Auroville – The City of Universal Culture

Matrimandir, Auroville, Pondicherry, India
Matrimandir, Auroville, Pondicherry, India.

Auroville, sometimes referred to as “The City of Dawn” is conceived for 50,000 inhabitants from around the world. At the centre stands the Matrimandir, the “soul of the city”, a place for individual silent concentration, in an oval shaped Peace Area surrounded by a lake. Radiating out beyond the lake are four Zones – the Industrial (north), Cultural (north east), Residential (south/south west) and International (west) – each focusing on an important aspect of the town’s life. Surrounding the township will be a Green Belt consisting of forested areas, farms and sanctuaries. 

Matrimandir and camp

In June 1965, the Mother started speaking of her intention to build, north of Puducherry, a “universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.

From the outset, she explained that, at the centre of her town, there would be a “Park of Unity” and that, in this park, there would be something she called at first a “Pavilion of Truth”, or “Pavilion of [Divine] Love”, or “Pavilion of the Mother”. Eventually, she named this Pavilion “Matrimandir”, which she translated in English as “The Mother’s Shrine”. She added that the “Park of Unity” would consist of twelve gardens representing the “twelve attributes of the Mother” and that eventually the Matrimandir and its Park of Unity would be surrounded by a Lake.

Model approved in February 1971

Towards the end of 1965, the Mother decided that a lone Banyan tree would be the geographical centre of the future town. At the time the site was almost totally barren.

In early 1968, the Mother gave names to Matrimandir’s twelve Gardens:

Existence, Consciousness, Bliss, Light, Life, Power, Wealth, Utility, Progress, Youth, Harmony, Perfection. On 28th February 1968, Auroville’s inauguration ceremony took place around a white Urn, shaped like a lotus bud, which now stands at the focus of a large amphitheatre. Youth representing each state of India and each country of the world placed a handful of the soil of their respective state/country in this Urn while a welcoming message and Auroville’s Charter were read in various Indian and foreign languages.

In the later part of 1969, the Mother explained to an American horticulturist, Narad, whom she had called to start the Matrimandir Gardens: ‘It must be a thing of great beauty, of such beauty that when people come they will say “Ah, this is it”. It must be an expression of that consciousness which we are trying to bring down’. She added: ‘One must know how to move from consciousness to consciousness’.

Auroville’s birthday (inauguration day) bonfire at the Amphitheater on 28 Feb 1977. The Matrimandir is under construction.

On 21st February 1972, the first concreting (of the foundation) took place.

In one of her messages, the Mother wrote: ‘The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Universal Mother according to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching’; and early 1972, she named Matrimandir’s North, South, East and West pillars after the four ‘Aspects’ or ‘Personalities’ of the Supreme Mother, that is respectively: MahakaliMaheshwari, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati; and the twelve meditation rooms, which are located inside Matrimandir’s twelve large ‘petals’, after her twelve ‘Virtues’ or ‘Qualities’:

Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality, and Peace.

On 17th November 1973, at 7:25pm, the concreting of the four concrete pillars which support Matrimandir ended. Exactly at the same time the Mother left her body.

Written by The Mother

The Matrimandir wants to be the symbol of the Universal Mother according to Sri Aurobindo’s teaching. 

Matrimandir is dedicated to the Universal Mother, a Presence or Being that has been experienced and worshiped, under different names, in most cultures of the world since time immemorial. The ancient Egyptians named her ‘Isis’, the Incas ‘Pachamama’, the Japanese ‘Kwannon’, the Hindus ‘Aditi’, the Catholics identified her with ‘Virgin Mary’, etc.

Matrimandir isn’t dedicated to any particular emanation or incarnation of the Mother. Sri Aurobindo explains below the difference he makes between the “universal” or “cosmic” Mother and the “individual” Mothers.

“… it will be the ‘Pavilion of the Mother’; but not this [the Mother points to herself]: the Mother, the true Mother, the principle of the Mother. (I say ‘Mother’ because Sri Aurobindo used the word, otherwise, I would have put something else – I would have put ‘creative principle’ or ‘realising principle’ or… something of that sort.)

(The Mother, Mother’s Agenda, 23.06.65)

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