Among many other good and bad things, India is famous for its crooked politicians, orthodox society, widespread poverty, religious fanatics, solar power, fastest-growing economy, medical breakthroughs, scientific inventions, and the cheapest Mars Mission ever.
However, there’s a city in India where around 2,500 people from over 50 nationalities and different cultures live without politics, religion or money. Located in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Auroville (City of Dawn, in French) was founded in 1968 on 20 square kilometers of barren wasteland by Mirra Alfassa (known as the Mother). Alfassa’s intentions were for an international city, where about 50,000 people from all over the world could live together in peace, concord and harmony — beyond any political, religious or greedy economic system.
Auroville.org describes Auroville as the Mother’s alternative for a new way to live and to be a balanced, just, harmonious and dynamic society. Here’s an excerpt from Auroville.org about the dream and vision of Auroville:
“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 the 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. 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.
“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.”
There is no concept of religion in Auroville. There is a Matrimandir at the centre of Auroville. Conceived by the Mother as a symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection, Matrimandir is part of the Peace Area aimed at creating an atmosphere of calm and serenity and to serve as a groundwater recharge area.
Although the Government of India owns and manages the Auroville Foundation, Auroville’s Industrial Zone for green industries supports the self-sustaining city. The city area, with a radius of 1.25 kilometers, is surrounded by a Green Belt of 1.25 km width. As a zone for organic farms, dairies, orchards, forests, and wildlife areas, the Green Belt acts as a barrier against urban encroachment, provides a variety of habitats for wildlife, and serves as a source for food, timber, medicines and recreation.
“Experimentation in building done in Auroville covers various aspects of architecture, and includes building materials, building technology, eco-friendly architecture, climate responsive designs, integration with natural surroundings, cost-effective buildings, geomancy and geometry, as well as the design of spaces themselves, including experimenting with the lifestyle of the user. There has also been spillover into the design and management of building infrastructure, the building of integrated rainwater harvesting systems, domestic waste water treatment plants and the integration of renewable energy systems for energy demands.”
Auroville has over two dozen farms, which use a wide variety of ecologically oriented farming philosophies to ensure the city is self-sufficient in milk, rice, vegetables, fruits and cereals. Out of over 320 acres of farm land in Auroville, only about two thirds are currently under active food cultivation, with the rest used for timber-growing or left fallow. About half the land is irrigated, with the other half being used for rain-fed crops.
Money is not exchanged in Auroville. It is only with the outside world that Auroville has money relations. Residents of Auroville are expected to help the community whenever possible — by work, money, or kind. There is a debit card system of personal accounts, where residents can spend their funds, either earned or awarded, on goods provided by the rest of the community.
“To increase Auroville’s economic strength and to help develop a cashless economy, individuals with the financial means to do so are expected to contribute at least enough for all their expenses in Auroville and as generously as they can to the general expenses of the community through the Central Fund.”