‘There should be a place somewhere on Earth that no single nation could claim “It’s mine”’
Those were the words of Mirra Alfassa, who was born in Paris and moved to India in 1973 until her death. In her community she was known as ‘the Mother’. Mirra inspired the project of Auroville, ‘a universal city in the making’. The name comes from the second inspirer, Sri Aurobindo, ex combatant for independence, philosopher, poet, spiritual guide.
Auroville is located 12 kilometres from Puducherry, in South India. The ambitious aim was to offer a place where everybody could live without any social or cultural conflicts, where one’s job would be a way to express himself and develop his talents, instead of just gaining a living. Every member of this community contributes with his abilities, and money is only used for external transactions, while Aurovillians use towards each other a system based on sharing goods and services.
The Mother started working on Auroville’s guide lines in the 30s, and in 1966 UNESCO showed up to offer some help. Two years later, 124 countries attended the foundation ceremony, and each one of their representatives came with some earth of his own country.
I visited Auroville a few years ago, when the population consisted of about 2000 people coming from 35 different countries. There were several settlements around specific areas of interests: bio farms, green energies, medical plants, civil rights and others. The original project considers 50,000 inhabitants, and until my visit only 10 out of 25 available square kilometres.
In the community ground’s centre lies a huge building called Matrimandir, the Mother’s Temple, a huge sphere covered by 2 kilos of gold. Inside is a gigantic rock crystal and a mirror system that convoys the sun rays on the crystal. The temple hosts the community members’ meditation sessions and visitors are not allowed to enter.
Boys and girls stundying in Auroville do not achieve a formal degree, because the community refuses to apply the traditional educational means. To complete their studies, the Aurovillians have to go abroad, but some prestigious institutions – Paris’ Sorbonne, among them – signed specific agreements to ease their access in their schools.
‘When I arrived in Puducherry, at school we where not obliged to choose a path, you were free to follow your own attitudes’, told me once Riccardo Carlotto, piano teacher, performer and composer. Born in Italy, Riccardo lives in India since he was 7 and spent most of his life in Auroville. ‘There is not a child on the world that is not anxious to learn, to discover the planet. A scholastic system based on punishment and rewards, instead, kills their enthusiasm.’
‘Auroville is not what you see, Auroville is what you can imagine.’ Not a conflict free zone, yet. Every choice is discussed in a council, and reaching an agreement is often a slow and difficult process. As slow is the process to become part of the community: for the first three months you are just a ‘guest’, then you become a ‘new comer’ and after three years you are officially an aurovillian. Based on the enthusiasm of the community members, visitors are seen as interlocutors or contamination agents.
This is Auroville, the community for everyone, but where only a few can enter.