“Auroville is a universal township in the making for a population of up to 50,000 people from around the world. The concept of Auroville – an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity – came to the Mother as early as the 1930s. In the mid 1960s the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry proposed to Her that such a township should be started. She gave her blessings. The concept was then put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity – in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness, also concerned with – and practically researching into – sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.” (taken from auroville.org, where you can read more facts.) To get to Auroville, we landed at Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) Airport. I guess by this time, we had become used to the easiness of moving around Kerala and Sri Lanka so we actually forgot to even check how to get from the airport to Auroville. After a bit of negotiating and hassling, we managed to get a somewhat dodgy taxi for at least a sensible price – aka the beginning of a long and painful friendship with our totally bonkers cab driver. Turns out that this guy not only had no idea where Auroville was, but also lacked permits to go into Pondicherry state (where Auroville is), so we had to drive all the way around. When we finally arrived, he was driving so fast through the township, that he missed every direction the guesthouse had given us. After driving like a crazy person up and down the same road five times, we’d have enough and decided to get out of the car and find our own arrangements – the smartest thing we did all day. Lesson learned, always research the place you’re arriving before you get there!
In Auroville, we stayed in Tanto Guesthouse, managed by the Italian Daniel and Indian Sheril who live there with this ridiculously large dog. Definitely an interesting mix of cultures, at times even a culture crash. At least it calls for good entertainment. Tanto has two restaurants, where they serve authentic Italian dishes. The salads and all tomatoes are actually grown in their back garden. Food was amazing and so nice to eat something else than veg curry. We broke all backpacking rules and stuffed our faces with yummy Pasta Carbonara and pepperoni pizza pretty much every day. Some nights we even got take out. This place is really cool, it’s situated right on the beach and has a pool.
Sights in Auroville are pretty far apart, so first we rented a scooter. Nope, no helmets so the scooter was returned the next day and we rented bikes instead. This was really fun and we packed in 20km in average daily. The township consists of several areas and loads of places to see in each one. One of the days we ended up at the Lively Up Your Earth Festival, a collection of world music, foods, Aurovillian handicrafts and displays of local inventions. One of the aims in Auroville is to become totally self sufficient, which is why they have onsite scientists and engineers constantly working on inventing solutions that will make living there easier. One of these solutions are the AquaDyn water filters. These pass the water through various filters, a reverse osmosis then something they call dynamisation, which makes the water resemble the one naturally found in our bodies. Whatever it is, it definitely works. The water comes out pure and really nice to drink. They have this system installed at a lot of the common areas in Auroville, there was also one in our guesthouse. It reduces the need to buy bottled water, which again reduces the number of plastic bottles thrown behind the nearest bush. Check out the system here www.aquadynauroville.com, we had a chat with these guys and they were happy to arrange shipping to Europe.
Another interesting thing to see is the MatrimandirSlightly culty, The Matrimandir is a giant shrine like dome, built by Aurovillians. When I say built by, I mean they actually made it together. It’s beautiful and quite fascinating. To get inside you have to sign up to a two day waiting list, something we found out the last day, so it didn’t happen for us. Though, we did manage to get quite close. Learn more about Matrimandir here Auroville is also big on organic farming and you can get a lot of really nice fruit and veg, but they also make their own cheeses on the farms. This made me very happy! All in all our stay in Auroville was great and we learned a lot of new things. We even had the fun of going through the Indian SIM buying again. Though at times frustrating, we also discovered that every time we’re in a situation where our blood is boiling, there seems to be a French middle aged hippy woman telling us “but guys, this is India” making us sound like the crazy, unreasonable ones. French lady watch out, next time there might be casualties From Auroville we flew to Delhi then took a tiny jet to Dheradun, close to Rishikesh. When we arrived it was 16 degrees and raining, a girl can’t help but feel homesick under such conditions. Though as opposed to London, the next day it was sunny again.
Rishikesh is a holy city and the river Ganga flows through. It is also where the Beatles stayed in Maharishi Ma Yogis ashram and wrote most of the songs for the White album. Actual Rishikesh town is not very exciting, but the small village Tapovan right next to it, with its two brigdes Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula are were most people choose to stay and it is said to be one of the world’s yoga capitals. This place really is special, it’s packed with Ashrams and yoga studios and the whole mood is peaceful and calm. You can tell that people come here to seek spirituality and enlightenment which creates a really nice energy surrounding the whole place. Before coming here, I was ready to move on from India as I felt that these people constantly want something from you and you need to be on the watch as you can’t always trust their intentions. Though now I think I have found my favourite place in India. And now I understand why Cecilia, our Argentinian friend who spends months in India each year told me she hates it as much as she loves it. We met Ivana and her Croatian yoga group the same day we arrived. Then a few days later Arlie, my old boss from M&C Saatchi and her friends joined us as well. We’re really loving this place so have decided to stay three more weeks. I’m doing great progress with yoga and Matija is getting into Reiki and meditation so we’re staying to see where this could bring us. Which also means that with my birthday coming up, it’s likely that I will turn 30 in Rishikesh – a holy town with no alcohol and meat. Though my wishes for charcuterie, cheese and champagne are now unlikely to be fulfilled, I still think this is a pretty cool place to celebrate