Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, India with some parts in the Union Territory of Puducherry in South India. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as “the Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger. As stated in Alfassa’s first public message in 1965,
Auroville wants 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.
The name Auroville has its origin from the French words “Aurore” meaning dawn and “ville” meaning city. It is also named after Sri Aurobindo or Arvind Ghosh a revolutionary, visionary, philosopher and sage who is very well known in India and whose revolutionary endeavors against the British regime predate those of Gandhi.Auroville is an international, intentional community—meaning that people choose to come and live here—in Pondicherry. There are people there from all over the world, with the majority being from India and its various states.
The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – came to the Mother as early as the 1930s. In the mid-1960s the concept was developed and put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement.
On February 28th, 1968, the bare, concise and yet far-reaching words of the Charter of Auroville were read out in French by the Mother from her room in Pondicherry, and broadcast live.Her words were, at the time, directed to five thousand persons gathered around an amphitheater on a barren, almost treeless plateau in south India.They were gathered for the foundation ceremony of Auroville.Nearby, only a lone banyan tree stood in an expanse of dust and sun-baked earth…As the soil from 124 nations and 23 Indian states was placed by youth from those countries and states in a raised marble urn, a challenging experiment was born on Indian soil.The late Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi described Auroville as:
An exciting project for bringing about harmony among different cultures and for understanding the environmental needs of man’s spiritual growth.
its four-point charter set forth her vision of integral living:
- 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.
- 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.
Auroville was not meant to be a place for a new religion, or where religion is practised. Spirituality, for them, meant something vast and ultimately indefinable, something personal that varied from one individual to the next, something that must always be renewed and expanded and reexamined, as opposed to religion, which often becomes calcified, stagnant and dogmatic.
Auroville is located in south India, mostly in the State of Tamil Nadu (some parts are in the State of Puducherry), a few kilometres inland from the Coromandel Coast, approx 150 km south of Chennai (previously Madras) and 10 km north of the town of Puducherry.
They come from some 49 nations, from all age groups from all social classes, backgrounds and cultures, representing humanity as a whole. The population of the township is constantly growing
At the centre of the township lies the Peace Area, comprising the Matrimandir “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection” and its gardens, the amphitheatre with the Urn of Human Unity that contains the soil of 121 nations and 23 Indian states, and the project of a lake to help create an atmosphere of calm and serenity and to serve as a groundwater recharge area.. Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquillity of the space. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiralling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as “a place to find one’s consciousness”.
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.
A 109-hectare area to the north of the Peace Area, the Industrial Zone, a zone for “green” industries, is focused on Auroville’s efforts towards a self-supporting township. It will contain small and medium-scale industries, training centers, arts and crafts, and the city’s administration.
The largest of the four city zones, comprising of 189 hectares, the Residential Zone is bordered by parks on the north, south and west. Main access to the zone will be through the crown road with further traffic distribution via five radial roads that divide the zone into sectors of increasing densities. This zone wants to provide a well-adjusted habitat between the individual and collective living. 55% of the area will be green and only 45% built surface, thereby creating an urban density balanced by nature.
The International Zone, a zone of 74 hectares to the west of the Peace Area, will host national and cultural pavilions, grouped by continents. Its central focus is to create a living demonstration of human unity in diversity through the expression of the genius and contribution of each nation to humanity
Planned on a 93-hectare area, situated to the east of the Peace Area, the Cultural Zone will be a site for applied research in education and artistic expression. Facilities for cultural, educational, art and sports activities will be located in this zone.
The city area with a radius of 1.25 km. will be surrounded by a Green Belt of 1.25 km width. As a zone for organic farms, dairies, orchards, forests, and wildlife areas, this belt will act as a barrier against urban encroachment, provide a variety of habitats for wildlife, and serve as a source for food, timber, medicines etc. and as a place for recreation.
Presently an area of 405 hectares, the Green Belt – though incomplete – stands as an example of a successful transformation of wasteland into a vibrant ecosystem. Its further planned extension with an additional 800 hectares will make it into a remarkable demonstration site for soil and water conservation, groundwater recharge, and environmental restoration. As lungs for the entire township, it will complete the healing process that Auroville started several decades ago.
Prior to 1980, the Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, legally owned all of the city’s assets. In 1980, the Government of India passed the Auroville Emergency Provision Act 1980, under which it took over the city’s management. The change was initiated when after Mirra Alfassa’s death in 1973, serious fissures in the day-to-day management developed between the Society and the city’s residents. the Auroville Foundation Act 1988, was passed by the Indian Parliament.
The Act stipulated the vesting of all movable and immovable assets of the city in a foundation, known as Auroville Foundation and the creation of a three-tier governing system: the Governing Board; the Residents’ Assembly and the Auroville International Advisory Council.The highest authority is the Governing Board selected by the Government of India. It consists of seven prominent Indians in the fields of education, culture, environment and social service. The second authority is the International Advisory Council whose five members are also selected by the Government. These are chosen from people who have rendered valuable service to humanity in the areas of Auroville’s ideals. The Resident’s Assembly consists of all official residents of the city.
The Auroville Foundation, headed by a chairman, is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.The HRD ministry appoints the seven members of the Governing Board and the five members of the International Advisory Council. There is also a Secretary to the Foundation, appointed by the Government of India, who resides and has an office with supporting staff in Auroville.The Foundation currently owns about half of the total land required for the township. The remaining lands are being purchased whenever funds are available.
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. The “guest contribution”, or a daily fee paid by the guests of Auroville, constitutes a part of Auroville’s budget.
In short, Auroville is a township with no borders no caste creed religion a peaceful and harmonious organisation striving its way to bring peace and humanity in the world.