobindo Ghose
  • Mirra Alfassa
  • Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Pondicherry
  • Pondicherry (city)

References

Bibliography

English Titles:

  • Abundance Publications. The Auroville Handbook.Pondicherry: All-India Press, 2007.
  • Auroville     Development Perspectives 1993 1998     An Invitation To Participate, Typoscript, Autoren/Hrsg. Auroville Development Group, Bharat Nivas, Auroville 1993, no ISBN
  • K.M. Agarwala (Hrsg.): Auroville - The City Of Dawn, Sri Aurobindo Center New Delhi 1996, no ISBN
  • Auroville References in Mother's Agenda, Auroville Press, Auroville, no Y., no ISBN
  • Jerome Clayton Glenn: Linking the Future: Findhorn, Auroville Arcosanti, published by Hexiad Project/ Center on Technology and Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1979, no ISBN
  • Anupama Kundoo: Roger Anger, Research on Beauty, Architecture 1953-2008, JOVIS Verlag Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86859-006-7
  • Lonely Planet 2005: India, no ISBN
  • Peter Richards: Experience!Auroville     Guide Book for Guests and Visitors, Pondicherry 2000, no ISBN
  • Savitra: Auroville: Sun-Word Rising     A Trust For The Earth, published by The Community of Auroville, Auroville 1980, no ISBN
  • The Auroville Adventure     Selections from ten years of Auroville Today, published by Auroville Today, Auroville 1998, no ISBN
  • The Auroville Experience     Selections from 202 issues of Auroville Today, November 1988 to November 2005, published by Auroville Today, Auroville 2006, no ISBN

German titles:

  • Mira Alfassa: Die Mutter ber Auroville, Auropublikations (Hrsg.), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry 1978, no ISBN
  • Renate B rger: Auroville     Eine Vision bl ht, Verlag Connection Medien, Niedertaufkirchen 2004, 3. ver nderte Aufl., ISBN 3-928248-01-4
  • Alan G. (Hrsg.): Auroville     Ein Traum nimmt Gestalt an, o.O. (vermutlich Auroville/ Pondicherry) 1996, 1. dt. Aufl., o.ISBN
  • Michael Klostermann: Auroville     Stadt des Zukunftsmenschen; Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt/M., Februar 1976; ISBN 3-436-02254-3

External links

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