The morning I checked out of my hotel in Pondicherry, I chatted with the French manager for her opinion on Auroville. I wasn’t too keen on visiting a township-under-construction, especially on a hot July afternoon when I had a bus to catch back home in the eve. But she changed my mind when she said, “Oh! You can stay there for as long as you wish… a day, a week, or even months.” I was curious to know the mystery behind the “The City of Dawn“, and what made people stay that long… in some cases, forever!
Auroville is about 30 minutes from Pondicherry by road. Founded by Mirra Alfassa, it is a self-sustaining township of harmonious and progressive minds from 50 nationalities. Entry to this ‘universal town’ is free, but one has to register at the Visitors Centre. The entrance is adorned with brick-arches and landscaped greens. It is easy to see the harmony this place shares with nature.
The Visitors Centre serves as a museum of sorts. It showcases the city-plan and the vision of the founder. Auroville also hosts volunteers and interns who wish to study and help build this town. With my pass in hand, I decided to walk through the roads (and skipped the buggies that are available on rent for walk-wary visitors).
It is easy to feel the charm of the place growing on you as you pass through various stone-signboards with the painting a herb or a flower and its medicinal and spiritual value listed beside it. The entire place is like a forest with some areas cleared to assist walking. There are tarred roads too, but it’s always more exciting to take the road less travelled by.
My goal was to reach the centre of Auroville, where there lies a giant sphere made of gold. The area that surrounds it is the ‘Peace Area’. There are signboards everywhere to guide visitors in this maze-like forest. This town has a field full of humongous solar-panels that fuel this sustainable-concept-lifestyle. The air is cool and clean and there are nurseries and a botanical garden to harness the goodness of nature.
I was looking for a tree to rest under (as I had quite some distance to cover before I’d reach the “golden ball”), and then I came across this spectacle that stopped me in my tracks…
The forest heard my voice and showed me a 100-year old Banyan Tree. This sacred tree has aerial roots that have grown out of its branches and gravitated towards the earth to form tree-like structures of their own. It looks as though there are multiple trees entwined with each other, like young children in a warm embrace with their mother.
The tenacity of the ageless banyan tree inspired me and charged me up for the last mile of my walk towards the centre of this unique world. And I stood mesmerised by what I beheld…
The ball-shaped building is the Matrimandir– an awe-inspiring blend of art and architecture! This is where the seeker comes to realise inner consciousness and peace. I gazed dreamily at the sprawling greens and blessed that French lady for convincing me to give Auroville a chance.