Auroville is an international township located in the Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu in Pondicherry, Southern India. Its inhabitants live freely and sustainably without money, borders and governmental control, and it was created as an idealised utopia to prove that humans are able to live harmoniously without materialism. Back then, I knew nothing about sustainable communities, but the story definitely left me feeling intrigued… Was a lifestyle like this actually possible?
Once I began travelling, I began hearing about more and more sustainable communities. With a focus on the environment, equal social rights and equal economic rights, this lifestyle is also known as living off the grid, and is becoming increasingly popular amongst young adults. Though there are many sustainable communities that can be found all over the world, Auroville remains one of the biggest, with 2,766 citizens from 54 different nationalities.
Auroville remains a haven to those who want to live this way. Of course, in my opinion, it is impossible for humans to live in absolute perfection due to our imbalanced nature. Despite the ideological appeal, life in Auroville has been met with mixed reviews. Some of my friends who visited Auroville absolutely loved it, and some absolutely hated it.
The Story of Auroville
Auroville was born in the 1930s, emerging as an idea that came to a person who is mysteriously known as ‘The Mother.’ She received teachings from Sri Aurobindo, a spiritual leader who insisted on full independence for India before the country gained independence. Whilst the world was dealing with the aftershock of the Cold War, India was experiencing increasing tensions within the state, and this is what inspired the idea.
The two decided to create a township that was purely dedicated to unifying humans by teaching the community to live by the implementation of alternative practices. It started of as a social experiment, but was met with massive success. Backed by the Government of India and UNESCO, this project became a reality in 1962. Described as “a place where human relationships, which are normally based almost exclusively on competition and strife, would be replaced by relationships of emulation in doing well, of collaboration and real brotherhood.”
What Can You Do At Auroville?
Though most people automatically view the principles behind Auroville as a bohemian, hippie-esque way of thinking, I think that there are definitely a few things that our society can learn from its practices because they are still a community that somehow manages to lead a lifestyle that is fully sustainable.
There are a variety of permaculture projects that are available for those who are interested in learning how to recycle wasted water, conserve wildlife and participate in farming, amongst many others. Not only will you gain first-hand experience, but you will also be able to nurture your knowledge by interacting and learning from a community that has advanced these practices.
Furthermore, Auroville encourages creativity as a form of education, offering workshops that emphasise all forms of creative arts from music, to film to yoga and movement. Volunteering and internship options are available for those who have between six and twelve months to spend, which makes this a perfect place for those millennials who have just finished university and want to “figure life out…” or people who just want to escape the hectic city life and pick up some new skills.
My little taste of Auroville did not come from the township itself, but from the ashram that I completed my yoga teacher training at, Aurovalley Ashram. Conceived with the same ideas that Auroville is built on, this ashram is located at the foothills of the Himalayas, surrounded by peaceful nature and the Ganges river.
Initially, I was pretty worried. Spending an entire month surrounded by the same group of people, strangers I knew nothing about, was a daunting thought. Even though we all came from places scattered far and wide, by the end of the month these people had pretty much become a family to me. It wasn’t easy- I think we all experienced a spectrum of uncontrollable feelings, including a fair share of rage and sadness. After all we’d had left everything behind to be here. But it was an experience that forced me to grow. I left with a bunch of new skills (such as learning the guitar and how to make jewellery) that I didn’t even know I had.
So, like everything else, practicing this way of life definitely had negatives and positives. Though I haven’t experienced Auroville to its full extent, it is a place that I would love to visit one day.
GETTING THERE: The closest airport to Auroville is Chennai. AirAsia flies to Chennai from Kuala Lumpur. For lowest fares and flight info visit AirAsia.com.