Auroville is located in south India near Pondicherry, an increasing number of people from all over the world have been quietly and painstakingly working on the development of a new township, a new way of living, a new way of being. Something is being attempted here for the benefit of humanity as a whole.
“Man is a transitional being, he is not final. Evolution is not finished; reason is not the last word nor the reasoning animal the supreme figure of Nature,” observes Sri Aurobindo. “There is something that he is not yet which he has to be; he is reaching always towards the something yet unrealised; his whole life and nature is a preparation, an endeavour of Nature towards what is beyond him.”
Auroville is a living laboratory experimenting this evolutionary thrust and, eventually be a platform for transformation.
Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.
A place…for trying to find one’s consciousness.
It is like the Force, the central Force of Auroville,
the cohesive Force of Auroville.
– The Mother
At the very centre of Auroville one finds the ‘soul of the city’, the Matrimandir, situated in a large open area called ‘Peace’, from where the future township will radiate outwards. The atmosphere is quiet and charged, and the area beautiful, even though at present large parts of it are still under construction.
The Matrimandir emerges as a large golden sphere which seems to be rising out of the earth, symbolising the birth of a new consciousness seeking to manifest.
While walking through the lovely green Matrimandir Gardens with their great variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, one’s attention is greatly drawn by this important and powerful feature at the heart of the city which was seen by the Mother as the “symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection” and as “the central cohesive force” for the growth of Auroville.
The name ‘Matrimandir’ means literally ‘Temple of the Mother’. According to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching, the ‘Mother’ concept stands for the great evolutionary, conscious and intelligent principle of Life, the Universal Mother, – which seeks to help humanity move beyond its present limitations into the next step of its evolutionary adventure, the supramental consciousness.
The spacious Inner Chamber in the upper hemisphere of the structure is completely white, with white marble walls and white carpeting. In the centre a pure crystal-glass globe suffuses a ray of electronically guided sunlight which falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere. “The most important thing is this: the play of the sun on the centre. Because that becomes the symbol, the symbol of future realisations.”
There are no images, no organised meditations, no flowers, no incense, no religion or religious forms.
To find one’s consciousness..
The Matrimandir is there for “those who want to learn to concentrate..” “No fixed meditations, none of all that, but they should stay there in silence, in silence and concentration. A place for trying to find one’s consciousness.”
“Let it not become a religion”, the Mother said. “The failure of religions is… because they were divided. They wanted people to be religious to the exclusion of other religions, and every branch of knowledge has been a failure because it has been exclusive. What the new consciousness wants (it is on this that it insists) is: no more divisions. To be able to understand the spiritual extreme, the material extreme, and to find the meeting point, the point where that becomes a real force.”
Auroville is involved in many different fields of research.
1.Scientific and Social Science Research
2 Alternative Energy
The Auroville Charter makes education a defining characteristic of life in Auroville. There is a need however to make certain distinctions between education as it is commonly understood, and education as mentioned by Mother in the Auroville Charter and practiced in Auroville.
Education is usually understood as a course of study to acquire a body of knowledge or skills undertaken to enhance one’s ability to do a particular job and be able to earn more money. The more liberal definitions of education, where it is understood as development and refinement of one’s personality, without necessarily an eye to economic advantage, have been out of use for long, and one finds only scattered instances of the practice of education with such aims. Even so, what has been envisaged for Auroville is far beyond and above the goals set by liberal education.
In relation to the education offered at the Centre of Education at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mother had pointed out that “We are not here to do (only a little better) what others do. We are here to do what others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.”
Man’s place in the world
Sri Aurobindo and Mother do not reject the utilitarian or liberal perspectives. These form a very small part of their total vision of education, which is based on a deep understanding of the human personality, of man’s place in the world, of the world itself and its position in the order of the worlds, of how these worlds influence and impinge on the human personality, of the nature of creation, – and deriving from all these, the aim of human existence.
Man is seen as a multi-layered being composed of the physical, vital and emotional, mental, psychic and spiritual personalities. Each of these is further sub-divided, and each has a counterpart on subtle planes surrounding the body. There is within man a spark of the transcendent divine, and the aim of human existence, as seen by Auroville’s founders, is to become conscious of this reality and unite with it. Each human being has his/her unique path to arrive at this union, and this can be done in life, in matter itself, and not by removing oneself from life as advocated by traditional spiritual practices.
Higher levels of consciousness
So far, man has developed mainly the physical, mental and vital parts of his being, but now there is an evolutionary thrust to develop still higher parts, which are contained within man and known as the supramental personality. By the use of mind, man has now created a complex structure of society using stupendous advances in technology which have gone out of control. Only a move to higher levels of consciousness can save the human race.
In the light of this high vision underlying Auroville, the internal dynamics of the township are set in such a way that all its residents are under constant pressure to exceed themselves, to continually seek self-perfection. These pressures exist everywhere in the world at this moment in time – yet there is a difference. Firstly, due to the collective nature of Auroville the intensity here is much greater and, secondly, its participants have the guidance of Mother and Sri Aurobindo for understanding and correctly handling these pressures. As each has a unique path to follow, the guidance to each comes by establishing contact with the psychic being within.
Auroville contains many different individuals of varying nationality, background and karmic path. Despite the great diversity among them, it can generally be said that the movement of each individual on his/her path to self perfection and growth in consciousness is what we ‘live’ in Auroville as “unending education”.
The dream of building a new city for the future on a clean slate, with the purpose of promoting research and experimentation alongside integral development, has been attracting architects and students of architecture from all over the world ever since Auroville´s inception in 1968. Not having pre-defined by-laws or being bound by the conventions of human society has allowed a multitude of expressions to manifest in the course of Auroville´s development, as natural extensions of the quest for the new. Expression of core values
The architecture expressed by the dreams and aspirations of a nation or a community stand as an expression of its core values in matter and the multiplicity of styles and typologies found in Auroville reflect the socio-economic, cultural, ideological, ecological and climatic factors that have shaped us over 3 decades. They present a visual history of our development and evolution for all to see.
Wide range of experiments
As this website will amply demonstrate, experimentation in building done in Auroville covers various aspects of architecture, and includes building materials, building technology, eco-friendly architecture, climate responsive designs, integration with natural surroundings, cost-effective buildings, geomancy and geometry, as well as the design of spaces themselves, including experimenting with the lifestyle of the user. There has also been spillover into the design and management of building infrastructure, the building of integrated rainwater harvesting systems, domestic waste water treatment plants and the integration of renewable energy systems for energy demands.
The buildings of the first decade, which was our veritable pioneering stage, adopted the vernacular building materials of casurina, keet, palm leaf and thatch. The builders took these materials of construction to high forms of self-expression and imagination, and worked in close interaction with the local artisans. The large ‘Aspiration’ settlement is a lively proof of the durability of experimentation done at the time.
At the same time, the push to experiment for ‘community living’ as a step towards the future city, gave rise to ‘Auromodèle’, which area still remains an architectural exposition of forms and shapes that break the mould of the conventional principle of ‘four walls and a roof’ habitation. These beginnings provoked a creative revolution in the self-builders of the 70’s and the early 80’s in experimenting with building materials, technology, design and life-styles.
One of the results of this period was serious applied research, and the last decade has seen considerable advances in ferro-cement technology for roofs and interior fittings as well as compressed earth blocks for load bearing structures, some of which have won national design awards and significant grants-in-aid from agencies that support these innovations.
Some descriptions of houses
In order to give you some idea of Auroville’s architecture, we offer descriptions of some of its houses and buildings, and will continue in future to do so. The range of expression is immense. The articles given here, written by Aurovilian architects Anupama Kundoo and Sheril Castelino were published in Indian architecture magazines and may give you glimpses of the care and sense of responsible innovation practiced by the Aurovilians.
Though dissimilar in aspect, each of the described houses establishes a strong relationship with the environment, with nature, – each on its own terms.