Auroville, An Experimental Town in India


Auroville's Matrimandir


Imagine an experimental town in South India called Auroville where the earth is a rich red. Where the people–from all over–live off only the foods and products they produce in their organic farms. A tranquil place surrounded by trees, wildlife and Tamil villages, and guesthouses each with it’s own futuristic edge. And in the center of it all sits the Matramandir, a gigantic golden ball like something you’d see on The Twilight Zone. Only, it was built by people of the community, the Aurovillians, years ago to signify the town’s primary goal: human unity and finding one’s consciousness–a vision of “The Mother.”

Call it hippie town, call it retirement, call it a haven in a small part of Tamil Nadu, India–but it does exist. Russ and I went to visit Auroville during out six-month stay in India. We stayed only four days in Creativity: a cozy four-room guesthouse with a small community kitchen. The cost was 590 rupees a night with breakfast. It was quiet there and butterflies fluttered around the garden. All sorts of colors and sizes. We would see them each time we left the complex, mostly to walk up the road to the Solar Kitchen.

The Solar Kitchen is a huge dining hall where Aurovillians eat lunch and dinner at scheduled times. As a visitor, you’ll get an Aurocard. It’s like currency, you can’t do much in Auroville without it. Inside the kitchen, the receptionist swipes your card–lunch is 100 rupees for visitors, dinner is 80–and you’ll pick up a silver tray. Prepare to get mountains of Tamil food: idli, samba, dosa, chapatti, coconut chutney, the works. But don’t take more than you can eat, a sign hanging above will tell you that. There’s no wasting in Auroville, and uneaten food goes back into the soil, you’ll notice the special recycle bins.

There’s even a quiet section for those who choose to practice mindful eating. My husband and I made the mistake of sitting there our first day. A long man with a long face and long gray hair came over and pointed to the “no talking” sign at the edge of our table.

“I like to think of this area as my personal refuge.” He told us.

Only once did we visit Auroville’s main attraction, the Matramandir. First timers have to schedule a visit and go through a long orientation. Inside the Matramandir, you’ll hear the whirling wind as clear as ever. But you won’t feel a breeze. You’ll step on smooth white merino wool carpet wearing white socks handed to you at the door.

Inside the inner chamber, floor cushions surround a crystal globe. A beam of natural light projects from a mirror in the ceiling, striking a ray of sunlight onto the crystal and illuminating the entire insides of the dim meditation room. You won’t hear a thing in there. And even though you’ll try, it’s like the padded walls in that room somehow found a way to capture usual silence.

The Matramandir was the best part!

Asia and Russell Nichols

We are married writers from the Bay Area, California, vagabonding through Asia since 2011. Our works have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Whole Life Times Magazine and other publications. Our baby is our personal blog where we share marriage flash fiction and real-life misadventures at

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