Originally founded in 1968 by the spiritual visionary Mirra Alfassa, known as “the Mother”, Auroville (The City of Dawn) is an idealistic, universal township on the south-eastern coast of India. Supported by the Indian government, the stated purpose of this utopian community is to “realise human unity – in diversity”, through a “transformation of consciousness” and research into sustainable living and humanity’s “future cultural, environmental and spiritual needs”.
The underlying concepts of the community are embodied in its architecture and town planning by the French architect Roger Anger. At the centre lies the Matrimandir, or “Soul of the City”, a golden spherical temple rising from the earth, which took 37 years to build, and was completed in 2008. In its pure form, it echoes platonic 18th century ideal architecture, but its outer surface of decorative golden disks has more a sci-fi-like feel. The interior is stripped of ornament, a space intended for contemplation and reaching inner peace.
Auroville’s masterplan reflects “a galaxy in which several ‘arms’ or lines of force seem to unwind from a central region”. Four main zones radiate from the centre: residential, industrial, cultural, and international, all enclosed by a green belt. But as the Mother once said: “Apart from these lines of force, everything is flexible, nothing is fixed.” Today, half a century on, Auroville describes itself as: “a culture still to be invented”. (sf)