What it’s like to ‘concentrate’ inside the Matrimandir in Auroville

Auroville is an experimental community in southeastern India designed for residents from different countries and cultures to integrate the divine into earthly existence as they live in peace and harmony. The town is physically designed around a golden spherical structure called the Matrimandir, which means ‘The Temple of the Mother’. This post is about what it’s like to ‘concentrate’ – or meditate – inside the Matrimandir.

Ten kilometers north of Puducherry, Auroville was created in 1968 on formerly barren land. It’s now a lush place with well-tended gardens, and yet is still a work in progress. There are a few thousand permanent residents from many countries, with thousands more temporary residents.

Aerial view of the Matrimandir and gardens, courtesy Auroville.

Auroville’s ideals and creations are by the Indian Philosopher Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator Mirra Alfassa, who came to be known as ‘The Mother’. Sri Aurbindo developed Integral Yoga. In his words, Integral Yoga can “bring the supramental power of divine consciousness down into the ignorance of mind, life and body, to transform them, to manifest the Divine here and create a divine life in Matter.”

Put another way, it’s the “transformation of our superficial, narrow and fragmentary human way of thinking, seeing, feeling and being into a deep and wide spiritual consciousness … (it’s) ordinary human living (integrated) into the divine way of life.”

To that end, the Matrimandir is physically designed to facilitate this divine integration.

The Matrimandir in Auroville

The Inner Chamber in the Matrimandir is only for serious seekers. The Inner Chamber is not for casual tourists, and several admittance rules keep out those who might take a farcical view to this effort. And it is an effort – true seekers use the Inner Chamber to ‘concentrate’ on divine integration. There is no talking allowed around or inside the Matrimandir.

There is no specific way to concentrate — and in keeping with the spirit of unity despite differences, people of all faiths and meditation practices are welcome. As long as your prayer is silent, and your meditation stationary, and you are serious about realizing the Divine in this existence, you are welcome.

Inside the Matrimandir, a heliostat moves a mirror across the sun to project light down onto a crystal, which is the centerpiece in the Inner Chamber. This signifies the Divine entering the material world. People concentrate on Divine integration around this crystal.

The light goes all the way through the Matrimandir to the Lotus Pond underneath the structure (pictured above). When visitors go to the Matrimandir, they stop at the Lotus Pond first for about 10 minutes to concentrate, before ascending to the Inner Chamber.

The Auroville website breaks down the technical details of the Matrimandir.

What it’s like to ‘concentrate’ inside the Matrimandir in Auroville

From the Lotus Pond, shoes are left outside and visitors don white socks on the first level of the Matrimandir.

On the way up towards the Inner Chamber, I felt like I was in some type of giant alien spacecraft. Additionally, there was a profound sense of calm and peace – which is not surprising in a silent zone.

Inside the Inner Chamber, the light beam into the crystal was beautiful, otherworldly. The towering white polished columns drew my eyes up. The plush white carpet and interior white walls added to the luminosity.

I chose to sit in the front circle ring around the crystal. The second ring allows people to lean on the wall if needed. The cushions were adequate for a short sit. Our initiation guide had said we would have 15 minutes of time in the Inner Chamber. I did not time it, but it felt like less.

I started by opening myself up to Divine integration, but I’m a vipassana practitioner so after a minute I began anapana and then vipassana free flow body sweeps.

A light flashed that I saw despite closed closed eyes, which signaled the end of our time. Once back outside, we were allowed to wander the gardens and stay in active concentration/meditation in the silent zone around the Matrimandir.


Being in the Matrimandir was a unique experience. That said, it doesn’t matter where I try to meditate or practice my spirituality — as long as it is in a quiet place. Once I close my eyes, I am concentrating on how physical manifestations reveal my current and past life choices and mind patterns. In this way, I could be in a vipassana pagoda.

But that’s exactly the point of the Matrimandir — and Auroville itself: I am welcome despite my method of ‘concentration’. Human unity — with the Divine and each other — does not mean exclusion based on my soul’s preference for a method to reach Nirvana and Divine integration, to experience Truth and Happiness.

I made the mistake of waiting too long to book our reservations (husband Theo and his mom Diane came, too). After our initial visit to the Matrimandir, we would have been allowed more concentration time during subsequent visits, and I would have enjoyed that. We stayed in Puducherry for more than a month, yet didn’t visit the Inner Chamber until the day before we left.

Auroville critics

I really like how visitors are greeted to the Auroville grounds by a sign that reads, “The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”

I am in love with this idea of human unity. Before I’d ever heard about Auroville, I wrote a novel based on this premise. I even titled my first book Unity. It’s a really bad unpublished story with common tropes that needs a re-write with new imaginative sparks. But the idea of people living in peace, harmony and happiness is still a fantasy of mine. And Auroville is still a fantasy for humanity.

Indeed, Auroville has critics. There are allegations of sexual abuse by some residents against children in nearby Indian villages. There are gripes among Indians about financial grants given to Auroville by the Indian government, and displeasure over how internal budgets work. There is a controversy over trees and development. And some former residents describe Auroville’s inner politics as driven by people in a power-hungry clique.

Where there is smoke, there’s fire. Much of the criticism sounds like egos run amok in self-centered traps. And that is always the root problem with us humans, isn’t it?

Procedural rules

Phones and cameras aren’t allowed anywhere near the Matrimandir, even though this is not listed on the official visitation page.

Once I had reclaimed my checked bag with silenced phone, I took a picture of the Matrimandir from the bag check area and was quickly scolded by plainclothes security. Photos are only allowed at the official viewing point, where, at the time of this writing, groundwork is ongoing.

There’s nothing about a dress code, either, but out of respect, you should cover your shoulders and knees.

Reservations are mandatory, and never guaranteed due to space and time limitations. Visit the Auroville reservation page.

Thanks for reading, “What it’s like to ‘concentrate’ inside the Matrimandir in Auroville.”

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