Galaxy & Master Plan evolution – Brief Summary by Gilles Guigan

Oct 10, 2022 | Planning & development, Uncategorized

Mid-August 1964, the 400 delegates present at the first World Conference of the SAS passed a resolution to develop a new township near Pondicherry for those disciples who want to live and work close to the Mother and the Ashram without having to be accepted as Ashramites and having to meet these conditions. This resolution was presented by Navajata. At first the Mother doesn’t seem to be interested.

Early 1965, the Mother “took up” the township project of the SAS and named it Auroville. The affairs of the SAS are managed by its Executive Committee whose 3 members are the Mother (President), Navajata (General Secretary cum Treasurer) and Arundra Nath Tagore. For any resolution to be effective, it must be approved by the Mother.

In March 1965, the Mother wrote to Roger to tell him she had a town to build and to ask him whether he would be interested in building it. On 24th (his 42nd birthday), he accepted.

On 23. 6. 1965, the Mother drew in front of Satprem a sketch of the future town and explained it to Satprem. Among other things, she spoke to him about a “first Auroville” which she had asked Antonin Raymond to conceive when he sojourned at the Ashram (during the first 6 months of 1938). It was based on her symbol. In the same conversation, she told Satprem: “Now it’s much more limited; it’s not my symbol anymore, there are only four zones, and no walls.” This may explain why, in 1969, Roger renounced basing Auroville’s road network on the Mother’s symbol.

September 1965, Roger’s only 1965 visit: He presented her his first report on the future town and visited the site. He advised the Mother to shift the site from the vicinity of “Promesse” to the area between Edayanchavadi, Kottakarai and Kuilapalayam. It is obvious that he believed that the Mother had approved his suggestion but Navajata kept on purchasing land mainly between the National Highway and Osudu Lake.

March 1966, Roger’s first 1966 visit: He presented her his first 2 models: a rectangular model and that of the “Nebula” model. She immediately opted for the Nebula an wrote to Huta how happy she was about it. It had originated from a vision of a Galaxy (of stars) which Pierre Braslavsky (whom the Mother referred to as the “Russian communist”) had “seen” and was soon after published in a French daily newspaper. It was probably Roger who had the idea of basing its road network on the Mother’s symbol as he had most probably read a transcript of the Mother’s talk to Satprem on 23. 6. 1965.

August 1966, Roger’s second 1966 visit: He came along with several of his colleagues and friends to meet the Mother and visit the Ashram and the proposed site.

January 1967, Roger’s first 1967 visit: He presented a map of the area to the Mother and asked her to point her finger at the future centre of the town. She pointed it at the crossing of two dirt tracks on Paramboke lands, where a lone and large Banyan tree was standing.

August 1967: Roger’s second 1967 visit: He presented the Mother with his “macrostructure” model. the Mother didn’t comment on it – most probably because its radius (3 km, as was that of the “Nebula”) was so large that Auroville would have partly overlapped the villages of Edayanchavadi and Kottakarai. After his return to France, Roger decided to reduce the town’s radius to 1.25 km so that it doesn’t overlap these 2 villages. By doing so, he increased the town’s average density by 44%, which is a very steep increase, which obliges him to completely rethink the concept of the future town.

Mid-August 1967, Mid-February 1968: During these 6 months, Roger, (mainly together with Charles Gianferrari and Pierre Braslavsky) conceived the “Galaxy” concept. This means that there was no possibility of any verbal or written interaction in this process. Moreover, as they had no map representing the site’s features, their concept didn’t make any reference to these. (During the following 40 years, Roger didn’t adapt his plans to the reality of the site).

21st January 1968: Roger lands at Chennai Airport to lead the preparation works for Auroville’s Dedication Ceremony.

28th February 1968: Dedication Ceremony of Auroville. The Galaxy model is presented under the Banyan tree. According to Anupama’s book on Roger Anger, it had been presented by Roger to the Mother a few days earlier. When he had left Paris in January for Auroville, this model was probably not yet complete by the model-makers.

13th March 1969: the Mother, as President of the SAS, signs a detailed funding request for the sequential planning of Auroville (to be done by the “Planning Research Corporation”, U.S.A.) and sends it to the Ford Foundation. This is the outcome of many months of work by the Hindocha brothers and their father, Laljibhai. Roger and André had met its (American) director, Dr. S. Firtsman, in Paris, and the Mother had followed and approved every step of this attempt. One of the attached documents to this funding request was the “First approach of the town”. Note that its road network wasn’t based anymore on the Mother’s symbol – possibly because, as said already), on 23. 6. 1965, the Mother had told Satprem that it wouldn’t be based on it – and that for the following 19 years it won’t be based on the Mother’s symbol.

29th March 1969: The Ford Foundation answers that, contrary to Auroville’s expectations, it won’t fund Auroville’s planning due to “the limitations of our budget”. According to Suresh Hindocha, the real reason was that it had received two different requests from the SAS to finance Auroville’s sequential planning: One from the Mother (its President) to be done with the most modern techniques using computers) and one from Navajata (its General Secretary) to be done by a company from Calcutta, using traditional methods.

1st January 1970: Convinced by Satprem’s arguments that Paolo Tommasi thought that one should start by building Matrimandir, the Mother instructs Roger to start working on it at the earliest.

February 1971: Roger Anger presents to the Mother his latest plans of Matrimandir and of its (oval) island. The Mother approves both of them. Soon after, the centre area of the two “Galaxy” models will be modified to present this modification.

July 1971: Money has come from the GoI to start building the Bharat Nivas. Unfortunately, at that time and within the then International Zone, there was no site that was sufficiently large for such a large project and which had easy lorry access. Someone suggested rotating anti-clockwise the “Galaxy” concept by 50° so that a site already owned by Auroville and with an easy lorry access could be used. The Mother agrees to this suggestion so that work can start at the earliest. Soon after that, the Town Plan will be revised. This plan will remain unchanged by Roger till 1988 – that is for the following 17 years.

8th February 1973: Having lost confidence in Navajata, the Mother writes in her hand this message (in French): “For Auroville’s affairs and when it is a question of Aurovilians, one should always consult with Shyam Sunder to whom I have entrusted the responsibility of Auroville”. Already early 1970, the Mother had appointed a 8-member (which included Navajata) “Comité Administratif d’Auroville” as she was very dissatisfied with Navajata’s management of Auroville’s affairs. Early 1971, she had “suspended” this Committee saying, “No more committees, no more useless talks” and had replaced it by appointing Shyam Sunder as her secretary for Auroville’s affairs.

21st March 1973: Because of her poor physical health, the Mother isn’t receiving anybody anymore – except for her son, André and her personal assistants.

17th November 1973: The Mother leaves her body.

1974-1975: The relationship between the management of the SAS and the bulk of the community of Auroville worsens as the Aurovilians have less and less confidence in its management of the project.

4th November 1975: Tired of promises not kept by the Executive Committee of the SAS, 7 Aurovilians register the “Auroville Society” for the purpose of receiving funds for Auroville that could be utilised directly for development there and hence free Auroville from the SAS.

18th December 1975: Roger announced his “withdrawal from all Auroville activities” – most probably because it became obvious to him that this dispute would become more bitter and that it would bring Auroville’s development to a quasi-standstill – which it did for the following 7 years.

1976-1980: The SAS tried to subdue the Aurovilians by obliging them to give up this “Auroville Society”, refusing to recommend their visa application and preventing them from receiving them any funds.

1978, Early: Because of a total lack of funds for development, “Auroville’s Future” (name given by the Mother to Roger’s office) closes down and its commercial branch “Auroservice d’Auroville” moves to Pondicherry as no Aurovilians are working there.

1980, November: Moved by the events in Auroville and by the support the Aurovilians had obtained from Sir CPN Singh, J. R. D. Tata, Satprem and Kireet Joshi, India’s government asked India’s Parliament to pass the “Auroville (Emergency provisions) Act, 1980”, which it did to entrust the GoI with the responsibility of managing Auroville’s affairs for a limited period of time. Auroville’s assets remained the property of their previous owners. Very soon after, the SAS succeeded in obtaining a stay to this act by India’s Supreme Court, arguing that Auroville being a religious institution, India’s constitution prevented the Government to take over its management.

1982, November: India’s Supreme Court rendered its verdict, validating the “Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act 1980” after quoting at length Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s words on they not wanting to create any religion. Let us note that one of the judges stated that it is not because the founders of an organisation stated very clearly that it is not a religious body, its successors won’t turn it into a religious body. Auroville is now able to register new Trusts and Societies and is thus again able to earn money and receive grants and donations.

1985, February: Thanks to a grant from the GoI, Auroville holds a Seminar on “Youth and Human Unity” as part of the international celebration of the International Youth Year. It is a big success in which Auroville demonstrates its dynamism. Roger Anger visits Auroville again after a 10 years absence. He is accompanied by his partner Jacqueline Lacoste. (In fact, Roger seems to have passed by a few times during these 10 years, but he did not hold any responsibility.)

1986, February: Roger and Jacqueline visit again and discuss with the team of “Auroville Resource Centre” (ARC, also named “Auroville Centre for Urban Development”) which was entrusted in 1985 to map Auroville, plan future development and grant building permissions.

1987, September: A very well-attended marathon community meeting entrusts (thanks to a narrow margin) Roger Anger with the responsibility of completing the Matrimandir – with the understanding that Piero Ciccionesi (who had exercised the responsibility of building the Matrimandir during Roger’s 12 years absence) would be responsible for completing its Inner Chamber.

1988, March: A group of Roger Anger’s supporters took over the office of the “Auroville Resource Centre” without any community process. ARC’s team consisted of Aurovilians who were either “developers” or “environmentalists” and had agreed to build together which would be in harmony with its environment. Roger would soon say he welcomed the “developers” but not the “environmentalists” in his team. Roger’s refusal to work with environmentally-minded Aurovilians is at the root of the present crisis.

3rd October 1988: The “Auroville Foundation Act 1988” is gazetted. All Auroville’s assets are taken over and will be entrusted on 1st April 1992 to a new legal body “the Auroville Foundation”.

6th November 1988: Presentation by Roger Anger and his team of the highly controversial “Auroville Development Scheme – 1988-1995” remembered as the “Album”. It was highly controversial because Roger did as if nothing had taken place in the past 21 years in the world, in India, in Tamil Nadu, in Vanur Block and in Auroville…. Auroville’s road network is again based on the Mother’s symbol.

This document would soon be presented to the then PM, Rajiv Gandhi, but with very little results.