Is there really a place on earth where human beings from all nations and ways of life, have come together in a melting pot with a singular vision of human unity, world peace and natural living? Could it be true? Were we dreaming when our taxi arrived in the midst of the Indian winter in what seemed to be a very uncanny forest right in the middle of the open coastal plains of Tamil Nadu, Southern India?
We stopped to have a tea and some juice at the Auroville visitor’s centre, a beautiful structure made of compressed raw clay earth and renowned by architects world wide for being one of the most elegant naturally built community buildings today. Our first glimpse was the communal watering system which boasted ‘Dyanamised Water’ – could this be true? A city where the citizens even care about the essential quality and energy of the drinking water of its inhabitants?
Some may have heard of Auroville in the recent African outreach that took place in SA last year, or smelt its sweet fragrances from the Auro-incense that is always sold out in Kalk Bay, or hypothesised its existence with friends over a cup of steaming chai.
Growing up in a torn apart South Africa we are one of those many souls who have yearned for ubuntu in a more manifest way in our nation through intentional and conscious communities. Why should South Africa, such a prosperous and advanced nation, so up there in technology and science, lack so direly an expression of communal living and human unity? Yes, we have it in the media, in the rainbow nation, in the “One South Africa” movement, but is it really there on the ground where we need it?
Communities serve a deep purpose of bringing a healing heart to their surroundings and their countries as we were to witness on our journey to Auroville.
Auroville, “The City of Dawn”, was inaugurated on the 28th of February 1968, when people representing 124 countries and all the Indian states symbolically placed a handful of earth from their home lands in a marble clad vessel near the centre of Auroville, then a piece of dry desert earth, symbolising the creation of a city dedicated to human unity and international understanding.
Today the Community celebrates 40 years of existence and expansion as a unique manifestation on the face of Mother Earth. Auroville has attracted over the years dedicated beings that have taken the responsibility to research and act according to the need of all. It is a microcosm of conscious projects and individuals from around the world and within India. It is a melting pot of natural living and healing the earth and the individual and most of all it is a beautiful, calm and vital place situated in a dense forest which was seeded by hand by the early visionaries.
The reforestation is a powerful symbol of what can be done with focused heart and intent. Along with the new forest came birds, small mammals, monkeys and so many other brothers and sisters who could once again roam free.
On our personal journey we stayed in one of the many Aurovillian communities (where a group of people with a common activity or vision stay together, something like a village but more focused) called Verite, meaning Truth. This older community, like many others, runs completely on solar energy with a huge windpump to pump its water. Recycling is part and parcel of daily life. It has a well-established organic and herbal garden that feeds and nourishes the community members daily where they gather to share organic healthy meals in the communal eating hall. Today its is well shaded by a variety of indigenous trees that were planted in the dessert landscape of the 1970s, which now attracts a large variety of bird songs and provide shelter and shade from the summer sun and a microcosm of insect life and small mammal.
In Verite, the members are involved in a multitude of tasks ranging from Village action groups (working on human rights and basic needs issues in the surrounding villages of Auroville), organic gardening, natural healing, natural architecture, youth art projects, instrument making, and of course the much needed engineer, as some one has to manage the solar panels, wind pumps, septic tanks, reed beds and so on. There is no shortage of skills in Auroville as the community strives to take care of every need of itself independently.
Branching out to our surrounding neighbours, someone is designing natural clothing using the ancient Indigo dyes, the same way it has been done for thousands of years. The gentle Brahmin mother is making sun dried pasta from organic millet and spirulina for those Italian members who miss their mama’s cooking.
The donkey from the Pony farm has broken out and was found in “Fertile Windmill’s” garden munching their summer supply of salad, the Tibetan pavilion is running a Tibetan medical clinic and the Dalai lama may be visiting again soon, the Centre For Scientific Research is designing an ergonomic and energy efficient solar moped and four Tamil village youth are packing their backpacks to attend an international youth Forum in the USA. The kids in the Youth Centre have just put on a completely cycle powered Earth Day 2007 show that had a complete theatre and music production electrically powered by a converted old bicycle that has become a portable human-powered generator.
So how can South African benefit, learn and model off this creation, as our struggle for unity amidst diversity is so obviously real, painful and of course familiar. The divide amongst us as a ‘unified’ nation is growing. We hang on to our hope and trust that we will win the battle over crime and separation, living in our snug apartments or isolated kraal, with a silent common greeting and heart sore from the nights guns shots.
We must be inspired by the creation of conscious, safe, vibrant communities. It is time for the creation of the first conscious community in South Africa: all those interested, let us join our heads, hands and hearts. Let us humbly bow before this beautiful example in India — where souls have joined with a common vision of care for the earth, care for the individual and care for the nation — and build our own Auroville in Africa soon.