India is truely a nation of unity in diversity and one inspiring example is Auroville where you will find people of different nationalities living together. Its a township made by, for and from people of different nations around the world. It was always my fascination to go and spend some time there to understand human nature closely and finally the dream came true this Year.In this travelogue, i will try to jot down facts about auroville like its history , culture and lifestyle. Also i will mention different options for accommodation here and how you can book them, info about different pavilions and how to know about daily events happening and participating in them. So lets start!
History of Auroville:
Auroville is a township which welcome people from around the world. It was started by the Mother who was a true devotee of Sri Aurobindo to create a united and diverse township where anyone can live, work and find the meaning of their life.Inaugrated in February 1968 where the guests from all over the world brought a little soil from their homeland to mix with Indian soil where they will make their homes and living.You can read about this township more when you visit Aurobindo Ashram's museum and talk to their staff. They are very helping and are always interested in sharing their stories.
Some facts about auroville
1. Zonal planning: Auroville is divided into zones- Industrial zone, International zone, cultural zone, Peace area, Residential zone and green belt. I will only mention about Peace area, residential zone and International zone because as tourist you will mainly visit these places. Greenery is in abudant everywhere in Auroville.
Peace area/Maitri mandir: Peace area is where Maitri mandir is situated. It is a sphere shaped architecture which has beautiful gardens and an inner chamber with all white theme-marbles , floors and walls. It is here where devotees meditate in silence.
Residential area: Residential area is situated with communities and you can stay among residents of aurovilles.
International zone/pavilions: This is the are where all the pavilions( community halls) of different nations reside. Aurovile has multiple pavilions dedicated to different nations like Chinese pavilion, african, Indian etc. Every pavilion organise various events on regilar basis.
2. Amazing architecture and planning: Maitri mandir and Sri Aurobindo ashram is one of the example of beautiful architecture. From outside, mandir will seem to be a beautiful sphere built of gold plated discs but it is much more than that. There is a crystal globe inside the inner chamber, a heliostat, a lens and a chamber. This heliostat aligns the mirror with the sun's path everyday which projects sunlight into the lens which in turn projects the single ray on crystal at the center of inner chamber.
3. Bricks: All the major structure of Auroville is made up of special kind of bricks which is called CSEB(Compressed Stabilized Earth Block). These are disaster resistance bricks which would prove beneficial during any natural catastrophes and are very economical. They have an institute named as "The Auroville Earth Institute" which works in earthen architecture.
Where to Stay:
There are abundant options right from guest house, home stays to hostels.The ones under aurobindo society are usually allowed to take bookings from their internal site only and not from other commercial sites. For making reservations, you need to go to this site where you will find options and then you can fill a simple form for availablity and other enquiries. You can also do the booking from tripoto or other booking sites.
They have divided the stays in different zones-Center(close to ashram), Residential(where residents of auroville lives), Beach( around 6-7 kms away from center and i stayed here for 1 day) and Forest(Inside green belt).Every zone has its own charm. During my stay, i lived in beach zone(see the picture) and then center. If you are traveling as a couple, i would recommend homestays inside jungle. They are so beautiful, serene and most importantly very peaceful.
Then comes stay category- There are 4 categories- Basic(in dorm, hut or room, perfect for a backpacker), Standard(rooms with proper walls and shared washrooms), good(with attached bathrooms and bigger rooms) and self contained(usually apartments with all the facilities). There are guest houses which only accepts guest who will stay for long there . So if you are looking for short stay, choose accordingly.
Tip: If you are planning to visit Auroville during Mother's birthday celebrations, make sure to make the reservations well in advance.
What to do:
1. Maitri mandir: You can visit Maitri mandir and see it either from outside or from inside. Aurobindo society organise daily guided tour inside mandir. You need to get a pass from Sri Auribindo ashram's office. There is a rare chance that you get a pass for the same day, so an advanced booking is always required and you need to go there in person to obtain the passes, no online requests are entertained.
2. Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Go there to see the history of the society and read more about Mother and Sri Aurobindo. There is a big and beautiful wind chime hanging on a tree whose voice is mesmerizing.
3. Visit different pavilions and participate in events organised by them. There are around 25 different pavilions in Auroville dedicated to different nations. Some of them are African pavilion, American, Bharat nivas(Indian pavilion), Chinese, Canada etc. these pavilion groups organises events or cultural activities on daily basis. You can participate in these activities and enjoy their culture. When i was there, i went to African drum session and Chinese new year celebrations where i played african drums and made a chinese clay mask :).
Tip: Most of the guest houses have wall posters displaying all the activities planned by different groups/ people/pavilions for the coming weeks. Otherwise you will definetely find one in Aurobindo ashram
3. You can do internship in their architecture school and learn more about their environment friendly brick making, their reasearch and architecture.Their school is one of the world's renowed schools on work in Erathen construction. They sometimes give free stay and food for your work
4. Join any NGO or help local people with their farms. You might also get a free stay and food while working with them.
5. Rent a bicycle and enjoy the serenity of the place
Where to Eat:
Auroville has many cafes, eateries, dhabas. You will definitely come across one after every kilometer. Most of them are near highway on the outer zone which is around 4 kms from center.
some of the famous places are:
Tantos pizza: The infamous tantos pizzas and pastas are delicious and the quantity is also good. I was not able to finish a single pizza by mysylf so got it packed. Staff is also friendly but you need to wait for your meal as its always crowded especially at night.
Solar kitchen: This is a community dining hall which serves simple food. You need to have an Auro card or auroville account to buy the meal. No cash is accepted.
Auroville Bakery and restaurant: Both the bakery and restaurant serve good baked products and food respectively. I tried different varities of croissants which were fresh and awesome.
The atmosphere is so very peaceful that it will force you to stay more here. This is not a place with adventures, clubbing and dancing. This is the place which offers peace, knowledge and relaxation - all at the same time. I am going to come back to this place surely and for longer time to be able to become part of this big.. a very big family.