By James Hendrickson
Along the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, a few hundred kilometers south of Chennai, the community of Auroville claims autonomy from the cultural rule of India. Established in 1968, by “The Mother”, spiritual partner of poet and teacher Sri Aurobindo, Auroville's territorial charter declares the land and property as belonging to no one in particular, but rather humanity as a whole. With residential requirement as a willingness to serve the Divine Consciousness, Auroville exists as a place of constant progress, unending education, and perpetual youth. But what to anticipate as a simple traveler taking in the sights and the spirit primarily depends on your own personal disposition.
Auroville offers insight and accommodation to anyone interested in discovering the genuine unity that guides the lives of those devoted. If you plan on voluntourism, which is highly recommended, begin by having a look at the list of cooperatives that take their stake in the spread. Siddhartha's Farm, Annapurna, Solitude, and Fertile all offer tours, activities, potlucks, workshops, and accept “Sevas”, that is service in exchange for meals and lodging. Most of the farms specialize in bio-dynamic research, land remediation, and include sustainable practices in operation, ranging from solar systems to electric bicycle powered irrigation. These approaches to agriculture are intrinsic to Auroville's values and philosophies which have restored many native plants, trees, and grasses to a once deserted area while employing more than four thousand villagers
Get oriented with the area and make your way towards the Auroville Welcome Center, taking note of the restaurants, shops, and studios along the way. The welcome center features information and history on the development and collaboration of the surrounding Tamilian villages and Aurovillian amenities. Register for a visit inside of the Matrimandir, the massive, golden meditation sphere suspended upon twelve gardens, housing a beautiful, clear crystal at the center point of the city. Experiencing the breath-taking splendor of the Matrimandir is an absolutely essential part of appreciating the human spirit in Auroville. Ask about available yoga exercise sessions, guided meditation, crafts, and seasonal festivities before leaving the facility.
Coconuts, papaya, mango, and banana; India's orchards, groves and forests are certainly a feast for the eyes and the appetite! Sadhana Forest, located on the outskirts of Auroville, is a hostel unlike any other in the world. As a reforestation project, started by Yorit and Aviram Rozin in 2003, many families and volunteers from around the world are attracted to the ecological wonder that has risen from the dust-ridden soil. Boasting bamboo dormitories, a pair of mud pools, and even compostable toilets, it's easy to see environmental living is at the heart of this herd. In fact, vegan meals, prepared by the volunteers themselves, are the only eating option even available. A few other lifestyle rules are requisite to staying and serving at Sadhana Forest such as only using biodegradable toiletries, abstaining from intoxicants and competition against others. Minimum stay, with daily seva, is two weeks in the summer and a full month in the busy season. At the very least, be sure to visit on a Friday evening for dinner and a screening of a film from the extensive catalog that the community keeps. It's, by far, the best way to make a few new friends.
No matter where you go in Auroville, you're sure to meet other incredible people with skills to show and stories to tell. Be flexible and curious, always ask questions and observe any nuance of nature's knowledge that you can encounter. A traveler's wealth is in every single step that the path provides. Like the evolving architects of Auroville, be patient and persevere towards the truth that manifests from the amorphous matter of potential prosperity. As Sri, Aurobino writes, “'Arise! Transcend thyself. You are man and the whole nature of man is to become more than himself'.”