Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. That’s the vision of this unique universal town, an utopian experiment of its own. The township is set between villages, along the scenic coromandel coast of South India, around 150 km south of Chennai and 10 km from the town of Puducherry.
Having heard lot of good reviews about the place, I had been aching to feel the place first-hand. Riding through the winding shaded narrow roads en-route to our cottage on a Scooty the overnight bus journey seemed a distant memory. That was all but second only to the experience at Gaia’s Cottage (Gaia was the name Greeks gave to Mother Earth). Surrounded by dense vegetation, constant chirping sound of birds, beautiful purple and white bougainvilleas and a serene calmness we were lost for words. The kind of place where you unburden all your worries and savor the warmth. Like in a mother’s lap.
Auroville is not a tourist place which you should visit on a tight schedule with a checklist. Its quite the opposite. The only check practically you should keep be of the hours/days spend. We got a feel of it just an hour into the trip. Casually chatting with the German family, a young couple and two sweet kids, who were leaving the cottage while we were checking-in, Freida almost took an offense when we mentioned that ours is a two-day trip. The concept of staying in Auroville for such a short duration seemed to be undigestible to her. Saying goodbyes, what I noted was that howsoever we prompted them discussing on the places we were planning to see the next couple of days there was only a smile and ‘yea, that place is great’ reply from them. The small township that Auroville is, we ran into them a couple of times later the same day.
Being a small township the eating-out options are not many unless you include the not-so-far Pondicherry beach road. However all the cafes are in the vicinity and will impress you one way or the other. The cafe next to Auroville Bakery was our breakfast ‘adda’ for both the days of our stay. With bare minimum facilities and freshly home-made food pick any cafe and you wouldn’t be left wont for anything, except luxury and prompt service. But then everyone coming into Auroville has plenty of that, time. Roma’s Kitchen was a serendipitous discovery while driving aimlessly down a mud road. A good 2 Km inroad and with a deserted look the restaurant had a thatched roof shelter for parking. With not much hopes we dug into a Chicken Chettinad curry and Chicken Casserole; and we kept digging. The best we had had ever. Reading a bit into the place we found the rolly-polly lady we had met at the place was actually the founder, Roma Hira, and had been running the place for seven years.
Half way into this post I would want the chance reader who has come here not to prepare an itinerary with the reviews here in mind, rather to explore and write your own story. Visit to Matrimandir, the soul of Auroville, was an experience beyond words. A 2 Km stroll from the Visitor’s Center the dome situated in the middle of an expanse of empty green space looks majestic and a work of beauty. Though a meditation inside the dome will need prior booking you will get the feel of it from a distance as well. As we sat down at a park bench sinking into the experience we noticed this frail looking Tibetan lady meditating facing the Matrimandir. A khaki saddle bad by her side. The noise made by the kids from a School trip or the hustle-bustle of the teenagers posing for selfies didn’t seem to bother here. Her face seemed so calm and vibrant, soaking in the light reflected from the golden outer of the dome. I did try to follow her suite. But terribly failed in about 5 minutes, timed by my friend, which to a fidgety person like me felt a lifetime.
For those of you who want some action there is Pondicherry beach, a 15 minutes drive from Auroville, with its long line of cafes and busy beach-side walks. Before settling down on your cottage porch at night a walk on the beach and a couple of drinks at a cafe might be the perfect ending to a satisfying day. You can always carry a wine back for the night. It helps that the booze comes pretty cheap in this part of the country.
The only regret I had waiting for the return bus was that I wont be waking up to the experience that is Auroville the next day. Well that’s one more place added to my yearly sojourns. Right beside Goa. Peace.
PS: For those of you planning to visit the township, this might be of some help.
1. Accommodation: You can drop in a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for booking guest house/cottage and be assured of a prompt reply.
2. Getting Around: Have a map of Auroville in handy and rent a bike (mopeds to bullets) from any of the bike rentals lining the Mission Street, Pondicherry.
3. Food: Walk into any cafe and you wont be disappointed.
4. Shopping: Souvenir shops are in the main market, near the Auroville bakery.