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Monday, November 30, 2009

Honestly, it’s almost a cult. Scratch that, it’s totally a cult

இந்தியா India is my chosen battleground, but the longer I’m here the more I wonder if perhaps, despite my plotting to avoid fate, India has chosen me. November 29, 2009
ஆரோவிள்ளே [auroville]

Apparently, perfect places do exist. Apparently, I’ve been to one. The thing is, Auroville struck me as the single strangest place in the world. I’m not really sure where to start with it, so I’ll turn it over the city’s mission statement:
"Auroville wants 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 is to realize human unity."
The city was founded by a figure known as “The Mother,” a central spiritual figure in Pondicherry whose ashrams and ideas have spread throughout the world. It’s over 4,000 acres of hugely undeveloped wilderness on the outskirts of Pondicherry, with a population capacity of 50,000 people, though the populace currently numbers only 2,007.

Its residents renounce all politics, nationality, and religion, choosing instead a peaceful, hardworking (?) lifestyle. Many volunteer at schools or conduct research, and all garden. Daily all inhabitants gather to meditate around a huge gold-plated sphere (see picture) that contains a 70 cm crystal sphere through which sunlight falls, representing “future realizations”. The Mother meditated that the center of the city as where a huge Banyan tree lies.
Usually visitors are allowed to approach the huge dome, but as we visited on a Sunday, we had no such luck. My host mom does know an Indian woman living in a cottage in Auroville with her Danish companion though, so we snuck in a back gate and went to her house, where she treated us to homegrown tea, biscuits, and gave my host sister and me each a new selvar to be stitched.

She showed us some things unique to Auroville such as playing The Mother’s mantras for water to purify it before drinking and denouncing marriage (though not partnerships). Her house had a country cabin feel, almost like a cabin you might rent for the summer on Cape Cod, but was equipped with broadband, satellite tv, and a microwave. Strangely, the idea of “equality for all” that Auroville preaches doesn’t seem to prevent its residents from keeping servants.

Honestly, it’s almost a cult. Scratch that, it’s totally a cult. Forgive me (I just saw 2012), but you can’t help but wonder about this place. Everyone you meet has watery eyes and a huge smile on their face and greets you in whatever language seems to strike their fancy. From what I saw of it, it’s almost like a huge, permanent, UNESCO-endorsed Woodstock.
Anyway, I was given the offer from the Coimbatorian we visited to come back and stay for a week anytime, and I’m considering taking her up on it. Might make for an interesting visit, no?

I’m not sure exactly how to define a “perfect city,” but I guess that Auroville in theory, does a decent, if communist, job of it. You hand over your assets to the city upon joining, help your neighbors, are friendly to all, and live off the earth. Still though, the end of the walking tour of Auroville dumped us right into a gift shop with prices on homemade paper, organic tea, and pottery that would raise eyebrows anywhere.
Ah, how capital prevails. Posted by Rianna ♥ at 3:55 PM Please send all fan mail to: Rianna Starheim108 Appusamy Layout Red Fields Coimbatore, INDIA 641045 stargirl2174@aim.com

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