Can Utopia ever exist on Earth? Given the state of the world today, the immediate response would be a loud, “NO!,” and yet we all long for a better world, one in which people can live in harmony with each other and the natural world. Sure, it sounds like hippie talk, but the hippie movement is still alive and well in California, after all.
Across the globe in India, a settlement still exists that was built by hand during flower-power generation of the 60s for up to 50,000 people. The “international-universal” community operates without a government, without religion, without money, and without racism. It’s called Auroville, the City of Dawn.
Auroville is an experimental community in southern India. It was founded in 1968 by the spiritual leader Mirra Alfassa as a town where people from all over the world could live in harmony. Its focal point is the Matrimandir, a futuristic, spherical templ… https://t.co/loAsSY6I06 pic.twitter.com/C0NpuLgsEc
— Famous Places in India 🇮🇳 (@IndiaPlaces) February 7, 2019
The town has no skyscrapers, no busy highways, and no newspapers showing the distressing headlines of the outside world. It’s an experimental city of the future that some have called “a permanent Burning Man.”
Auroville has the support and protection of UNESCO, an international specialized agency of the United Nations with a purpose to contribute to peace and security across the world. The first day of construction began on February 28, 1968, a few miles north of Pondicherry in India.
UNESCO described it as “a giant nebula with the luminous golden sphere or ‘Matrimandir’ as its focal point,” a hall of meditation, but not prayer. The dome is surrounded by a complex of 12 gardens representing the petals of a lotus flower.
Felt so great to visit Auroville. It is an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu. It was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa known as "the Mother" #Auroville #Matrimandir pic.twitter.com/yYNS5ykPQT
— Pratima Singh (@PratimaSinghINC) May 12, 2019
In 1982, an Indian Supreme Court ruling proclaimed the township in “conformity with India’s highest ideals and aspirations.” The noble experiment receives annual support from the Indian government with donations of more than $200,000, according to Slate. Other contributions come from outside organizations like UNESCO and residents, who all make the same salary whatever their profession happens to be. Residents work the fields by hand to this day, traveling about on bicycles.
Auroville is called the City of Dawn because of the French translation of “aurore” meaning dawn, but it was also named after spiritual guru Sri Aurobindo, who lived until 1950. He was a yogi, guru, poet, and spiritual reformer who lived in Pondicherry and believed that humans could progress towards divine spiritual evolution.
Sri Aurobindo exalted a woman from France named Mirra Alfassa as “The Mother,” who started an ashram, or school, to teach his lofty ideals. After he passed away, she was the “guiding spirit” behind Auroville. While she lived, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama visited Auroville to seek spiritual guidance.
“Do not pretend – be. Do not promise – act. Do not dream – realize.” ~ Mirra Alfassa pic.twitter.com/ZUEOM53Zzw
— Balanced Achievement (@Bal_Achievement) June 3, 2018
The purpose of Auroville is “to realize human unity and sustainable living” and was designed to bring together the “values of different cultures and civilizations in a harmonious environment.” One of the first buildings was a new type of school teaching Aurobindo’s technique of “Free Progress.” Students learned to embrace their true nature and “instill a spirit of belonging to humanity.”
Of course, the vision of such a place sounds too good to be true in a world where violence, crime, and greed all play such an unfortunate role. When journalists traveled to see the City of Dawn for themselves, they found that the permanent population was only around 2,500 made up of exiles from 100 different countries, although thousands of visitors frequent the place.
Rather than a perfect utopia, the open township faced the same problems as the nearby outside world, from robberies, sexual harassment cases, rapes, suicide, and murder.
Nevertheless, Auroville remains a hopeful model of what the future could look like if humans could only find a way to put the common good, harmony, and community before money, greed, and war.
See more about Auroville and its international residents below:
Featured image: Screenshot via Twitter