Smita Tripathi The Telegraph Saturday, August 06, 2005
If France was the single most important influence over Pondicherry before it became a part of India, the Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville now exert the same influence in giving Pondicherry its present character. The Ashram is in the heart of town while Auroville is 10 km away. While nearly 1,500 persons of different nationalities are Ashram members, almost 1,800 people belonging to 40 countries live in Auroville. Both the Ashram and Auroville are based on the philosophy of Shri Aurobindo, the revolutionary turned scholar, poet and seer and his spiritual partner, The Mother. Auroville is based on the ideal of human unity and is based on the principle of community living.
Both the Ashram and Auroville are, obviously, worth a visit. The Matrimandir, for instance, is a huge meditation hall in the centre of Auroville. It has been under construction for a long time and the outer globe is being covered with huge gold disks. You can’t really miss the influence of the Ashram or Auroville on Pondicherry since nearly half the shops sell products made by the Ashramites or Aurovillians and many eateries and guest-houses are run by them. If you want budget accommodation, check into one of the guest-houses run by the Ashram. They are well located and reasonably priced at around Rs 750 a night for an AC room. But they have their own rules like you have to be back by 10.30 pm. Is Pondicherry too out of the way to make the effort? Perhaps the Pondicherry Tourism slogan says it all — Visit Pondicherry. Give time a break.