Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Auroville, the Fulfillment of a Dream

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Auroville, the Fulfillment of a Dream

Article excerpt

ON a February day in 1968, some 5,000 people from many countries gathered on a remote plateau in south India for the inauguration of Auroville. In a gesture of unity, young people from each delegation placed a handful of earth from their country in an inaugural urn containing the charter of the new city.

Auroville takes its name from the Indian mystic and philosopher Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) whose works and ideas inspired its creation. Also known as "the city of dawn" and "the city the Earth needs", it is this year celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of its foundation.

Its story actually begins much earlier, with the meeting shortly before the First World War between Sri Aurobindo and Mira Alfassa, an artist and visionary from France. Together they worked in India for "a new creation, beginning with a model town and ending with a perfect world". After the philosopher's death in 1950, Mira Alfassa, who had become known as "the Mother", continued the realization of the dream she shared with Sri Aurobindo.

THE DREAM

"There should be somewhere on Earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony, where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment.

"In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. In this place, titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organize; the bodily needs of everyone would be equally provided for, and intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority would be expressed in the general organization not by an increase in the pleasures and powers of life but by increased duties and responsibilities. Beauty in all its artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, would be equally accessible to all; the ability to share in the joy it brings would be limited only by the capacities of each one and not by social and financial position.

"For in this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way of earning one's living but a means of expressing oneself and of developing one's capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual's subsistence and sphere of action.

"In short, it would be 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."

The Mother wrote these words in 1954. Construction plans began to take shape in the early 1960s, and in 1965 the Mother issued her first public message in which she stated that "Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity."

The site chosen for Auroville is a dozen kilometres northeast of Pondicherry and five kilometres from the sea. It is located on the Coromandel coastal plain and extends over an area of some 20 square kilometres. At the outset the site was nothing more than a bare wasteland. …

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