By Juhi Bansal
This Diwali break K, Iy and I decided to spend a week in Auroville. The moment I posted the first story on Instagram, I was bombarded with messages (I love personal messages) and most of them revolved around one or both of the following:
- I didn’t know you were spiritual. Are you spending time at the Ashram?
This was not a spiritual retreat. Infact, it was anything but. K & I are not followers of the Ashram.
- Day trip from Pondicherry?
It was not a clubbed trip with Pondicherry. K & I have been to Pondicherry before and this was supposed to be an exclusive Auroville trip.
Now if we were not there for spiritual reasons or to visit Pondicherry, what could possibly take us to Auroville and make us spend a week there?
We’ve been intrigued about the philosophy of the place for a while now. But, we didn’t want to go for a day and come back. Here are some of things we found pretty interesting:
- Auroville was built on barren wasteland . Over the last 40 years they have converted the land into a dense jungle- I mean it. It is all man-made!
- They are as plastic free as you can get. So much so that their restaurants do not serve drinks with plastic straws and even their dustbin lines are made of paper.
- It has a population of less than 2500 (Aurovillians) from over 50 countries living together amicably.
- Nobody owns businesses. You just run them as employees and get a salary for it.
- Sustainability is a way of life. Even the startups out of Auroville follow the philosophy whether it’s fashion, skincare or furniture. They run largely on solar power.
- Matri mandir is their guiding force but it’s not a religion. There are no idols, chants or bhajans.
- Offices (and even cafes run by Aurovillians) close by 5.00 PM. Sundays are spent with families so you would hardly see people on roads.
- Dignity of labour is a real thing in Auroville. No one shies away from doing dishes, cleaning, washing etc.
- Everyone loves kids here. No one gives you stinking stares when your little one squeals with joy. (Remember our horrible experience here?). Kids are welcome almost everywhere. Auro kids are very cool btw. They love wilderness and roughing it out. Iy found the perfect play partners here.
Planning a trip to Auroville
The best way is to fly into Chennai and then drive down to Auroville. Make sure you stay as close to Matri mandir as possible. That’s where you get to experience the real Aurovillian life. We stayed at the Afsaneh Guest House and loved it totally. However, bear in mind that Auroville is all about minimalism. All the places of stay are comfortable and cosy but not over the top luxurious.
Things you can do in Auroville
- Visit the various International centres. They have special events every week where you can try food, activities or play music with them. We went to the African Pavillion for their Drum Circle and dinner evening.
- Attend their socials. They have youth club activities, breakfast socials which are so much fun. People cook, clean and party together. Sometimes their socials are invite only and it may help to know an Aurovillian personally.
- Healing therapies like sound therapy, Tibetan music bowls, shiatsu, reiki etc
- Fitness is serious business in Auroville- there are classes every day for various forms of Yoga, pilates, aerobics and of various dance forms like salsa, flamenco etc.
- Swaram is a musical garden which has life sized innovative musical intrsument installations made from unusual stuff like tyres, aluminium pipes etc.
- Visit the Beach? There is a question mark here because frankly beaches are not very well maintained. They are dirty and smell bad. However, we did discover a private beach called Tanto Far which was the cleanest of the lot (which is not saying too much). Although Iy had a lot of fun there.
- Visit the Matri Mandir- it’s an architectural marvel in addition to its spiritual significance.
- Food! This definitely calls for a separate article. They bake their own breads, grow their own vegetables (organically) and make their own cheeses!
- Spend time at the Solitude Farm whether it is the cooking workshop, volunteering or simply listening to Krishna while he takes you around the farm.
There was so much to do in Auroville that one week was just not enough. We hope to go back and spend a month there next time around. Do write in if you need help planning your trip to Auroville. You can find more info here. Also, do check out the event schedule for your dates so you can plan the stay better and make the most of it!
Here are a few snapshots from our lovely stay there. Disclaimer: We didn’t really capture a lot because most times it didn’t even occur to me to take my phone out and click a photo (doesn’t happen often btw so must speak volumes about the place). Also, all pics are from my iPhone 6S so the quality at best is just passable.