Monday, January 12, 2009

Redemption came in the form of the most beautiful piece of landscaping I’ve ever encountered

Monday, January 5, 2009 A Saviour, a Miracle and a Little Science Fiction: Christmas in India (part two) by Chris

Auroville is an intentional community just outside the city. It’s based of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo (from my brief research a weighty and thoughtful Indian freedom fighter turned yogi from the early 20th century). The vision for the community is a place where human unity can be experienced; a new vision for living together with spiritual values as the premise. The community purchased about 20 square kilometers in the 60’s and have developed a global village that today consists of over 2000 people from some 40 countries. Passing by the bungalows, I tried to shoo away the rumors I’d heard of it being a refuge for criminals on the lam. I believe that everything deserves a fair shot from the beginning.

Our highly mechanized entry (including pre-registration through a contact days before and a secure checklist) led us to a viewing room for the official Auroville video. It glossed all the good stuff, human unity, responsibility and freedom, utopia stuff. It skipped all the grime of community, but I couldn’t blame them for that, hoping I might get it later on in the tour. From there we got in some electric people transport (which my friend related to the jeeps in Jurassic Park [fairly I might add]) to the center of the premises: Matrimandir. The massive golden orb raised out of the manicured garden like Epcot Center in Orlando.

I dropped off my bag, camera and phone at the coat check and listened to a kind Frenchman explain to us all about Matrimandir. It’s here that it all started to get a little more interesting for me. At Aurobindo’s passing, a woman (who later became known as The Mother) got hold of the band of devotees and took the ideas forward for the next 25 years. She held onto some of the teacher’s principles, but also took a hectic turn by introducing a good dose of her “visions” into the philosophy of the place. She dreamt up the massive golden orb (some 7 to 8 stories high) and its entire inside design, which included long indoor waterfalls, tricked out blue and red lighting, circling staircases and a meditation room centered around a huge crystal ball.

My friend said as we walked into the orb “This all just went a little Star Trek on us.” I agreed, It looked like we had just jumped onto the set of TRON. When I heard that one of the six main reasons for creating Auroville was to hasten the arrival of a more highly refined species to earth, I decided to cut my losses and try to focus on what positives could be taken from the place, even if the philosophy seemed to go crack.

Redemption came in the form of the most beautiful piece of landscaping I’ve ever encountered. An epic Banyan tree, carefully manicured to create a most spectacular grove. As a Banyan tree grows, it rains down rootlike vines from its branches which grow into the ground and serve as new sources for nutrients. Typically, this process takes over and the tree grows in a spectacularly untamed jungle of tree. But in this case, the gardeners had pruned these bundled vines, keeping only one each at various points on the tree. These once-thin vines had now grown into the size of tree trunks and supported the extremely long branches of the tree that now stretched horizontally from the main tree trunk up to 50 or 60 feet. With careful attention, this tree could continue to grow in such a manor for hundreds if not thousands of more years.

Ah! A Christmas Tree for the Ages. Sweet redemption and definitely a signal to bounce. Leaving the compound, I laughed to myself. Is this where I really spent my Christmas morning? I thought about the hundred times my family used to think about going to watch the re-enactment of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas and always turning it down, placing priorities on food, family and chilling with our new gifts. Ha! I never imagined my first big Christmas Day outing could be this! ... Posted by Chris at 10:01 AM

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