Auroville (City of Dawn) was officially founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, a French woman known locally as “the Mother.”
The idea for this experimental town was inspired by her close relationship with the Indian philosopher and yoga guru Sri Aurobindo, an Indian nationalist, yogi, spiritual teacher, philosopher, guru, and poet. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 and for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1943.
Sri Aurobindo’s main literary works are:
- Synthesis of Yoga, which deals with practical guidance to Integral Yoga;
- The Life Divine, which deals with theoretical aspects of Integral Yoga;
- Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol, an epic poem. His works also include philosophy, poetry, translations and commentaries on the Upanishads, Vedas, and the Bhagavad-Gita.
Inauguration of Auroville
The inauguration ceremony, attended by delegates from 124 nations, was held on February 28, 1968. Handwritten in French by the Mother, its 4-point charter set forth her vision of Integral living:
- Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the 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 within and out, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.
- Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.
Auroville inhabitants believe in the service of truth, beyond religious conviction. There is a temple at the center of the township named “Matrimandir”.
It is of spiritual significance for those who practice Integral yoga (also called supramental yoga) and doesn’t belong to any specific sect or religion.
This utopia-town was not meant to be a place for a new religion, or where religion is practiced.
More importantly, spirituality, for them, means something vast and ultimately indefinable, something personal that varied from one individual to the next, something that must always be renewed and reexamined and expanded, as opposed to religion, which often becomes stagnant, calcified, and dogmatic.
The township was originally intended to house 50,000 residents. In the initial 20 years, only about 400 people from 20 countries resided in the township. In the next 20 years, this number rose to 2,000 individuals from 40 different countries.
As of May 2016, it has 2,487 residents from 49 countries with 2/3 from India, Germany, and France and around 5,000 tourists visiting every year. The town community is divided up into neighborhoods with English, Tamil, French and Sanskrit names like Aspiration, Auromodel, Arati, La Ferme, and Isaiambalam.
In May 2008, the BBC produced a ten-minute Newsnight film about Auroville, which was aired on BBC Two. It also appeared on BBC On-line. A short version was aired on Radio 4’s “From Our Own Correspondent”.
The reports contrasted the idealism of its founders with allegations by some individuals that the community tolerates pedophiles, particularly in a school that Auroville has established for local village children. Auroville filed an official complaint to the BBC that the report was untrue, biased, and contravened BBC usual editorial ethical guidelines.
In order to protect children in the Auroville area from child abuse, the city instituted an Auroville Child Protection Service which has been in action ever since.