The Universal Township
The inauguration of Auroville took place on the February 28th, 1968. The ceremony was attended by some 5,000 people around a central urn into which handfuls of earth were placed by representatives of the 124 countries who attended the event symbolizing the unity of mankind. At the heart of the city is a banyan tree, the physical center of Auroville. Next to it stands the Matrimandir, which the Mother, the founder of Auroville, called the “soul” of Auroville. The structure of the Matrimandir and Inner Chamber (a place for silent concentration) has been completed but work continues on the surrounding gardens.
Today the township and the once barren land on which Auroville is situated, has become home to an expanding community of over 2,800 people from over 55 nations.
The Auroville Charter
- Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.
- Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
- Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
- Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.
The Mother, 28th February 1968
The city is planned to have four zones – the Cultural, International, Industrial and Residential – radiating out from the Matrimandir, each focusing on an important aspect of the township. Parks and green “corridors” are included within the zones, and the entire city will be surrounded by a “Green Belt” of forests, farms and nature reserves. Work on the four zones started seriously in the 1990’s. However, until quite recently progress was relatively slow because much of the land had still to be purchased and no final Master Plan had been agreed upon. Today Auroville owns approximately half the total land needed for the township and surrounding Green Belt and strong emphasis is being placed on buying the remaining land. A Master Plan has since been approved by the Government of India. The present community of Auroville consists of nearly 120 settlements of varying size, linked by a basic infrastructure of roads, cycle paths, water, electricity and telecommunication lines to serve the emerging township.
How is Auroville attempting to realize the ideal of human unity in diversity and the new evolution? The answer lies in continuous experimentation. Auroville is in its early stage of development, both outer and inner. The challenges are immense and diverse. Although Auroville is still far from realizing this and other ideals, progress has been made in the following areas:
The Integral Education programs in Auroville aim to provide children with the means to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their soul. Blends of “free choice” systems of study in parallel with educational standards have been developed. Sports and physical education are strongly emphasized for the balance and healthy growth of the students. Children are encouraged to develop their faculties with great emphasis on beauty.
Auroville has been acclaimed for its wasteland reclamation and afforestation work. Over the years, as part of its soil and water conservation program, over 2 million trees have been planted, and many kilometers of earth banks erected, ditches dug and check-dams constructed in canyons to catch and hold rainwater to control run-off. This encouraged percolation of rain water and recharging of underground aquifers for the benefit of the township and its bioregion. The once barren land has been transformed into a lush landscape which has attracted a great number of animal species back to this region. A seed bank of indigenous medicinal plants as well as over 350 plant species which composes this Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) have been found, propagated and planted.
It has often been observed that Auroville still has the population of a village but most of the activities of a township. Among these activities are the community services that facilitate the day-to-day life of the community. One of the experiments in Auroville includes creating an environment where monetary exchange would no longer occur within the township. These services range from health care, transport and education to the provision of basic commodities. Many are provided free to Aurovilians, financed through its City Services, which represents Auroville’s practical attempt at creating a basic shared economy for its inhabitants.
The original vision for Auroville was that industry and commerce would be an integral part of Auroville life, needed to financially sustain the township. Today there are over 180 enterprise “Units” engaged in diverse activities such as handicrafts, offset printing, graphic design, garment manufacture, food processing, electronics and engineering, education, health and wellbeing, hospitality, culinary arts, architecture, the manufacture of alternative energy system – to name a few. Although these units are mostly small-scale, they all contribute part of their income or their products/services towards the development of the township.
The Mother stated clearly that “for the realization of Auroville the first step is to establish a true fraternity with the local population". Auroville is a major source of employment for the surrounding villages, home to around 40,000 people, providing some four to five thousand jobs. The community works closely with these villages to improve their infrastructure, education, social justice and health care.
Over the years, a flexible internal organization has been established by the community, keeping in mind the Mother’s advice that the experiment should not be stifled by a lot of rules and regulations. Effectively, the day-to-day running is in the hands of various working groups. Major community decisions are taken collectively by the Residents Assembly, which consists of all members of the community above the age of 18 years. An Act of Parliament passed in 1988 created a holding body for the assets of Auroville called The Auroville Foundation, at the same time establishing a unique legal status for the township designed to assist it in achieving the visions of the Auroville Charter.