When I was heading to Pondicherry and asking for travel tips, everyone recommended that I visit the famous Matrimandir in Auroville. I had never heard of this place before I landed in India and so, as everyone was recommending it, I decided to do some research.
Auroville is an experimental township in India. The land was bought by “The Mother” or Mirra Alfassa in 1968 and today, it is a community where everyone of all creed and class are welcomed. The Matrimandir is at the centre and being the ‘soul of the city’.
The orb made of gold is a symbol of spiritual significance to those who practice integral yoga, a philosophy which was practiced by Shri Aurobindo and “The Mother” here. It took 37 years to build.
Beyond the Matrimandir, there are actually a lot more reasons why you should stop by if you find yourself in the area. Here are 5 reason’s why you should visit Auroville.
1. The Matrimandir
First and foremost, the ‘soul of the city’ is the main draw of Auroville. It’s free to view and is open to the public every day of the week. Opening times are;
- Monday – Saturday: 9am – 4.30pm
- Sunday: 9am – 1pm
If you head through to the visitor’s centre you’ll receive a free signed visitor pass to head to the viewing point. You’ll be invited to watch a short video presentation of the Matrimandir and the visitor centre is an informative introduction to the land, “The Mother” and history of Auroville.
The walk to the viewing point is around 1 km from the visitor centre. Although they say this is shaded, I was absolutely boiling! It was around 40 degrees when I was walking up to the viewing point so make sure you stock up on some water.
If you’re not able to make the walk, there are some electric vehicles which will transport you to the viewing point free of charge.
Despite the fact that it was so hot, the walk itself is actually pleasant. It is decorated with some beautiful flowers and sentiments of spiritual awareness.
When you reach the viewing point, it’s a really peaceful area. The locals say you can feel the energies in your blood if you meditate here and it’s recommended to spend some time doing so. There are some seats under the trees, so you can perch in the shade.
When I was here the Matrimandir was closed and undergoing some maintenance, so I couldn’t go inside it. Bookings for first time visitor’s must be made in person and on an individual basis for concentration. You cannot apply via email or make a telephone booking. You cannot book as a group and your pass will be issued for the following day or the next free day available.
If you have visited before, you can apply via email or phone. Details can be found on the Auroville website.
It was a beautiful place with a good feeling and you could see why so many people come to pay it a visit every day.
2. La boutique d’Auroville
The shopping here was awesome. They have these super cute boutiques full of locally handcrafted clothes, books and jewellery. Outside and around they also had stalls boasting local organic food products, gorgeous candles, essential oils and incense!
All the prices were fixed and fair and reflected the time and skill required from the people selling them.
I have to admit I spent way longer than I should in these shops, fawning over all the pretty things they had for sale. I’m such a magpie!
They also sold pretty colourful hammocks…If only I had enough room to take one home…and some palm trees to hang it on…
3. THE FOOD!
I was in food heaven when I landed in Auroville.
Firstly, on my rather hot walk back from the Matrimandir, I saw a sign for Italian Gelato! It was like a mirage in the desert after the heat – is this a dream, could this possibly be true?!
Luckily it was real and I handed over my 100 rupees for a lemon sorbet. It was so tangy and delicious.
Feeling peckish after looking around the information centre, I headed over to their cafeteria for spot of lunch.
Auroville have their own ‘Auro-farms’ in the area and wherever possible, everything on their menu is organically grown and served here. This meant that the vegetables and ingredients were fresh and free from any chemicals or preservatives.
They sold the perfect mix of South Indian and European cuisine. There were rice dishes, curries and dosa but on the other side fresh salads, French onion soups and wood fire pizzas! If you’re vegan, this place also serves up some options for you.
The bakery here was my favourite part, I had one of the best chocolate brownies at this place since being in India. Unfortunately, there isn’t a picture as it went in my mouth before I remembered to take one (oops)!
4. You can volunteer
The whole of Auroville is run by volunteers who give up their time and energy for a place they believe in with a common vision.
Auroville have many visionary programmes here such as alternative healthcare, helping villages in the local area, organic farm work and renewable energy sources.
Although there are plenty of resident volunteers who have made a lifetime commitment, you can volunteer for a temporary placement at a minimum of 6-12 months.
To find out more details and contact information to apply, visit their website.
5. It’s a beautiful place that can make you feel at peace
When you arrive in Auroville, you feel such an energy in this place and when you visit the Matrimandir it develops three-fold.
Pondicherry has it’s own mood and the laid back atmosphere is catching, but Auroville takes it to the next level of inner quiet.
If you’re looking to extend your visit, you can get involved in the many workshops and wellness therapy programmes they run here. Their main philosophy and practice is integral yoga and you can get involved in a one day workshop to introduce yourself.
Auroville is deep in the Pondicherry jungle and you can stay in the local area. The colourful houses, palm trees, farms and local wild life make it a great place to stay and explore the ‘real’ South India.
If you find yourself in Pondicherry, pay this place a visit!
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Have you visited Auroville and the Matrimandir? What was your experience like? Have you been inside the Matrimandir? Comment below!