Auroville (City of Dawn) is an experimental township in Viluppuram district mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, India with some parts in the state of Puducherry in South India It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as “the Mother”) and designed by architect Roger Anger. As stated in Alfassa’s first public message in 1965, she states that, Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville City is to realize human unity…
At its Annual Conference in 1964 and with Mirra Alfassa as its Executive President, the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry passed a resolution for the establishment of a city dedicated to the vision of Sri Aurobindo. The Mother was spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, who believed that “man is a transitional being”. Mother expected that this experimental “universal township” would contribute significantly in the “progress of humanity towards its splendid future by bringing together people of goodwill and aspiration for a better world.” Mother also believed that such a universal township will contribute decisively to the Indian renaissance (Ref. Mother’s Agenda, Vol. 9, dt.3.02.68).
The inauguration ceremony attended by delegates of 124 nations, was held on Wednesday 28 February 1968. Handwritten in French by the Mother, its 4-point Charter set forth her vision of Integral living:
- Auroville City belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the 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 City will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.
In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, which was conceived by “the Mother” as “a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection”. Silence is maintained inside the Matrimandir to ensure the tranquility of the space and entire area surrounding the Matrimandir is called Peace area. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraling ramp leads upwards to an air-conditioned chamber of polished white marble referred to as “a place to find one’s consciousness”.
Matrimandir is equipped with a solar power plant and is surrounded by manicured gardens. When there is no sun or after the sunset, the sunray on the globe is replaced by a beam from a solar powered light.
Radiating from this center are four “zones” of the City Area: the “Residential Zone”, “Industrial Zone”, “Cultural (& Educational) Zone” and “International Zone”. Around the City or the urban area, lies a Green Belt which is an environment research and resource area and includes farms and forestries, a botanical garden, seed bank, medicinal and herbal plants, water catchment bunds, and some communities
Legal Status and Government
Prior to 1980, the Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, legally owned all of the city’s assets. In 1980, the Government of India passed the Auroville Emergency Provision Act 1980 under which it took over the city’s management. The change was initiated when after the death of the Mother in 1973, serious fissures in the day-to-day management developed between the Society and the city’s residents. The residents appealed to Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India for an intervention. The Society challenged the Government’s action in the Supreme Court of India. The final verdict, upheld the constitutional validity of government’s action and intervention.
In 1988, after the verdict, a need was felt to make a lasting arrangement for the long term management of Auroville City. The city’s representatives along with Sh. Kireet Joshi, then Educational Advisor to the Union government met for consulations with the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. Later that year, the Auroville Foundation Act 1988, was passed by the Indian Parliament. The Act stipulated the vesting of all movable and immovable assets of the city in a foundation, known as Auroville Foundation and the creation of a three-tier governing system: the Governing Board; the Residents’ Assembly and the Auroville International Advisory Council. The highest authority is the Governing Board selected by the Government of India. Consisting of 7 individuals, they are all prominent Indians in the fields of education, culture, environment and social service. The second authority is the International Advisory Council whose 5 members are also selected by the Government. These are chosen from amongst people who have rendered valuable service to humanity in the areas of Auroville’s ideals. The Resident’s Assembly consists of all official residents of the city.
The Auroville Foundation, headed by a chairmen, is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The HRD ministry appoints the seven members of the Governing Board and the five members of the International Advisory Council. There is also a Secretary to the Foundation, appointed by the Government of India, who resides and has an office with supporting staff in Auroville. The Foundation currently owns about half of the total land required for the township. The remaining lands are being purchased whenever funds are available.
Auroville City should be at the service of Truth, beyond all social, political and religious conviction. Auroville is the effort towards peace, in sincerity and Truth.
Society and population
The township was originally intended to house 50,000 residents. In the initial 20 years, only about 400 individuals from 20 countries resided in the township. In the next 20 years, this number rose to 2,000 individuals from 40 countries. Today, its 2,487 residents (1854 adults and 633 children) come from 49 countries with two-thirds coming from India, France and Germany. The community is divided up into neighborhoods with Tamil, English, French and Sanskrit names like Aspiration, Arati, La Ferme, Auromodel and Isaiambalam.