Also known as true Fairy Tale city, or Dream City. When you read the concept made up by the Mother, the main associate of Indian prilosopher Shri Aurobindo you immidiately want to get off and go there to build the Future. Of course, I'm not an expert in 60s, I can imagine the spirits of that time only approximately but according to what I can see coming to life of a city like Auroville suited the general spirit of that time perfectly.
Total unity, renunciation of the material for the sake of the spiritual, accent on creative expression. No religions or, to be more specitif, the unity of them all. The Divine which has neither name, nor form. In general, it's about all those kinds of things which seemed extremely new to the people who knew only the dogma of single religion before and then suddenly obtained admittance to all the possible philosophies of the humanity. Looking with a first superficial glance they've seen familiar words and came to conclusion that everything is the same.
In general, this was the beginning of what will later on grow into a separate phenomena named New Age.
Now this term can even sound a bit contemptuously referring to a special category of people who put themselver over all the phylosophical systems though they have not studied properly a single one of them. But at that time everything was very serious: New Time, New Age and the New Human was coming. Then these were new forms of art and self-expression and now it's only a usual interiour of a good tea-house somewhere in a big city.
"Please, don't make a religion out of it" - Mother stressed repeatedly. But it's like commanding a person "Please, don't breather, don't eat, drink and don't go to toilet". Appearing of a cult of bigger or lesser fanaticism is a totally natural mechanism how consciousness functions. It's useless to fight with it. It can be either used as an additional fuel on the way or refused to be used and then one is likely to spend all the energy on rejection. And then huge portraits of Mother with flower offerings throughout all Auroville will be named non-altar. Or not named in any way.
In the contemporary society religion has been replaced with the idea of Brand which is the object of worship for the person who does not believe in God. So Auroville sometimes reminds of a brand.
When a group of companies or projects is created often one word or word combination is used as a prefix. Here, as it's easy to imagine, this is "Auro". And so we get AuroMode, AuroMoon, AuroCafe... Or, in another way, Mother Something. The only thing lacking is one tracing and company style.
And the symbol which always accompanies the tracing is, of course, The Matrimandir, a huge golden ball. And I'd really like to know if the Aurovillians would be honest enough to themselves to make a real logotype and the company style when the Matrimandir is completed. They already have a slogan: а city with a soul. And there are plentiful designers and artists in the team, as this can be seen from well-done leaflets and posters.
So, Auroville. The geographical center of the city is Banyan tree, the only tree which was there when future Aurovillians had got this land. Matrimandir, city's soul is located a bit aside it. Gardens, artists' studios', sports ground, pavillions of different cultures, cafes and restaurants are all around. Altogether it must resemble a galaxy.
Matrimandir deserves a separate story. Aurovillians, of course, would never let you call their golden ball a Temple, but we, guests of the city have the luxury of calling the things by their names. How else then would you refer to a complicated esoterical construction in the middle of which in a totally white hall on the symbol of Universal Mother a crystal ball is rested reflecting one ray of light from the roof? The crystal ball is surrounded by 12 white columns and the golden ball is, in its turn, surrounded by 12 petal-halls each of them painted in particular color standing for one of the qualities of the Divine. All the colours gather in the spectrum which is very familiar to graphical software users. Very contemporary, isn't it?
"A place for trying to find one's consciousness. No insense, no flowers, no religion." But still, at the same time the whole process of getting into the Matrimandir is quite a complicated ritual. Frist you have to see a special movie, obtain the pass to the garden where, no step left, no step right from the special road you can reach a platform and look at the Ball from a definate perspective.
Then you have to come back. At a certain time call the special phone number and register for meditation. Everything folows the Mother's instructions. She said that in order to be let into the main Hall the person has to be sincere and ask to see Matrimandir by oneself. What a luck that they hasn't come up with a complicated ritual for checking one's sincerity, just like Holy Inquisition was checking in the Medieval Ages if a woman is a witch or not through trying to drown her. If she drowns then she is not a witch. Here sincerity stays the heart concern of the visitos themselves and only little bit is left. You have to come to the gates at a certain time, listen to hourly lecture about how it was built, put on white socks in order not to soil the floor with red indian dust and finally! You are sitting in a gloomy white hall before the crystal ball and trying to find one's consciousness.
Frist time is no more than 15 minutes. Photos are not allowed.
Of course, every Aurovillian can tell you that this complicated process has a simple and clear sense, whites socks being especially meaningful. But all the other religious rituals also had a simple and clear sense at the moment of their creation.
It happened that my first day out in Auroville was exactly when the president of India honoured the city with a visit. In a some maraclous way I got off the restricted path and coming close to the fence could see the divine image of the symbol of the city of freedom, of the city which does not belong to any nation and obeys only the Higher Truth.
And this must be the President. Probably, listening to the lecture.
I personally don't mind people trying to build the New, Better World. It's known that people think that the main problem is what surrounds them. And it's enough only for idealists to gather together to create the ideal society. It works to some extent and then it invariably proves that the idealists are same humans. Probably, possesing doubtless human merits but not deprived of common human demerits as well.
And I was told about it by every citizen of Auroville which I was talking with. According to the original concept there had to be no money in this city as the people had to have no other wishes than the creative self expression and search of the Higher Truth. In reality this, of course, did not work. Therefore there is a finansial system which reminds usual banking with pared-down functionality. Every citizen has account number where he gets his monthly maintenance from the community he works for. As it usually happens, the maintenance is enough for quite plain life only and those who want more try all their best to find additional sourses of income. And tourists, so called city guests, of course, make up one of main contributions to it.
And tourists or guests of the city can enjoy it here quite a lot. There are dozens of sorts of yoga, aikido, tai chi, capoera, dances, even ballet, sports, riding, music and meditation in the list of actions they can take part in. Altogether it makes up a usual set which can be found in ordinary big cities as well due to its popularity among the contemporary highly spiritual yough. And central shops have range of goods usual for common esoteric shops in big cities or to an indian stall only much more expensive. This is due to European immigrants making all those things instead of Indians. And in contrast to citizens of the Auroville and ordinary Indian stalls the guests can pay with a real, fully-functional bank card. But this is only in the main shop, in the rest of the shops and cafes this bonus is lost, and unless you get your own guest card with the temporary number you cannot even have a cup of coffee.
Auroville can easily be included in the list of nice places for unobtrusive spiritual development and one can come here to learn yoga, ikebana, Tai Chi... A contemporary spiritual tourist can spend the warmer season somewhere in Kathmandu, Dharamsala or Rishikesh and when it gets too cold in the mountains go down here, to the sea. And be reading Shri Aurobindo's books instead of Dalai Lama's. And it will be not to hard to make it as while talking about the absense of private estate in Auroville and about everybody living where they get the place, the Mother did not say anything about absense of agents which would be distributing those places. And not about numerous guest houses.
The general environment in Auroville reminds a lot the British Art Colledge I once attended. Young, stylish and inspired people are everywhere. Everyone is full of ideas for future life and creativity.
Everybody is inspired equally in Auroville, age does not matter.
Everybody is busy with one's own creative search. With one's own serious task.
Algotogether they are dreaming and making up plans what Auroville will be in the future.
They are trying, putting these plans to reality.
They create, experiment with new froms. Or, to be more specific, with what was new forms some years ago and how is rather mainstream.
I could have attended this kind of exhibition somewhere in London or Prague.
And I would like to frankly thank Auroville for this. I personally would be coming here when I shall feel like immersing into creative European atmosphere but will not have a chance or intent to go too far.
And so it's a nice compromise. Going through uneven Indian roads in between small oasises of cleaniness and style. Through miserable Indian villages to oasises of the familiar culture.
On the top of it Aurovillians are using ecologically pure, wasteless production, mainly solar energy and grow organic food which also suits the New Age spirit very well.
They are making whole mandalas out of flowers. Religious fanatics, shut up! This is not an offering to any deity, it's only there for beauty, for joy.
And the children here are wonderful.
To summarise in a way this amazing social phenomena named Auroville I would like to say that if during 60x all the politics, soldiers and millionaries became hippies then our contemporary world would most probably look like Auroville. If only all the remaining ordinary people who did not turn into hippies would not make it back to what it is now.
And it's quite interesting what Shri Aurobindo and Mother would say about it all if they were still alive.
sansara: fully recyclable
- Auroville. The first citadel of New Age. (december, 2007)