The Hindu Metro Plus Chennai Travel This is Auroville for you Weve all heard of the universal township Auroville which exists just three hours south of Chennai and celebrated its 40th birthday last year Cofounded by ...
This is Auroville for you
Here’s a beginners’ guide to discovering Auroville
PHOTOS: SEEMA SANGHI FARM STORY Visitors looking around Solitude
We’ve all heard of the universal township, Auroville, which exists just three hours south of Chennai and celebrated its 40th birthday last year. Co-founded by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, with the purpose of “creating a place where men and women of all countries can live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities”, Auroville’s population consists of 2,000 people from 40 nations.
What we might not know is what one can actually do there, to be a part of this experiment of human unity, without actually moving in. The Auroville website (www.auroville.org) is as bewildering as the place itself, so here’s a brief guide to discover Auroville. Be warned though, that Auroville doesn’t encourage indiscriminate tourism; the Outreach Centre states clearly: “Only people who are genuinely interested in its ideals and projects and willing to participate in the community life are most welcome.”
A three-day seminar conducted by an Aurovilian during the guest season (November to April) provides a comprehensive first insight into Auroville. The seminar takes you to different communities to meet Aurovilians and presents the ideals and reality of Auroville. Those intending to join Auroville can attend a more in-depth one-week to three-week seminar. Phone: 0413-2623019
Located upstairs at the Solar Kitchen, it offers a wide range of information and guidance. Open from Monday to Friday, 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Phone: 0413-262 2704
The Visitors Information and Reception Centre Usually the first stop if you’re visiting Auroville. The architecturally brilliant buildings house photographic exhibitions and the Charter. Shop at the various boutiques and bookshops and try delicious home-grown, organic food at the café/restaurant. Get tickets here for the Matrimandir. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Matrimandir The spiritual and physical centre of Auroville contains the meditation chamber and houses a solid crystal, 70 cm in diameter (supposedly the world’s biggest). The inner chamber is open to visitors only on Sundays, but the tickets (free) must be collected between Monday and Friday. The Solar Kitchen, the popular, inexpensive collective kitchen for Auroville with a solar bowl on its roof, provides energy for cooking. About 600 meals are prepared daily for the community and guests, largely made from vegetables and grains grown organically in and around Auroville.
Convergence This innovative environmental education centre offers experiential environmental programmes for anyone interested in making their world a better place. Visit: www.thepointogconvergence.org
LEAP The Learning Experience Auroville Program offers a range of courses - sustainable food growing classes; integral dance of the five elements; chant the rainbow, and many others. Visit: www.leap-auroville.com
GUEST HOUSES ( www.aurovilleguesthouses.org)
There are about 40 guesthouses of varying comfort; some have a minimum-stay requirement.
Quiet Healing Centre A “special kind of hotel” on the beach envisioned by The Mother where people could ‘recharge and heal’. Therapies used here ‘honour and strive to work in harmony with the body’s own deep wisdom’. Phone: 0413-2622329
Gaia’s Garden Focusses on ecology and education. It is a well-maintained guesthouse with an ‘aspiration for beauty.’ Phone: 0413-2622739
Youth Camp For people of all ages, with an easygoing multi-cultural atmosphere. Orients guests on the activities of Auroville and interacts with neighbouring villages. Phone: 0413-2622357
Only for those with a serious interest in experiencing farm life and learning skills. Accommodation varies from capsules (pyramid-shaped hut raised on pillars) to brick rooms. Often, the payment is respect, a lot of hard work and a small donation.
Annapurna The largest Auroville farm of 135 acres, grows rice, varagu, rosella, millet, firewood crops and uses solar and diesel power. Also an active research centre for ecological farming and has a local seed stock. Basic accommodation for volunteer farm workers. Contact: email@example.com
Buddha Garden Has vegetables, orchards, forest and 65 chickens. Guiding principles: health and well-being and to grow food with love and awareness. Provides a place where people can share this process and learn what it means to tread lightly on the earth. Visit: www.buddhagarden.org
Solitude Farm Restaurant Founded by Krishna in 1996, Solitude tries to be wholly sustainable through its food production. Says Krishna: “Solitude is about harmony, both environmental and social, and sustainability in all facets of life.” Experience organic food, lovingly grown, harvested and prepared. You can taste the freshness of the grains, vegetables and fruits with each bite. American chef Cody creates a global menu of Italian, Mexican, Thai and Israeli food, including a unique pasta made from traditional millets, vegetable wraps and ragi dosa (staple food in this area before the introduction of rice). Relax under trees and enjoy the peaceful, green farm atmosphere. Reservation is a must. Phone: 0413-2622068