There is no mayor, no police here, no one teaches others what to be or what religion to follow. Utopia?
Hidden in the jungle, the experimental international city of dawn Auroville has been around for more than half a century. German photojournalist David Klammer explores its uniqueness.
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The founding mother of Auroville was Mirra Alfassa, an associate of the Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo. The idea of an ideal society in which men and women from different countries would live in progressive harmony and unity, without politics and religious preferences, came to Mirra back in the 1950s. In 1965, she described the concept of Auroville, a city of 50,000 inhabitants.
In 1966, the UNESCO General Assembly declared the project important for the future of mankind and supported it. Auroville's inauguration ceremony took place on February 28, 1968. About 5,000 people from 124 countries gathered near a banyan tree in the center of a village in Tamil Nadu. Today, there are about 3000 inhabitants in the City of Dawn.
In the center of Auroville, in the middle of an open space, rises a gigantic sphere dotted with gilded discs sparkling in the sun. This is the Matrimandir (House of the Mother) – “a symbol of the Divine response to the human striving for perfection”, as Mirra called it. The temple, which does not belong to any particular religion, was built over a period of 37 years, from 1971 to 2008.
Under the dome of the Matrimandir is a huge meditation hall with 12 columns standing in a circle. Access to the hall, as well as to the entire territory of the Matrimandir with its surrounding gardens, is possible for guests by appointment. However, according to many, any place in Auroville is conducive to meditation.
The Tibetan Culture Pavilion is the venue for important events in Auroville: festivals, art exhibitions, lectures and seminars, professional trainings and consultations on Tibetan medicine. Here the Aurovilians gather on New Year's Eve. The first stone of the Tibetan pavilion was laid in 1993 by the Dalai Lama.
The daily life of the Auroville people goes according to the teachings of Sri Aurobindo on integral yoga, which implies not only self-knowledge, but also relationships with the outside world, search solving external problems.
It specifically means “yoga through work”. Aurovilians are always doing something. They teach yoga lessons in the morning, work on a horse farm during the day, and dance tango at night. And all this is not for money, but for education. Those who have moved to Auroville rarely do the same jobs they used to.
When representatives of more than a hundred countries brought with them to Auroville a handful of earth from their native places and mixed it in a lotus-shaped urn. Beautiful and unique buildings for life were built here. But now the City of Dawn has nowhere to grow, because the land is too expensive. New Aurovilians have to live in small flats in residential complexes. Romance disappears, and the city becomes more and more usual.
Photo: David Klammer/DAVID KLAMMER/LAIF/VOSTOCK PHOTO
Material published in the magazine « Around the World” No. 10, October 2019, partially updated in January 2023