Dec 11th, 2017, 09:07 PM

Auroville: The City of Dawn

By Beatriz Salgado
Image Credit: flickr/ Manohar
AUP students are in India for the annual sustainable development study trip in a community that strives to live in peace and progressive harmony.

Students at the American University of Paris are once again embarking on the annual study trip to India. The Sustainable Development Practicum in late December is an opportunity for students, including myself, to study, travel, learn and volunteer in an intensive fieldwork environment. This experience allows us to discover one of the most unique places in the world and have the chance to pursue NGO internships.

The main meditation dome in Auroville, Pondicherry India. Image Credit: Flickr/Pedro  de campo y playa 

Our destination is an international community called Auroville, also known as “the city of dawn.” Located in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, it's a place with idealistic values dedicated to peace, harmony, sustainable living and "divine consciousness."

Auroville is an experimental community recognized by UNESCO that "strives to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity," according to city founder Mirra Alfassa.

Image Credit: Flickr/ aup_india

In Auroville, our group of both undergraduate and graduate students work on media and communication projects and answer some of the questions about sustainability and development. How is development for communication implemented in local NGOs and local government bodies? How can we as students help and improve communication approaches within the development field? These are some of the questions we will seek to answer throughout our time in Auroville.

Image Credit: Flickr/ aup_india

Auroville was founded by Alfassa, also know to her followers as The Mother. The city,  inaugurated in 1968, was built to become an ideal society, an utopian-type city. It was constructed under the philosophies of Alfassa and Sri Aurobindo who believed that when the spirit, the individual and the collective converge, a superior consciousness can be achieved.

Today, Auroville’s community continues to grow and consists of about 2,700 people from 54 nations. People who live and work in Auroville hope to realize the full potential of humanity through peace and progressive harmony. It’s a place where people go to live a different life, where the problems of the world at large are considered and solved on a small scale.

The Auroville Charter is based on four main ideas and holds a powerful and promising message:

1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.

2. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.

3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.

4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

Image Credit:  Flickr/aup_india

This unique place is somewhere people will always strive to be in touch with their souls and to serve the community to the best of their abilities. The competition fueled by titles and jobs are substituted by opportunities to serve others and be recognized not by status and power but by generosity and kindness.

The Mother describes Auroville as, “A place where the needs of the spirit and the care for progress would get precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the seeking for pleasures and material enjoyments.” 

Image Credit: flickr/ Manohar

Sounds too good to be true, right? It will be interesting to discover whether Auroville lives up to such ideals and to see whether or not the people there truly embody such an optimistic and spiritual outlook. The Mother prescribes this new way of living and yet acknowledges that, perhaps, "the earth is not ready to realize such an ideal" and therefore she called it "A Dream."

This year is particularly special because Auroville celebrates its 50th anniversary. It’s an opportunity for Auroville to honor and recognize the community’s values and beliefs and celebrate 50 years of growth and progress. 

This will definitely be an unforgettable experience, however it turns out, and I look forward to sharing my stories and inspiration.