Auroville – The City of Dawn, as they call it, is situated in the Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu and some parts in the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
Auroville was founded by Mirra Alfassa (“The Mother”) in 1968 and was designed by Roger Anger. The main purpose was to create a universal township to portray human unity, where people from all over the world belonging to different cultures, creeds, and social backgrounds could live together in perfect peace and harmony.
Auroville in a nutshell
We reached Pondicherry and planned to book a hotel room there. Early morning, after breakfast we decided to visit Auroville. The best choice was to rent an economical car in Pondicherry to drive around; we visited the Aurobindo Ashram, Promenade beach and Arulmigu Manakula Vinayagar Temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha before heading to Auroville.
Auroville is just 10kms from Pondicherry. When we reached there, we were directed to the Visitor centre, where a detailed visual clipping was played to give us an idea about the whole concept of Auroville and the Matrimandir. Various handouts and brochures were handed over to us highlighting the educational and cultural activities being conducted there.
Around 5000 people from around 50 nations assembled near the Banyan tree which was supposed to be the centre point of the future township for the inauguration ceremony held on 28th February 1968. Representatives of different nations bought soil from their motherland and mixed it in the white marble urn which serves as the focal point of the amphitheatre. Auroville is divided into many zones. The innermost Peace area consists of the Matrimandir, a magnificent garden and an amphitheatre; The Industrial zone has many small and medium scaled “green” industries, training centres, arts and crafts artefacts; Residential zones has eco friendly houses or hut that blends completely with the nature; International zone hosts many national and cultural events which focuses on the idea of human unity across different continents.; Cultural zone conducts many educational, cultural, arts and sports activity within Auroville and finally the Green Belt which acts as a barrier for the urbanisation has a lot of organic farms, dairies, orchards and different variety of flora and fauna in it. Auroville transformed a wasteland into a vibrant place of living and recreation.
Matrimandir made up of shimmering golden discs is a Golden dome and is the soul of the area. It is a meditation centre and is situated in an open space called “Peace”. As we had planned a sudden visit we were not able to visit the Meditation hall which has to be booked in advance the previous day. Matrimandir viewing point is from 9 am -12 pm and from 2 -4 pm.
Auroville discourages motorised transport with the township. Bicycles are available on a rental basis. It was a great experience walking along the shaded walkway from the visitor centre to the viewing point which was about 1.5 Kms. Shuttle services are also available till the Peace area.
Auroville is a no money circulation area and uses an internal arrangement called Aurocard which you get in the visitor centre or in the Auroville guest house. There is an ATM for emergency services within Auroville. The visitor centre has a multi-cuisine restaurant, a cappuccino bar, and shopping boutiques. I picked up a few candles, organic bags and incense sticks to carry back home as a souvenir. Health care and fitness sessions are also available at reasonable rates. We got acquainted with many people who were working as volunteers.
After spending a whole day at Auroville, we decided to explore the nearby Serenity beach, famous for surfing, the Sadhana forest and the lone sandy Auroville beach.
How to reach Auroville from Chennai
We planned to book an AC cab from Chennai to Pondicherry, with Savaari. Savaari has many features like online booking, transparent billing and above all reliable and experienced drivers. Our driver, a very experienced and humble person knew the route very well and was indeed very generous to stop in between at the Cholamandalam Village: a fantastic place with art galleries, open-air theatres, sand and clay art handicrafts etc; a crescent-shaped Covelong beach and at Mahabalipuram along the ECR en route to Pondicherry.
Distance and Time Taken
Auroville is about a distance of 160 km from Chennai. It took us almost 3 hours 10 minutes to reach our destination via the East Coast Road. It would take almost 4 hours to reach if you are planning to travel via NH 48 from Chennai to Pondicherry. Auroville is almost 10 km from the Pondicherry city.
I bid adieu to Auroville with a heavy heart and brought back home a lot of memories of this beautiful township which was set with a vision to embrace human unity and to enhance human life by inner consciousness, meditation and spirituality.