500 years ago, Thomas More wrote a novel about the idealistic society about an Island, where the private property had been abolished, families made their own clothes and there were no lawyers, he called the island Utopia. Utopia could be traced to the Greek roots, etymologically: a good place or no place, encapsulating a place that is perfect and does not exist. Through-out history, many people have tried to turn their Utopian dreams into reality, however, their motivations vary. It all started with noble intentions to solve the problem of nature, government, or religion. There is a perpetual search for a perfect place.
Utopia is not a place but a state of being — quite rightly stated by Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Utopia in terms of becoming, unbounded imagination has no limits. Everyone has a different idea of Utopia.
I was born and brought up in a country of billions, where cities are flooded with people. I enjoy the hustle and bustle, where you see everyone is always rushing towards something, constant movement fills me with energy and joy. I could easily be called an urban brat.
Being an architecture design student, we always strive to build a world where we can bring paradigm shifts that move society forward. I learnt about a village, Auroville, where the township is built in pursuit of human unity. The desire to visit and experience the psychological revolution it has been was always there, and when the opportunity presented itself I made sure, I make the best out of it.
I started my journey from Mumbai to Bangalore in flight. And then from Bangalore, I began my last leg of the journey to the world’s largest existing spiritual utopia, Auroville, aka “the City of Dawn.” I reached Pondicherry from Bangalore by bus(8-hour journey) I had booked my stay at Auroville. (10 km from Pondicherry )
Auroville was built in the 1960s. There is no government, no freeways, no skyscrapers, no religion, or no newspapers with headlines of war and poverty. It has cycle paths, solar-community kitchens, reforestation schemes, water-pumping windmills, and museums, and has attracted the support of several international organizations, including UNESCO. Its most celebrated feature is a giant golden sphere called the Matrimandir, the Temple of the Mother, which sits in the middle of a geometric pattern of lawns like a gift from another galaxy. The layout of Auroville centers around Matrimandir, which is also one of the largest solar power plants in India, and it’s surrounded by the green belt. (which acts as an insulation from weather and also cultural influences) Auroville wasn’t just some hippie haven; it was designed to be a
As we crawled deeper into the city, everything started getting much quieter and much greener. All I could hear were birds chirping, my own breath, and my footsteps. Finally reached, my stay, International House. The unique structure featured with earth and waste material construction, solar power, rainwater collection, and compost toilets; they include two large dormitories and a number of smaller rooms. An experiment in the use of recycled and local materials, with the intention of the building to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
They believe that “Nature is perfect, you cannot do anything to improve it. And so, natural farming is non-intervention”. Hence, they practice organic farming. They make manure, have dry washrooms, and also rainwater harvesting. Vegetation is grown and shared by people living in the community.
Moreover, they also promote that, money should not be a sovereign lord, individuals don’t own their houses or land, they experience the joy and liberation of no personal possession. An effort to create an economy where people work not for salary, but a way to express one-self, and to develop one's capacity and possibilities, while being of service as a community as a whole, a kind of hybrid economy that exists.
The most common mode of transportation seen there are bicycles. Of course, there are scooters that one can rent for long-distance travel. Every turn, every route I took surprised me with its architecture, food, or philosophical ideologies.
It is planned to have multiple zones, residential, industrial, international, and cultural. I interned in the industrial zone, where they have The Bamboo Center, developing furniture, building materials, fabrics, toys, and temporary structures from bamboo. A place-making musical instrument next to it, where there are enormous wind chimes, sound therapy sessions, and workshops. A hand-loom and hammock company, set up next to a cowshed in a garage, jewelry makers, an organic food restaurant, fashion houses working on small scale trade production, and I also discovered, that they take faded jeans to be rejuvenated. It’s an incredible area, hidden in the trees and linked by dirt tracks.
Batten should be passed. Participate in the endeavor, where collective experiments take place, the objective isn't a city, its means is a city. A few hundred young people can turn 5,000 acres of barren land into a fertile lush greenscape, imagine the impact we could have if we decided to engage without natural surroundings
One of the many things I learnt there, I learnt to enjoy learning. And that’s my Utopia.