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Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville
Pondicherry ShoresAnother well-known name associated with the town is that of the Aurobindo Ashram, the brainchild of the Bengali revolutionary and philosopher Aurobindo Ghosh and his ardent disciple Mirra Alfassa, popularly known as ‘The Mother’, who took over from Aurobindo after his death in 1950.
Founded in 1926, the Ashram is based on his philosophy of a harmonious community and draws a constant stream of visitors travel across the globe to India. You could visit the Ashram Centre at Rue de la Marine, which has the samadhi (tomb) of the philosopher and his living quarters amidst a pretty little garden of orchids and a variety of other flowers. The International Centre which occasionally screens a film, and the Library are just across the road. You can also visit the Ashram’s Hand Made Paper Factory outlet to pick up some excellent paper and diaries.
Not all seems fine between the Ashram and the locals. Perhaps the malaise stems from the fact that the affluent Ashram is mainly run by people from outside Pondicherry with a majority of Bengalis and Oriyas, and the Ashram, as an institution, seems to do little in terms of charity. Also, the nicest places in Pondicherry belong to the Ashram, and outsiders including the locals are strictly off-limits.
Auroville – the International Village is situated amongst cultivated stretches of cashew nut plantations interspersed with wilderness, at a distance of about 6km from the town. The settlement is elaborated around the Matri Mandir or ‘the temple of the Mother’ which has sporadically been under construction for several years now.
However, the white marble meditation chamber is now complete and contains a beautiful crystal on which the sun’s rays fall through a strategically installed mirror.
The foundation of Auroville was laid in 1968, with the aim to concretise the Mother’s dream of creating a settlement where people would live in peace, their colour, creed and nationality notwithstanding. The settlement drew a large number of people who travel across the continents, especially Europe, many of whom still continue to live in Auroville.