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Auroville (India)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Auroville, an intentional community inspired by the teachings of Hindu guru Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950), is located in Pondicherry, the former French settlement on the eastern coast of India, south of Chennai (formerly Madras). Auroville was designed as a town where men and women from all of the world’s countries would be able “to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.” Thus, Auroville was an experiment in realizing human unity. What has set Auroville apart from the many utopian experiments through the centuries has been the architecture that was created to embody the idealistic goals.

Although the concept of Auroville can be traced to the 1930s, it was not until the mid-1960s that a concrete proposal was generated by the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry and proposed to Aurobindo’s longtime companion Mira Richard, affectionately called the Mother (1878–1973). After she gave her blessings, the idea was passed to the government of India and then to the United Nations. In 1966 UNESCO termed Auroville a “project of importance to the future of humanity.”

Auroville was inaugurated on February 28, 1968, when about 5,000 people from some 125 nations gathered at a banyan tree in the center of the future city. Each person brought some soil from his or her homeland, which was placed in an urn that now rests in the city’s amphitheater.

Auroville was originally designed as a giant spiral. At the center was an area dedicated to peace that included the Matrimandir and its associated gardens, a lake, the urn with the soil of the nations, and an amphitheater. The Matrimandir is a hundred-foot-high elliptical sphere whose interior is a place for quiet concentration and meditation. It was meant to be surrounded by a network of twelve gardens and a lake.

To the north is the industrial area that includes land for environmentally friendly industries, room for arts and crafts, and the city’s administration. To the south is the residential zone, to the east a cultural zone, and to the west an international zone. Activity in the latter space centered on work that demonstrates human unity. Around the whole city is the green belt, approximately a mile wide, a zone for organic farms, wildlife sanctuaries, and forests.

As originally conceived, Auroville was to be home to 50,000 people. Unfortunately, the financial resources to realize the full dream have not been available, and the project remains very much an idea still in the process of being realized. Today, some 1,700 people from about 35 nations reside at Auroville. Only a small percentage of the buildings and landscaping proposed for the city have been created.


Alain, G. Auroville: A Dream Takes Shape. Pondicherry,India: Auroville Press, 1995.
Auroville: The City the Earth Needs. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Society, 1973.
Heehs, Peter. Sri Aurobidno: A Brief Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Minor, Robert Neal. The Religious, the Spiritual, and the Secular: Auroville and Secular India (SUNY Series in Religious Studies). Albany: SUNY Press, 1998.
Navajata, Sri. Sri Aurobindo. New Delhi: National Book Trust, India, 2000.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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