Auroville celebrates 50 years
The universal township project of Auroville was started on 28th February 1968, some 50 years ago. What has Auroville achieved since then? What has it got to show for its 50 years of existence? The following is an ultra-brief summary of 108 noteworthy features and achievements.
Land and infrastructure
* A widely reforested landscape where previously there was hardly a tree to be seen.
* Over 2,000 acres of land held in trust for “humanity as a whole”.
* Around 100 sub-settlements, with some 900 houses and apartments for Auroville’s residents.
* The Matrimandir, with its Inner Chamber and 12 Petals, plus Amphitheatre and emerging gardens.
* An extensive network of roads and cycle paths, some stretches with solar-powered street lighting.
* A massive erosion control system of earth bunds and check-dams, plus water-conserving infrastructure.
* A Town Hall building and adjacent Multimedia Centre.
* Over 40 guest houses, plus student/youth hostels.
* A collective ‘Solar Kitchen’ able to provide up to 1,000 meals a day.
* Some 240 wells for water supply, with over 30 windmills for pumping water (the Auroville-designed and constructed AV55 is considered the most efficient in India).
* A Visitors Centre, with exhibition, video facilities, cafeteria, 3 boutiques displaying and selling Auroville products, and an Information Service providing leaflets, brochures and books on Auroville.
* The Bharat Nivas complex, with its Indian Cultural Centres, 850-seat Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, art gallery, guest house, restaurant, SAWCHU building and offices.
* The Savitri Bhavan complex.
* A Unity Pavilion, a Pavilion of Tibetan Culture, and various National Pavilions either nearing completion or under development study, all in the International Zone.
* Three weather stations, plus 15 micro-stations maintained by Auroville in the surrounding villages.
* A Museum of Archaeology holding 2,000-year-old artifacts found in Auroville, plus a Seed Museum and collection of historical implements at Pitchandikulam.
* A town planning unit – L’Avenir d’Auroville.
* An extensive archive facility.
* More than 25 natural wastewater treatment plants.
* Over 300 kW of electricity-generating photovoltaic panels, plus 250 solar waterheating collectors (some 150 houses are fully solar-powered). Also one of the biggest stand-alone solar photovoltaic power plants in south India, with 484 PV modules (total capacity 36.3 kW) producing approx 140 kWh of energy a day.
* More than 15 restaurants, cafeterias and snack bars.
* Creation of employment opportunities for some 4-5,000 local people, some with associated training opportunities.
* An active Village Action Group working to improve the life of people in 60 local
villages, especially the women and youth, and 2 village-based cultural centres – Mohanam and Thamarai – established by Auroville.
* Annual ‘Sangamam’ festivals for Auroville employees and their families.
* A monthly journal ‘Auroville Today’ (since 1988), and various other regular periodicals in English, Tamil or French.
* A web radio, www.aurovilleradio.org, and an OutreachMedia team facilitating visits of filmmakers and journalists.
* A Coastal Development Centre working with local authorities and various NGOs to improve the lives of the local population.
* Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre, supporting traditional village healers and doing transformatory educational and environmental work in the surrounding area.
* Tsunamika, Small Steps and Wellpaper projects, each providing employment opportunities for local people using “waste” materials.
* Installation of affordable and reliable renewable energy products & services (in the form of solar panel systems) in 12 Indian States, benefiting 80,000 people.
* Programmes for the restoration of tropical dry evergreen forest in parts of south India, plus associated research work, seed collection and tree nurseries.
* Water Harvest’s collaboration with local water authorities on coastal salination monitoring, groundwater recharge and restoration of water holding infrastructure.
* Contributions to external projects such as INTACH’s work preserving Pondicherry’s heritage buildings; the upgrading of Pondicherry’s Bharathi Park; the installation of educational panels at toll gates on the East Coast Road; and planning and coordination work for the creation of the 358-acre Adyar Creek Eco-Park in Chennai.
* Construction of a 570-tonne domed roof for the Dhyanalingam Temple near Coimbatore, and of a complete mosque in Saudi Arabia in just 7 weeks from scratch, both using earth-brick technology.
* Palmyra’s programmes for improving the standard of education in local schools, supporting local sports & healthcare activities, reforestation, and wasteland development.
* Major contributions to disaster relief following the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, and the 2004 tsunami.
* A computerized Financial Service.
* A Residents Service helping with Residential Permit applications, etc.
* An Entry Service for people wanting tojoin Auroville.
* An Electricity Service maintaining nearly 900 grid connections (Auroville now has its own separate feeder).
* A Vehicle Service helping with licenses and registration, plus the purchase of new vehicles.
* A Guest Service, able to arrange accommodation for those wanting to stay in Auroville for some time, and providing information on things to see and do.
* A Telephone Service serving over 1,000 landline numbers.
* A Water Service taking care of wells and water distribution infrastructure.
* A Messenger Service making deliveries around Auroville 6 days a week.
* Two outlets providing food and dry goods, plus a Free Store where secondhand and new clothing can be obtained free.
* Accountancy services, several taxi and transport services, 3 photocopying services, a gas bottle service, a shopping / purchasing service, landscaping and design services, translation services, insurance services (including a health insurance scheme for residents), an ‘AV-Clean’ environmental service working for the local villages, a ‘Farewell Service’ facilitating cremations and burials, a tree surgery service, several building construction services, printing and DTP services (including two printing presses), and internet/intranet services.
* Hire services for motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and cycles.
* Architectural design services provided by more than 25 architects doing highly acclaimed innovative work within and outside Auroville.
* Employment agency services for Aurovilians and non-Aurovilians.
* A coordinated waste collection, sorting and disposal service.
Recognition and awards
* Auroville’s Charter was endorsed by the 124 nations represented at Auroville’s inauguration in 1968.
* The Government of India passed the Auroville Foundation Act in 1988, establishing a Governing Board, International Advisory Council and Residents Assembly for Auroville, and has subsequently approved a Master Plan for the township. It also contributes financially to the project.
* Statements of support from world-famous people like Indira Gandhi, HH The Dalai Lama, three Secretary Generals of UNESCO, the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, various Ministers of the Government of India, and other VVIPs.
* Recognition by and interaction with UNESCO (4 unanimous resolutions of support by its General Assembly), the European Commission, and various internationally important NGOs.
* Honoured by Presidential, Vice Presidential, Ministerial and other high-ranking visits from India’s Central and State Governments, plus visits from Presidents, Ambassadors and Consuls of other countries, UNESCO officials, and hundreds of VIPs annually.
* Recipient of more than 20 awards to individuals or units for outstanding work, including a highly prestigious Ashden Award for work in the field of sustainable energy.
* Host to a number of international and national conferences and seminars, including the Asia Urbs City Networking conference in 2002.
* Seat of the worldwide UNESCO Chair in Earthen Architecture.
* Site of the Asian Table of Peace, one of 5 tables placed on different continents around the world.
* Worldwide support from an association of Auroville International Centres and Liaison Offices in 23 countries.
* Sought-out by lecturers, artistes and others as a venue for appearing before a discerning multi-national audience.
Commerce / business activities
* Over 140 business / commercial units under 25 trusts, several exporting to Europe, USA and other parts of the world.
* Units specializing in renewable energy systems, wind-electric generators, hybrid systems and data loggers.
* A unit producing spirulina (as consumed on space flights by U.S. astronauts).
* Maroma, a multi-crore unit selling perfumes, incense, candles, aromatherapy and bodycare products in India and abroad.
* A sound engineering unit doing high quality work for studios in Mumbai, Chennai and elsewhere, and a sound recording studio.
* A number of shops & boutiques in Auroville itself, plus others in nearby Pondicherry.
* Two bakeries; 2 metal workshops, 2 units producing a range of high-quality health food products; 2 bookbinding units; and 2 travel agents.
Education and culture
* 5 schools, 2 kindergartens and 2 creches for Auroville children, plus another 16 outreach schools overseen by Auroville.
* A main library with over 25,000 books in 8 languages, plus several smaller libraries, mostly specialized, including a children’s library. Also Video/DVD and music lending libraries.
* A Language Laboratory for learning Indian and other languages.
* An Industrial School providing training for local village youth.
* Centres for Indian Culture and Tamil Heritage & Culture.
* Presence of various successful authors, musicians, singers, artists, poets, architects, sculptors and potters, some doing work for outside organizations and individuals.
* Pitanga Hall, offering facilities for dance, yoga, therapy, exhibitions and evening performances.
* At least 9 sites where exhibitions are held on a regular or occasional basis.
* Classes in a wide range of subjects, including health therapies, dance, yoga, martial arts and music, many accessible to non-Aurovilians.
* Three cinema screens showing films regularly, plus 3 stages for theatre.
* Five highly successful annual Festivals of Dance, typically featuring over 100 Aurovilian performers.
* Three choirs, two adult and one children’s.
* Regular performances by several Auroville theatre groups.
Health and sports
* A main Health Centre, with laboratory, x-ray unit, ambulance and pharmacy, offering allopathic and homeopathic treatment, plus 7 village sub-centres.
* A wide range of alternative health therapies via Quiet Healing Centre, Pitanga and individual practitioners.
* Two Dental Clinics, plus 11 village-based sub-clinics overseen by Auroville.
* A project (Deepam) caring for disabled children from nearby villages.
* Coordinated programmes for sterilization, treatment and anti-rabies inoculation of uncared-for village dogs.
* A comprehensive school sports complex, plus wide range of facilities spread around the rest of Auroville, from football and cricket fields to badminton courts, running tracks and a 25m swimming pool.
* A T’ai Chi Hall, and a fully equipped gymnasium with upstairs martial arts, dance and exercise floor.
* A horse riding school, plus ‘Pony Farm’ for younger riders (Auroville has also hosted Horse Tournaments under the auspices of the South India Equestrian Association).
* Successful basketball and kabbadi teams playing in outside tournaments.
Agriculture and environment
* 14 farms growing largely organic food.
* A 50-acre botanical garden with Environmental Education Centre.
* A herbarium with some 15,000 botanical specimens.
* A unit specializing in EM technology and its practical application around India.
* An Environmental Monitoring Laboratory doing tests on soil and water.
* Campaigns against local spraying of chemical poisons on cashew trees.
Research and innovation
* SAIIER’s umbrella role as a government-supported institute for educational research.
* The 15m dia solar collector on the roof of the Solar Kitchen creating steam to cook food.
* Widespread use of Auroville-designed ferrocement structures, specially roofing channels, biogas units, moveable latrines and panels, mostly by the Centre for Scientific Research (CSR).
* A widely acclaimed Building Centre specializing in compressed earth block architecture.
* Research activities in the fields of
* Solar desalination, bio-fuels, water purification, body awareness education, the establishment of a cashless economy, etc.
* Units developing electric cycles and other environmentally-friendly devices.
Organisation and other considerations
* A functional non-hierarchical society, with people from 40+ nations living and working together in peace, harmony and camaraderie, above all background differences of race, caste, creed or class.
* An elected Working Committee and Auroville Council, plus many specialist working groups, including Boards of Commerce and Education.
* Auroville’s generally good working relations with central and state government departments, local authorities, village panchayats, and employees from the surrounding area.
* While young people born in Auroville do well in the outside world, considerable numbers choose to remain in the township on reaching maturity, despite the apparent attractions outside.
* General male-female equality.
Of course, it’s easy to say that more could have been achieved to date, but remember: even today Auroville has only around 2,000 inhabitants, some 20% of them children. Also, for many of the early years there were no more than a few hundred people living in the Auroville area, struggling to create the basic infrastructure for growth and development.
A second important point is that Auroville has never had any massive source of ongoing funding, such as is needed – and one would expect – for a project of this size and importance. This has undoubtedly hindered its development so far.
Today Auroville has a more solid and steadily expanding population base, so more rapid progress can be expected in terms of activities and the creation of infrastructure.
However, it is important to note that where Auroville is concerned, “progress” and “achievements” cannot be measured in physical or quantifiable terms alone. Of much more importance and significance is the “inner” progress that Aurovilians aspire to make, both individually and collectively, in their search for Human Unity in diversity.
This progress cannot be measured or seen; it’s invisible to most observers, but there can be no doubt that it is happening, as Auroville moves towards the aims and ideals set before it.
For more details:
General information on Auroville: [email protected]
Auroville website: www.auroville.org
OutreachMedia: [email protected]
Prepared by PRISMA, Aurelec-Prayogashala, Auroville 605101
Email: [email protected] Ph.0413-2622296