Utopian aura of Auroville

Experience the experimental city


December 26, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Utopian aura of Auroville

The most famous image of Auroville is of the futuristic - looking golden ball – the Matrimandir (Photo credit: Auroville.org)

From Matrimandir to lush green forests and the famous Auro Beach, Auroville is a haven for those seeking recluse from the city crowd and experience a different way of living.

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Nestled in the Viluppuram district in Tamil Nadu, with some parts in the union territory of Puducherry, Auroville, also called the City of Dawn is a place that anyone with idealistic leanings will find compelling.

“It’s an international community dedicated to peace, sustainability and divine consciousness, where people from across the globe, ignoring creed, colour and nationality, work together to build a universal, cash-free, nonreligious

Auroville is made up of more than 100 scattered settlements, with about 2500 residents of 52 nationalities (Photo credit: Auroville.org)

township,” Delhi-based enginAurovilleeer Nikhil Sharma, 29, who visited the city in January, tells Media India Group.

Some 12 km northwest of Puducherry, Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, fondly called the Mother, cofounder of Puducherry’s Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Tucked into the jungle are more than 100 scattered settlements, with about 2500 residents of 52 nationalities – about 60 pc of Aurovillians are foreign.

The most famous image of Auroville is of the futuristic-looking golden ball – the Matrimandir which was designed as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection” according to the Auroville’s official website. Most day visitors usually just make a quick stop to see only this, but there is so much more to the fascinating community than this.

“Auroville has so much more to offer than meets the eye at first glance; it is all about a different way of living and receiving the world,” explains Sharma.

Managing financial aspects

The Auroville community give off the impression that other than the visitor’s centre, no cafes or restaurants accept cash. While most blogs, websites and visitors advice to quickly get an Auro Card and load it with cash at the financial services centre.

However, Sharma had a different experience. “A few days into our stay, however, we realised that the Auro Card system is dwindling. Barring Solar Kitchen and La Terraza café, all other eating spots accept cash. While cashless living is fun, it’s not necessary,” he adds.

All outsiders living in Auroville are required to make a contribution of INR 100 a day. Most guesthouses include this in their lodging costs, but some don’t, so it is important to check in advance. “This is the basic cost of living in Auroville – don’t begrudge it,” Sharma says.

Arranging accommodation

Guesthouses in Auroville are usually fully booked from December to February (Photo credit: Auroville.org)

Once tourists have informed themselves about Auroville’s whereabouts and how to get here, be it from within India itself or from anywhere in the world, they must also book a suitable place to stay that fits their need and budget.

“Please know that during the months of December to February, guesthouses are usually fully booked well in advance as those are the months with cool, fresh, mostly dry and pleasant weather. So make sure that you book your accommodation early enough,” adds Sharma.

Visit the Matrimandir

“The golden dome appears like a giant Ferrero Rocher, around which the township is built, even looking at it, is an experience in itself,” says Sharma.

Matrimandir is one of the main attractions of Auroville. The ceiling, walls, pillars, carpets, cushions, everything is white in colour. A single ray of sunlight streams through the roof, upon a crystal that sits in the centre of the meditation area and it appears absolutely beautiful.

“While Auroville’s website says that it is not a tourist site but a place for silent concentration, but with the hoard of day tourists coming, myself included, to see Auroville and with this being the main place you see on a day trip. It definitely is a tourist attraction,” explains Sharma.

Outsiders can visit Matrimandir only with a prior booking, which often gets full two days in advance. Registration must be done at the visitors’ centre, and visits only happen in a big group. Not ideal for meditation, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless!

Beyond Matrimandir

There are plenty of things to try, learn and experience in Auroville. From foreign movie screenings at the town hall to eco movie screenings at Sadhana forest, and from pizza nights with the youth club to discussions on Auroville-related subjects, is a daily affair in the city.

Tourists often do volunteer work like planting trees in the Sadhana forest in Auroville (Photo credit: Auroville.org)

One can also participate in pottery classes, short term volunteering in local schools, farms, forests and conservation initiatives. Due to a heavy French influence at Auroville and in Puducherry, tourists can also indulge in learning the basics of French language, dance, music and cooking classes.

There are many communities spread out around Auroville with cafés, most of which serve healthy, organic, vegetarian and vegan food. “I ate at Well Cafe which apart from being tasty, also supports a project that works to empower women from nearby villages, by making and selling funky accessories handmade with recycled materials,” Sharma recalls.

Visitors can also take a yoga class, attend an exhibition (there are noticeboards all over the town to announce what is going on) or can support the projects by simply indulging in some retail therapy. There are also many coffee shops and internet cafes, stalls selling hippie clothes and all sorts of therapies are available at every nook and corner.

Auroville Beach

Auroville beach is one of the quietest and cleanest in India (Photo credit: Auroville.org)

The coast of the township is lined with soft, golden and black volcanic sand, on the shores of a roaring sea. There can’t be a better way to spend an introspective evening, apart from sitting at the beautiful shore.

Sharma explains that the Auroville beach is one of the quietest and cleanest in India and one can spend hours just sitting and admiring beautiful dusky evenings in the city of dawn.

“Of course, with just one day in Auroville you cannot fully understand and appreciate this fascinating community and lifestyle but you can see a lot more than just the Matrimandir, you can start to explore and understand more about this unique and special place.  Perhaps, like me, you may even find it inspiring and intriguing enough that you will come back when you have more time to get really immersed into the community but volunteering or staying here for a few weeks, months or even more,” Sharma says.



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