Just over the border from Puducherry is the international community of Auroville – a project in ‘human unity’ that has ballooned to encompass more than 80 rural settlements spread over 20km, and about 1800 residents. Two-thirds of these are foreigners, representing around 38 different nationalities.
Auroville is not a tourist attraction, and casual visitors may find it a bit bewildering and unwelcoming. Each settlement has its own area of work interest and expertise – from traditional medicinal plants to renewable energy to organic farming to women’s groups, to name just a few – and most Aurovillians are busy simply getting on with their work and lives in these communities off the main road. But if you’re at all interested in the philosophy it’s worth the ride out to the visitors centre to find out how it all works, to eat some great food at the café, and maybe stay at a guesthouse in one of the settlements that suits your interests.
At the spiritual and physical centre of Auroville is an astonishing structure called the Matrimandir, looking something like a cross between a giant golden golf ball and a NASA space project. It contains a silent inner chamber lined with white marble and housing a solid crystal (the largest in the world) 70cm in diameter. Rays from the sun are beamed into this crystal from a tracking mirror in the roof. On cloudy days, solar lamps do the job. But you won’t actually see this; the Matrimandir is not open to casual visitors. A section of the gardens (10am-1pm & 2-4.30pm daily except Sun afternoon), from which you can see the structure, can be visited; you need to pick up a pass (free) from the information service.
Last updated: Sep 21, 2008
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