Marimandir and an elephant!

Trip Start May 31, 2007
Trip End May 20, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Arrived in Pondicherry via minibus mid-morning and headed straight to Auroville which is quite nearby.  Here's a bit about the place from the website (in italics)

Auroville is a universal township in the making for a population of up to 50,000 people from around the world. The concept of Auroville - an ideal township devoted to an experiment in human unity - came to the mother as early as the 1930s. In the mid 1960s the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry proposed to Her that such a township should be started. She gave her blessings. The concept was then put before the Govt. of India, who gave their backing and took it to the General Assembly of UNESCO. In 1966 UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement.  The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity - in diversity. Today Auroville is recognised as the first and only internationally endorsed ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness also concerned with - and practically researching into - sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of mankind.
On 28th February 1968 some 5,000 people assembled near the banyan tree at the centre of the future township for an inauguration ceremony attended by representatives of 124 nations, including all the States of India. The representatives brought with them some soil from their homeland, to be mixed in a white marble- clad, lotus-shaped urn, now sited at the focal point of the Amphitheater. At the same time the Mother gave Auroville its 4-point Charter.  Auroville is located in south India, mostly in the State of Tamil Nadu (some parts are in the State of Pondicherry), a few kilometers inland from the Coromandel Coast, approx 160 kms south of Chennai (previously Madras) and 10 kms north of the town of Pondicherry.  They come from some 35 nations, from all age groups (from infancy to over eighty, averaging around 30), from all social classes, backgrounds and cultures, representing humanity as a whole. The population of the township is constantly growing, but currently stands at around 1,700 people, of whom approx one-third are Indian.

Didn't really know what to expect but tried to keep an open mind...the idea behind the place being so great...but like most things subject to the inevitable foibles of humanity.  Unfortunately, you aren't really able to interact with the locals as our visit was centered around the visitor's center area.  We saw some videos and then walked out to the Matrimander which is a large golden sphere currently still under construction apparently.  This is the spiritual center of the entire city.  You can read more about it here:

We lingered for a bit and then went back to Pondicherry and did a bike ride tour around seeing amazing rock carvings and Hindu Temples including Krishna's Butterball...a huge rock that balances on a sloped rock surface and looks like it could roll down at any moment...

Decided I needed to try to get inside that golden sphere in Auroville so in the late afternoon I hired a taxi and went on out.  Spoke to the information people who assured me that there was no way that I could visit inside as the group was entirely filled for today's visit.  I smiled and then headed out to the entry gate where the tour originated, waited a bit with a couple of Russians and then managed to get up to the bag and ticket counter.  The Russians were quite aggressive and when their demands to be let in even though they did not have reservations were ignored, they forced their way in and had to be escorted back!  I just waited patiently until most of the people had gone in having already made my presence known to the lady at the front desk previously and inquired a few times and eventually the lady gave me permission to visit a 'petal'.  Didn't know what that was, but said fine, and took my ticket and wandered in towards the Matrimandir.  Lucky for me, I got right up to the group that was entering the main chamber, took off my shoes and entered with them!  Barefoot, I walked inside and up a long circular ramp that led to the main chamber.  Put on my white socks and entered...and it took my breath away...literally.   Absolute silence, all white interior, a large clear crystal ball 70 cm in diameter with a beam of sunlight hitting it from the the top of the sphere.  Literally sat in wonder for about 15 minutes, every once in a while, worring that they were going to figure out that I wasn't on the list and then would let that go and just enjoy the space some more.  It was a mix of people, tourists and locals and I would have to say a highlight of my trip to date. 

Jumped back in the taxi and headed out to the Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh... was greeted by a large decorated elephant at the front giving blessings with his trunk when you gave him food or other things...

Went inside, paid for a special entry to the temple, watched the ceremony and was blessed and given a mark on my forehead (to protect the third eye...I have been told) and just sat around a bit and took it all in...
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