Auroville is an international and ideological city created more than 45 years ago. Its founder, called the "Mother", was the companion and the disciple of the Indian thinker Sri Aurobindo during the first half of the 20th century. In this way, the Auroville name can be understood as the "Sri Aurobindo city" or the "Aurora city" (ville meaning city in French).
Sri Aurobindo is an Indian philosopher born in 1872. After having studied in the prestigious Cambridge in England, he returns in Indian at the end of the 19th century and quickly joins the pro-Independence movement. This political position will lead him to the jails of the British colonizer during one year. At his release, he decides to settle down in the French colony of Pondicherry to move away from the British administration. It's in this city that he meets Mirra Richard in 1914, the future "Mother", a Parisian woman who has followed her husband, a member of the French parliament. Mirra Richard leaves a few months later to go to Japan, always in the steps of her husband. She comes back definitively in Pondicherry in 1920 to settle down with Sri Aurobindo.
The 1920s are famous for the foundation of the Sri Aurobindo's Ashram, an isolated hermitage where the thinker and his first disciples retreat to meditate and to communicate with God. In just few months, the philosopher's speech spreads over India and the number of disciples grows. His doctrine is based on the belief that Men are human beings in transition: their evolution should imply the development of their spiritual capacities. Sri Aurobindo decides to retreat from the world in a room in 1926 to develop his meditation. He dies in his Ashram, or "leaves his body" according to his disciples, in 1950.
Mirra Richard takes the leadership of Ashram in 1926, during the meditative retreat of the Indian thinker. Her nickname "Mother" comes directly from Sri Aurobindo. Ashram expands quickly due to her transmission of the philosophic doctrine and her management. She retreats gradually from the world too, receiving essentially the visitors in her apartment on the last floor of Ashram. Once a year she will appear on her balcony in front of a condensed crowd of disciples and curious, communing with them just by a single glance. She dies in Pondicherry in 1973.
Auroville is a long matured project from the Mother. The foundation ceremony occurs on February 28th, 1968, in the presence of Zakir Hussein, the Indian president at that time. The site is located 10km North of Pondicherry, in the Tamil Nadu State. The French architect Roger Anger was appointed to realize the plans. The aim of Auroville is to be an international city, which means there is no political subjugation to any Nation of the world, and no matters the nationality of its members. Supported by UNESCO, its vocation is to realize the human unity by the manual labour and the development of the spiritual capacities, in particular due to meditation. For the Mother, the ambition of Auroville is to be "the place of an universal community life, where men and women would learn to live in peace, in a perfect harmony, beyond any faiths, political ideas and nationalities". To symbolize this will of a complete brotherhood, the day of inauguration a girl and a boy of each of the 124 existing countries at that time came to pour a handful of ground from their native country in a lotus urn.
Matrimandir, the "Mother house", symbolizes the central point of Auroville. It's a sphere of a height of 29 meters and covered with 1 415 golden disks. The monument was finished in 2008, after 37 years of work... It houses a large room of meditation entirely in marble, with a crystal ball in its center which reflects a beam of the sun. The light effect is the only lighting source in the monument. To visit it, it is previously necessary to reserve a ticket at the Visitor center, at least a day before. Hours are extremely reduced: between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., then from 2 p.m. till 3 p.m. Matrimandir and the gardens around represent the "peace zone".
All the city life is organized around this "peace zone". According to the plans of Roger Anger, Auroville will have a galaxy form once finished: today 10 square kilometres are realized on the 25 planned to house 50 000 inhabitants. The North part hosts the industrial activity (green activities and crafts, administrations and education centres); the South zone hosts the houses; the international zone with all the foreign pavilions is located on the West area; the cultural zone, in the East, is reserved for the educational, artistic and sports activities.
Built in a non-inhabited area at the beginning, the project takes shape over time to count today a little more than 2 000 residents of fifty different nationalities. Auroville shelters one thousand Indians and 350 Frenchs, the second quota of the city. Residents are dispersed in communities (more than 80!) and tasks divided into 35 working units (agriculture, craft, education, health, etc.). Over the years, locals planted millions of trees, significantly transforming the geography of the area.