‘Accessible Auroville Bus’ & other bits from ‘City The Earth Needs’

Our time in near Auroville was restful. I will remember this month as a quiet, peaceful, contented time in the sweltering summer season of southeastern India. I hit a rhythm with my daily routine — a dream existence for any budget slow traveler in early retirement:

  • walk or ride a bicycle nearly four miles round trip to the gym just after sunrise almost every day
  • some days bike or walk all over Auroville – a place designed for Human Unity
  • most days swim freestyle laps around the pool at our rental
  • occasional trips into the nearby city Puducherry
  • keeping cool during the heat of the day with spouse as we read about current events and our upcoming destinations, and made plans for the remaining months still ahead in 2024
  • meditation
  • dinner either in our Airbnb apartment in the western edge of the Village of Kuilapalayam (on Auroville Road, meters away from the Auroville ‘green belt’), or out in the village
  • bed after pastel sunsets to rise rested before dawn the next day

The whole area has a charged vibe that is difficult to describe. Auroville itself radiates… love, I guess would be the way to describe it. Its thousands of residents come from countries all over Earth, in addition to hundreds of locals.

Just outside Auroville proper, it’s a mix of locals from every class. They all are people like you and me — all trying to live their best life. Many local Indians believe in what Auroville stands for, which is Human Unity.

While that is the ultimate goal, it’s still a work in progress.

Auroville, an experimental community

Auroville is an experimental community that “belongs to no one in particular,” said its founder, fondly called “The Mother” by Aurovillians. Her real name was Mirra Alfassa, born to an Egyptian father and Turkish mother, and raised in France until she moved to India in 1920 and never left.

The Mother was the spiritual companion to sage Sri Aurobindo, who vision made Auroville possible. (Read more on The Mother here, and more on Sri Aurobindo here.)

From the Auroville website:

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother diagnosed the contemporary crisis of humanity as an evolutionary crisis which could be resolved only if the consciousness of universal fraternity can manifest and bring about the actualisation of human unity. In order to aid this difficult objective, the Mother founded Auroville on 28th February 1968 as a Universal Township, 150 kms south of Chennai in south India and gave it a Charter. This Charter declares that Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole and that to live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of Divine Consciousness. It further declares that Auroville will be the place of unending education and constant progress, a bridge between the past and the future, and that it will be the site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

The Mother envisaged the Auroville township of an ultimate population of 50,000, with Matrimandir as its centre and soul. Since its inception, the township has been growing steadily.

– Auroville.org

We did not stay in an official Auroville guest house, and so we did not have privileges like making payments with a special card (some businesses do not take cash, like the Auroville Bakery) or having special time in the Matrimandir (but we did go a few times as visitors).

We also didn’t attend workshops or meetings, which are key to really understanding how Auroville works and its vision for the future. I don’t pretend to know too much about it.

However, as people staying in the general area, we were allowed to use a really helpful bus service.

The ‘Accessible Auroville Bus’

Without wheels, getting around the Auroville area is time consuming with long hot walks. I recommend a bicycle. I started using spouse Tedly’s bike that he carted all over southern India this year. The bike saved a lot of time, was better for Earth, and was as good an exercise as walking.

To get from one end of Auroville to the other, or to get to Puducherry, public buses are scarce. Rickshaws charge 500 rupees ($6) each way – and it’s only nine kilometers to the center of White Town.

That’s why the Accessible Auroville Bus is so handy! It runs three times a day. It’s a small bus with only 12 seats, and plenty of space for luggage. It stops at official Auroville locations, or at the junctions near official locations. (Auroville is spread out with many dirt roads, so the bus uses the main road that goes through villages, named Auroville Road).

The official schedule as of this writing:

A sign on the bus instructs passengers how to pay – but not how much. On my first trip, the driver told me 100 rupees each way. You sign your name onto a ledger, and write down the amount you paid the driver.

The final stop is the Ashram Dining Hall nearly in the center of White Town. The next-to-last stop is the most popular one — it’s the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (which I highly recommend you visit).

Our stop was at the junction of the New Creation Guest House, on the far western edge of Kuilapalayam. It was a six minute walk to our rental. And our rental was a 50-minute walk or a 15-minute bike ride to the Matrimandir (the golden globe structure where Aurovillians meditate).

Related: What it’s like to ‘concentrate’ inside the Matrimandir

The City The Earth Needs

Auroville is called the City The Earth Needs. I support this idea of Human Unity – no matter race, creed, or nationality. And I understand why people are called to join this experiment.

If only Auroville was in a cooler climate, I might be more tempted on a practical level.

Seriously, the bus was a big help in getting around in the sweltering summer heat.

If I ever come back to visit again, it definitely will not be in the summer season during these advancing climate change years.

Climate catastrophe note

Budget slow travel means we don’t own a car and we fly as little as possible, so we emit less carbon than casual tourists.

Sadly, we see the negative impacts of the climate crisis all over the world.

For a scientific look at the current crisis and fast-approaching catastrophe, we highly recommend The Climate Book. Civilization is running out of time to evolve.

Thanks for reading, “‘Accessible Auroville Bus’ & other bits from ‘City The Earth Needs’.”

Ellen encourages you to visit the official Auroville website to get a better idea on what it’s all about.

taj mahal trip cost includes a minimum three-hour visit

Ellen’s sobriety date is April 13, 2010. She left the news business in 2015.

During budget slow travel in early retirement with husband Theo, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She had a double mastectomy without reconstruction in Croatia in 2018.

Today she travels the world as a ‘flattie’.

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