Line of Goodwill

The Gateway/Habitat/Matrimandir/Visitor Access


Auroville, the ‘City the Earth Needs,’ is a universal township in the making, based on the evolutionary
vision of the Indian seer, Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual partner, Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother.
The goal of Auroville is to realize Human Unity. Through research and discoveries Auroville strives to
become a living embodiment of an actual living Human Unity.

The Mother initiated a city plan for 50,000 where people from all over the world could learn to live and
work together in unity. To achieve this in a 2.5 km radius the innovative Lines of Force came into being
to manage density with a balanced, free flowing environment.

Three projects have come together to realize the longest Line of Force, Line of Force-1, the Line of
Goodwill: The Gateway of Human Unity, Matrimandir Visitor Access and Goodwill Habitat.
Goodwill Habitat: Auroville’s present population stands at approximately 3000 and there is an urgent
need for growth. Corresponding habitat for the growing population will have to be built to allow for
the new energy and resources that the city needs to fulfill its aims.

Auroville, the ‘City the Earth Needs,’ is a universal township in the making, based on the evolutionary
vision of the Indian seer, Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual partner, Mirra Alfassa, known as the Mother.
The goal of Auroville is to realize Human Unity. Through research and discoveries Auroville strives to
become a living embodiment of an actual living Human Unity.
The Mother initiated a city plan for 50,000 where people from all over the world could learn to live and
work together in unity. To achieve this in a 2.5 km radius the innovative Lines of Force came into being
to manage density with a balanced, free flowing environment.
Three projects have come together to realize the longest Line of Force, Line of Force-1, the Line of
Goodwill: The Gateway of Human Unity, Matrimandir Visitor Access and Goodwill Habitat.
Goodwill Habitat: Auroville’s present population stands at approximately 3000 and there is an urgent
need for growth. Corresponding habitat for the growing population will have to be built to allow for
the new energy and resources that the city needs to fulfill its aims.

The Gateway: Many people and institutions all over the world are working towards the goal of unity
in diversity and the aim of the Gateway of Human Unity is to serve as a bridge between the World
and Auroville and to host the meeting between the two. By creating a meeting place, Auroville is
committed to learning from the discoveries and insights from without and to sharing the discoveries
and insights learned from within.
Matrimandir Visitor Access: Auroville presently receives more than 700,000 visitors every year and the
number is increasing. The majority of these visitors come to see the Matrimandir.
As Matrimandir and the Park of Unity including the Lake are moving towards completion new more
permanent arrangements have to be made to receive all these visitors according to the guidelines
given by The Mother.
Arrangements for receiving visitors to Matrimandir have been provided for in the Auroville Master Plan
along the axis of the Line of Goodwill.

Line of Goodwill

Unlike other cities, Auroville starts from the centre, the Peace Area. It houses the Matrimandir, the
soul of the city, which is to be surrounded by a lake. The city radiates from this centre according to the
Galaxy plan which is defined by 12 Lines of Force. The Western Line of Force or Line of Force 1, named
the Line of Goodwill, is the longest of these Lines.
Line of Goodwill

Spanning over 800 meters and it connects the West Entrance of Matrimandir at the Lake to The
Gateway, at the far end, while integrating the Matrimandir Visitor Access and the Goodwill Habitat
along its length. This Line of Force is an integral part of the Galaxy Plan.
The profile of the Line of Goodwill is envisaged as a rising hillscape, where one can walk through
rooftop gardens from the lowest areas of interconnecting Habitat clusters, starting from the Lake at
the West Gate of Matrimandir to the highest level, 18 stories, at the Gateway.
The Line of Goodwill will be porous with a 45% void to built-up ratio, full of open spaces and open to
the surrounding nature.
The Line of Goodwill wants to be a green building in every sense, including the integration of nature
(wind, water, renewable energy, plants) into its design and fabric.
The Line of Goodwill aspires to apply cutting edge alternative energy technologies minimizing the
carbon footprint even in the construction phase.
From the point of view of Auroville, building the Line of Goodwill is an opportunity to build in the
spirit of experimentation and innovation with all-inclusiveness and collaboration within Auroville and
between Auroville and the rest of the world.
It is seen as a prototype for building the “City the Earth Needs” which implies the highest standards of
ecological and environmental sensitivity both towards man and nature in the design, the execution
and the realized project honoring the immense amount of work already done to regenerate its land
and environment by Auroville.
It is seen as a prototype building for the “City the Earth Needs” which implies the highest standards of
ecological and environmental sensitivity both towards man and nature in the design, the execution
and the realized project honoring the immense amount of work already done to regenerate its land
and environment by Auroville.


Situated in Auroville’s Residential Zone, the Line of Goodwill must fulfil its objective of managing
density and house up to 8000 people. Starting from the Matrimandir Lake front at Ground level, the
Goodwill Habitat will gradually rise in height till it reaches a natural canyon at G+14 beyond which lies
the Gateway.
A Conscious Coexistence
The project calls for a new type of housing reflecting Auroville’s unity in ways that are both material
and spiritual and create inventive bridges with the past and the future. It will concentrate urban living
patterns and contemporary arrangements with a conscious use of new technologies while nurturing
an inner soul space and a coexistence with humanity and nature. It will manage resources consciously
and create artistic environments for a society to grow harmoniously as in ancient traditions.
As a prototype for coexistence the Goodwill Habitat will welcome people of all national, social and
economic backgrounds, embrace the diversity of local and global strata, all languages, age and gender
so that people can learn to live together in harmony.
The Goodwill Habitat will develop in a phased way together with Gateway and the
Matrimandir Accessway, starting with a first phase for 500 people.

Housing a New Society

Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an
actual human unity.

Habitat will provide individual housing and collective social spaces that are simple, rich, beautiful and
At Ground level Habitat will face the Matrimandir Lake, where it will offer a contemplative space, like a
meditative tea room, a place to experience beauty.
Levels 1 to 4 will be more social and collective and offer all the amenities like a reception, collective
kitchens and restaurants, inner gardens and courtyards, libraries, lounges, offices, creche and play
areas, stores for basic needs, health facilities, laundries and guest facilities.
A Community Plaza is envisaged at level 4, with an indoor amphitheatre, auditoriums and exhibition
spaces plus administrative and maintenance sections for the whole Habitat.

As levels rise the building will grow more porous, quieter and private, allowing a free and contemplative
atmosphere. Habitat will be interconnected with gardens, ponds and pathways from ground level to the
roof and across its horizontal span with private, semi-private and public circulations.
A diversity of apartment designs is envisaged for singles, couples and families, student groups and
guests. Common areas will remain open as study spaces for children in this city of unending education.
Care will be taken in design not to stack people in apartments in an impersonal manner but offer a
flow of open spaces, as has been tried at Sunship, integrating the beauty of the environment with the
atmosphere of Auroville and its Soul.

Earth. Wind. Water. Solar.

The Goodwill Habitat wants to serve as an exemplary model not just for Auroville but also as a prototype
of a sustainable, collective coexistence for India and the world through best practices in urban planning
with the environment, through architecture and design and by creating new models for collective habitat.
Earth: Economic land use. Sensitive integration with surrounding environment. Green shafts between
buildings. Urban farming on the roof. Responsibility towards the earth.
Wind : Architecture will be climate responsive, avoiding air conditioning except in collective spaces and
for special health needs.
Water : Conscious use of this resource. Rain water harvesting. Waste water recycling.
Solar: Solar energy panels on roof to capture most of the energy and back up for the building
Waste Management: Sewage recycling to be integrated in the building design. Proper waste
management to be planned from the construction stage with the Wasteless Team.
Materials: Study different types of sustainable materials together with lighter high tech possibilities to
keep the building light and porous as it goes higher.
Key Aims: collective, sustainable, experimental, interdependent, self-sustainable.

Living Laboratory

Auroville is known as a field of experiment. The Line of Goodwill’s Habitat experiment in collective
coexistence will encourage a paradigm shift in attitudes nurturing a new spirit of sharing, responsibility,
beauty and oneness.


  • It will eliminate a client-builder relationship.
  • Move away from personal ownership towards a collective living.
  • Housing and collective spaces will be an asset of Auroville.
  • Housing allocation will be decided together with Auroville’s Housing Service.
  • Will encourage experiments in areas of culture, education, architecture and environment.
  • Will offer some facility or service for Auroville’s collective use like laundries, the
    community plaza, study spaces and offices and welcome guests.
  • Encourage the growth of unique urban streets and enable different types of mobility :
    pedestrian, cycle, and a monorail station in the Crown junction.


This manifestation of beauty and harmony is part of the Divine realization upon earth,
perhaps even its greatest part…
Art is nothing less in its fundamental truth than the aspect of beauty of the Divine
Artistic zoning in both private and social spaces will be an integral part of the project design and

Fraternal Funding

Auroville is an international project for humanity as a whole. It is an invitation for all those who thirst
for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life. People are drawn to Auroville as the world changes
rapidly and the city has to be prepared to house them
Not everyone can live in Auroville physically, but all can participate in different ways to help make this
dream a reality. Auroville continues to be built with the help of donations from all those in India and
elsewhere who feel inspired to nurture this experiment.
The Goodwill Habitat hopes to inspire all those who wish to see Auroville manifest by supporting new
models of living that can improve the life of cities qualitatively.

Self Maintenance of Project
To maintain the buildings and the area a Service Team will be created. It will draw from the experience
of projects like Citadines and Sunship that self-manage through monthly service contributions from all
residents as well as fraternal contributions plus alternative donations to ensure its overall maintenance.

Preliminary Budget to accommodate 500 people
in the first phase:
Rs 100 Crore / 15 million Euro

The Gateway

The Gateway is to be one of the first phases of the Line of Goodwill. The Gateway will be the first
point of entry for visitors in their meeting with Auroville. Acknowledging that the World has much to
offer Auroville, Auroville would also like to share insightful journeys towards consciousness, in order
for visitors to take inspiration for their own life journey.
While spiritual journeys are personal, in Auroville the result of these journeys is expressed in many
aspects of life – in everything from daily life and routines, to job creation, production and consumption.
These insights are worth acknowledging and can create a framework for many conversations between
Auroville and Auroville visitors.
In these meetings and conversations the Gateway will allow Auroville to explore and accept all the
goodness happening in the World, while also allowing the visitors to explore Auroville’s ambitions to
contribute to humanity and to human unity.
Through conversations, the Gateway will touch all visitors with the values of Auroville, and
everybody would leave inspired to grow towards a higher consciousness wherever they are
in their life journey. And they will leave with an invitation to return.


Everybody is welcome, but not everybody is ready to start on a life-changing
journey. For these visitors The Gateway aims to sow a seed of
understanding of consciousness. These visitors are welcome again to
deepen the conversation when they are ready to. The Gateway aims
primarily to attract visitors curious to and possibly on their journey
towards spirituality, consciousness, and a better world: Unity in
diversity. In joint efforts, conversations between these visitors and
Auroville will accelerate the process towards Auroville’s goals and values in an effort to serve humanity.

Outreaching communication should focus on preparing and conditioning the visitors, so they are
receptive for the meeting and what Auroville is offering. Equally it should prepare Auroville for those
visitors that have something at heart they’d like to bring to Auroville.

The Gateway obligations

The Gateway would offer activities to support a two-way dialogue. Being the host, the Gateway is
also responsible for formats to securing the dialogue to remain proper, non-judgmental and based in
The objective to have a dialogue approach to meeting the visitors is to avoid condescending attitudes
and to invite openness and willingness to listen and learn and co-create insights.

Atmosphere and Guidance

The whole of the Line of Goodwill will be a physical metaphor where the material structure and its
usage reflect the spiritual principles of Auroville. The higher one ascends in the buildings the quieter
and more contemplative the atmosphere created. The further in one goes the more intimate the
connection with Auroville and its Soul.
Where the Matrimandir is emotional and pure in is architectonic communication on the outside and
rational, simple and clear on its inside, the Gateway would be perceived opposite: Rational, simple
and clear outside while allowing for emotional complexity inside, hosting many different activities
and experiences. Yet, the inside of the Gateway should impose feelings of serenity, inducing awe
and humbleness. The architecture of the Gateway should absorb visitors, creating an illusion of vast
spaciousness and an impression of uncrowdedness. Silence should be instilled, and visitors should be
invited to experience the power of silence. Ques from semi-conscious elements influence experiences
and help control visitor behavior.

Leading by example, staff will encourage conscious and self-controlled behavior, and sound absorbing
materials will add to the silencing effect.
The Entry Plaza will be a quiet area and will distribute visitors towards activities in the Gateway. Help
will be available in the Plaza to help visitors plan their visit by means of Intelligent signage, e-guidance
system and staffed information desks.
The Gateway will provide access to the Viewing Points and filtered access to a new Matrimandir
Visitor’s Hub within the Line of Goodwill, which will provide all facilities for visitors to Matrimandir.

Conversations Inside the Gateway

Creating a sense of endless opportunities, conferences and seminars will always be ongoing. It will
always be worthwhile to return to Auroville.
Conversations with the visitors will predominantly be curated and structured in the form of workshops,
seminars and conferences. Visitors will also be invited to leave their mark, for example by sharing
thoughts, ideas or images to be displayed inside the Gateway.
Invitations will be extended to progressive thinkers, philosophers, activists, artists and thought-leaders
to conduct workshops in alignment with Auroville values. Other organizations that are working towards
Human Unity could also be engaged to conduct conferences and seminars in collaboration with
Elaborate Wellness seminars for consciousness, mind and body, would create reasons to assemble the
World’s best minds artists and implementers.
Tying into Auroville Values, learning workshops could include: coaching and well being, sustainability,
and social awareness and will include all the experience of the social enterprises of Auroville.
Integral Yoga would inspire seminars grouped under two headings:

  • Balancing your inner self exploring effects on parenting, wellness and psychological wellness.
  • Interacting in societies and social life leading towards benefits for humanity and Human Unity.

All experience and healing oriented Auroville Units will have central place and role in creating and
executing conversations and interaction with visitors.

Living Laboratory

  • “Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual
    human unity.”
  • Auroville is well known both in India and the world at large for its integral approach to Education,
    Environment, Reforestation, Organic Farming, Architecture and Appropriate Building Technologies,
    Alternative Energy, Health and Healing, Culture, Creativity and Commerce. The Gateway aspires to
    consciously create a platform which will display these areas of excellence and Auroville talent in their
    full potential.
  • The future for Auroville lies in its strengths of being a “melting pot” of cultures and ideas, its
    strong interest in research and development and its wish to be in the forefront. Fueled by India’s
    accelerated development it is now moving into a Knowledge Economy with a high complexity of
    consumer demands including increasing consciousness of sustainability and social awareness, and yet
    demanding products with a high content of design and knowledge driven by Auroville’s values. Many
    units are already delivering solutions and ideas that the respond to these demands and the Gateway
    will serve as a platform to present these products.

Retail and restaurant space

For Auroville retail, the space should fuel exploration, discovery and inspiration
Retail and eating space will be spread out so that it does not jeopardize the serenity of the
conversation space in The Gateway.

Auroville has many facets and below are some of the activities that will be part of Gateway:

Vocational Training

  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Water
  • Appropriate Building Technologies
  • Waste and Recycling
  • Organic Farming
  • Reforestation
  • Design lab
  • Workshops
    Health & Wellness
  • Alternative Treatment and Healing
  • Therapies
  • Music/Bodyworks
  • Awareness through the Body
  • Yoga
  • Spas


  • Environment
  • Waste and Recycling
  • Cooking and Nutrition
  • Pottery
  • Natural Dyeing
  • and many more

  • Hotel
  • Dormitory
  • Wide range of Eateries

  • Surfing
  • Riding
  • Walks
  • Cycling

The Gateway will interweave Art and Beauty into all its spaces. There will be large beautiful spaces
for Conscious Retailing, Events and Exhibitions. There will be Conference Facilities for cutting edge
meetings and networking to bring top participants in chosen fields from all over the world. This will
create an Integral Auroville Experience for visitors.
The Gateway will have the capacity to give immersive multi-faceted experiences to visitors coming to
Auroville over several days, to attract actively engaged people from all over the world and to deliver
fully rounded experiences of Auroville’s spirit including spirituality, humanity, community, environment,
excellence and progress.

Gateway Business Plan

The Gateway is a large scale multi diverse project, which will contain and showcase all aspects of
Auroville: production, consultancy, education, healthcare, art, exhibitions, hospitality etc.
The Gateway has two aspects. Participants with a commercial aspect will contribute and in this way
provide for the public spaces, exhibition areas, education and other interests which will provide the
integral Auroville experience.
The cost of Gateway is presently estimated at Rupees 130 crore. The intention is that it will be fully
externally financed by donations and soft loans which do not require collateral.
This cost, financed over 15 years at 10% interest rate with fixed annual payment, would mean a
paying back of Rupees 17 crore every year over 15 years.

Projected Income per year (2018 value): Indian Rupees
Viewing Lift for Visitors Going to the Roof Garden : 5.5 crore
Hotel and Dormitory : 5.0 crore
Income from turnover of retail/eateries, etc: 24.0 crore
Total : 34.5 crore

Projected cost per year (2018 value):
Staff management of 150 people : 5.0 crore
Electricity, water, generator, maintenance, etc : 8.0 crore
Interest and repayment : 17.0 crore
Total : 30.0 crore

The Gateway budget will from the start provide a substantial income to Auroville’s central fund and
when the loan gets repaid the Gateway will be an economic dynamo for Auroville’s collective economy.

Matrimandir and the Gateway

The Gateway will be the first point of entry into Auroville for all Visitors, including all visitors to
Matrimandir. At the Gateway visitors will be offered an introduction to Auroville, its activities and its
values. This will be done by creating an integral experience where visitors can dive into the many
aspects and facets of Auroville.
It is at the Gateway that visitors will find exhibitions and videos on the history and the purpose of
Practical guidance will also be on hand as to how to access the scenic pathways to the roof-top
Viewing Points on the Line of Goodwill and where to go to make bookings to visit the Inner Chamber.
At the Gateway there will be a special reception lounge, with videos facilities, for the significant
number of special guests Auroville and Matrimandir receive every day wishing to visit the Viewing
Points or the Inner Chamber.

Matrimandir Viewing Points

Viewing Points for Matrimandir and the Park of Unity will be placed on the roofs of the Line of Goodwill.
Two Viewing Points are envisaged.
From the roof at the level of the Crown at 12 storeys there will be a panoramic Viewing Point of all
Auroville including Matrimandir and the Park of Unity.
From a height of 6 storeys there will be a more intimate Viewing Point of Matrimandir and the Park of
Access to the Viewing Points will be by scenic walk ways slowly rising through the buildings of the Line of
Goodwill from the Gateway.
These walkways will be isolated from the walkways used by the residents of the Habitat and will not
disturb them.
The walkways will be designed to be accessible for all with electric vehicles for the handicapped available.
The walkways will be designed as both exhibition space and nature walk.
The walkways will be designed in such a way as to naturally bring an atmosphere of quietness and
inwardness without codes of conduct having to be imposed.

Matrimandir Visitor Hub

Beyond the Gateway and just beyond the peramboke canyon there will be a custom-built facility for
receiving visitors who want to enter the Matrimandir.
Visitors wishing to enter Matrimandir for Concentration for the first time will be directed from the
Gateway to a Booking Office where they will find easy to use booking facilities and all the information
they will need to make their visit to Matrimandir peaceful and trouble free.
Quite separate from the Booking Office, elsewhere in the Hub, there will be the facilities to receive
visitors for Concentration on the day of their visit.
The reception area for visitors for Concentration will contain a check-in hall, a secure left property
facility for all bags, cameras and cell phones and personal comfort services such as toilets and
drinking water fountains.
There will also be a video room where all first-time visitors will be shown videos on Matrimandir,
its history, its purpose and its codes of conduct before they make their way to the Matrimandir

Matrimandir Accessway

Matrimandir is dedicated to minimizing motorized traffic generated by visitors to Matrimandir. All
visitors will leave their vehicles at the main Visitor parking at the city limits. From there visitors will
either walk to Matrimandir or be transported by a custom-designed transit system.
The terminal for the Matrimandir Accessway will be found inside the Matrimandir Visitors Hub and will
only be accessible to visitors with passes for Concentration in the Inner Chamber, visits to the Park of
Unity or events at the Amphitheatre.
The Matrimandir Access Way will consist of a walkway and a transit system with seating for up to
100 people to convey visitors to Matrimandir and the Park of Unity back and forth along the Line
of Goodwill between the Terminal and the Matrimandir Reception Pavilion at the West Gate of
Matrimandir at the Lake.
The Transit System will use alternative energy and be non-polluting, slow, secure and silent. It will be
designed to draw visitors into their own personal inner space as a prelude to their visit to the silence of
the Park of Unity and the Inner Chamber of the Matrimandir.
The Access Way itself will be designed to be beautiful and quiet, to be fully integrated into nature and
have an atmosphere that will naturally illicit quietness and inwardness as visitors take this first stage of
their journey towards the Peace Area.

Matrimandir Reception Pavilion

The Matrimandir Reception Pavilion will be found just between the eastern end of the Line of Goodwill
and the Lake at the West Gate of the Park of Unity.
Visitors will reach the Reception Pavilion via the Matrimandir Accessway along the Line of Goodwill.
At the Reception Pavilion visitors will find places to both stand or to sit down and take in the amazing
view of Matrimandir across the Lake.
The Reception Pavilion will be a gathering place for all the groups of visitors going to the Inner
Chamber for Concentration.
And it is here that first-time visitors will receive an inspirational talk on Matrimandir and its higher
significance as well as guidance on codes of conduct from a senior Aurovilian guide.
They will also find comfort facilities such as drinking water fountains and toilets.
The Reception Pavilion will provide similar comfort facilities for staff and Auroville residents entering
the Park of Unity and Matrimandir as well Aurovilians, guests and visitors attending events at the
Amphitheatre, including a secure depository for bags, cameras and cell phones.
Less obtrusively, the Reception Pavilion will also house some offices for return bookings and for the
reception of donors.
There will be an area for the storage and drying of the Matrimandir umbrellas that are handed out to
visitors against the rain or the sun.
There will also be covered parking and charging points for the electric vehicles provided for the use of
the elderly and the handicapped.

Matrimandir Reception Pavilion Sketches
by Roger Anger


Goodwill Habitat, the Gateway and Matrimandir Visitor Access are
now being initiated as part of the Line of Goodwill and will be the
largest project of Auroville once complete.

  • A preliminary Urban Design Study of the Line of Goodwill
    concepts has be done and letter of Intent has been issued by
    l’avenir d’Auroville.
  • With the permission from L’avenir d’Auroville to source cutting-
    edge expertise in all fields relating to environmental sustainability

of the project.

  • In collaboration with L’avenir d’Auroville, to invite Auroville and
    outside architects, design, technical and resource teams for
    environment, landscape, building, waste management and to
    come together to set up a collaborative team to work on different
    aspects with the help of consultants.
  • To prepare studies for a unified project design that can
    harmoniously integrate a variety of architectural concepts within
    clear parameters.
  • Evaluation of costs.

Matrimandir Next Steps

To complete a first phase study of
architectural design for the Matrimandir
Visitors Hub and the Matrimandir Reception

  • To complete a first phase study of the
    technical design of the Matrimandir
    Accessway and Transit System.
  • To arrive at a 5 year plan for readiness in

Habitat Next Steps

To prepare studies for a unified project
design that can harmoniously integrate a
variety of architectural concepts within clear

  • Evaluation of costs.
  • To complete a first phase study of
    architectural design for 500 people.
  • To arrive at a 5 year plan for readiness in

Gateway Next Steps

  • To invite all Auroville units, service and business and all
    activities to become part of the Gateway – their dreams
    should become part of the larger dream.
  • An evaluation and audit of all products, services and
    activities that Auroville would like to offer.
  • An Acceleration Program (a support program to help
    units grow and scale up)
  • A 5-Year plan for readiness.
  • Deeper analysis and interaction on creating an integral
    Auroville experience catering to a varied public.
  • The design of the Gateway building and the intention
    is to launch an invited architectural competition at the
    end of 2018.
  • The Gateway building would be completed within 4
    years by 2023.

Imagining a visit to Auroville in 2030

I had taken a day off from work and was driving down the Highway from Chennai to Auroville. I had been hearing about this place from friends for sometime and was curious to see what this Auroville was all about. It turned out to be just over a two hour drive from Chennai, I was surprised that Auroville was so close.  

Turning off the highway I followed a forested road to something called the Gateway. After about a kilometer I finally entered a large parking area. I parked my car, got out and began following the arrows through a leafy park  marked Auroville Gateway: City of Human Unity, and suddenly, I saw a tall, minimalist building, rising from the ground in the colours of the earth, gradually softening, growing lighter and more transparent as it reached towards the sky. I stood before it for several minutes, I had never seen anything like this, a building that seemed to carry such a quiet and powerful aspiration, perhaps a dream?  I shook myself and kept walking, even more curious now.

I moved through a beautiful landscaped garden towards the big red ramp which led up to a huge opening. Just as I entered the doorway I noticed a small white plaque which said: Greetings from Auroville, to all men of goodwill. Are invited all those who thirst for progress and aspire for a higher and truer life.

I took a deep breath and walked right in. It was a vast space, a plaza that seemed fully open inside and, at the top, it was open to the sky. There was a sound of water somewhere, but my attention went straight to the high white wall directly before me, embedded with the most astonishing four sentences – about a place for humanity as a whole, about consciousness, unending education, the future and human unity. This was the Charter of Auroville. 

As I read it again, slowly, I saw where the sound of water was coming from. A huge waterfall flowed down gently from above. There were gardens up there and long creepers flowing down. It was a real Vertical Garden, catching the light of the sky. The sound of water created a very special atmosphere, a quietness and a listening, despite that there were many other visitors. It was all so intriguing, I wanted to know more and I needed to sit down somewhere for a bit. 

That is when I notice two wings branching out of the Plaza area. One led to the Reception and a Welcome desk. There were restrooms further on and small cafés. As I walked up the Welcome desk, I saw large moving slides on a wall that offered quick information about the Gateway and images of the city of Auroville.

I picked up a few leaflets and a brochure from the Welcome desk and headed for a restroom stop. Now that was a refreshing surprise. Wonderfully clean, well looked after, it was set as though in an indoor garden.  From there I walked over to a smart but very charming coffee shop run by an Auroville company and ordered a croissant and an excellent coffee. Even the furniture catches your eye, simple but elegant, it can actually be ordered. I noted down the contact details. Looking out of the windows, all I see is trees on every side and small gardens. It is very restful here but I want to know more about Auroville, why people choose to live here and build this city and about Matrimandir of which I have heard so much for years. But before rushing to go in, a friend advised me yesterday, try to know Auroville first. 

I go back to the Information desk, and they point me to the main Auroville exhibition area on the other wing of the plaza from where one can also reach the Matrimandir Access desk.

The exhibition area was like entering a new universe. Two extraordinary spiritual beings, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had founded the city. Named after Sri Aurobindo, Auroville is meant to be a first realization of human unity based on his teachings where people of all countries will be at home. Such a place exists! As I go through the exhibition I am amazed by the daring, the joy and experimentation this project has implied, but also the challenges and the depths it has encountered with that unique inner drive that seems to touch all things here.  The city plan has four zones: Cultural, International, Residential and Industrial. One of its key spiraling features is achieved by curving lines that pass through green corridors and urban spaces. The Gateway is actually the far end of one such line, known as the Line of Goodwill. The exhibition has so much more: on organization, education, environment….I could stay here the whole day, there is so much history, so much real work, and so many funny anecdotes. As I leave the exhibition area my eye falls on a line: At last a place where one can think only of the future… And what an invitation that is, to explore new concepts, ideas and experiments that this place seems to asks from everyone, in all areas of life and work and play!  

I had only planned for a day visit, but I need more time and I don’t want to leave without experiencing something of the Matrimandir. The Matrimandir Access desk is a quiet zone of information. To go inside I will need to make a booking so. A line of images greet me as I walk down a beautiful corridor to the Booking Office. Matrimandir is also known as the soul of Auroville. It was built from scratch, on an absolutely barren land, now golden and complete, surrounded by very special gardens and a lake that is now in process of being completed. It is inspiring to see how far determined people can reach in a relatively short time span. Human beings are very strong when they can work together in unity for a common higher goal. 

It is past noon and I am lucky the Matrimandir Booking Office is open and I am even luckier when they say I can get a reservation to visit the Inner Chamber tomorrow at 9. Could I stay somewhere for the night?  I return to the Welcome desk where I am informed about overnight budget dorms for students and groups or the rooms that the Matrimandir allots to people who have already a made prior booking but want to arrive a day early. Then there are simple Japanese Style sleeping cubicles and rooms and other more comfortable options. I opt for a Zen room on the 13th floor cluster called Forest View. I take the lift up to my room and sit down for a moment of wonder and enjoy how lucky I have been. My hotel room is very elegant but also very simple and minimal. Everything is white and serene I feel very calm and quiet here. The window overlooks a forest but I also get a sense of the curving Line of Goodwill that leads to the centre of town through the trees and, of the International Zone that borders the building. The pamphlet in the room indicates that there is a Sunset meditation in the highest of the gardens open for resident guests. I don’t want to miss that, but now I have all day to explore.

How does such a city function, I wonder? How does it sustain itself, what does its Industrial zone offer? I head back to the plaza, to the wing that leads off to the ground level, to an area where all the Auroville production units are represented. I was looking forward to this. I had heard so much about this conscious retail centre. Even shopping mall people come here to see what Auroville calls a conscious consumer experience. And it is very different! It is a huge area in two floors with many small green spaces in a two-floor height with light coming down from the big plaza above – and not a single shop! It all seems to be woven seamlessly together with no visible borderline between different areas. A very elegant bookshop, more like a private library, is woven together with a French café, people can look at magazines and read books, surf on internet while having a coffee or juice. There are books on Auroville and by Aurovilians and the place seems very popular with young people. I know most of the Auroville products, but here they are presented together like in a very large home. The many life style interior products, design and style products are also socially and environmentally aware. There are furniture, lighting, art and craft and music products, but none of these are displayed as in a shop but as in living areas.  The area for all the Specialty Food products that Auroville makes is woven together with small cafés, and you can even taste some of these before buying. In a number of places you can see the chefs working behind glass walls, and follow the production process as in the bakery or, watch fascinating tofu recipes come to life with fresh organic salads and vegetables from Auroville farms or, get pizzas topped with your favourite Auroville cheese.  I choose to lunch in a quaint Korean restaurant which invites you to eat mindfully. Some of the people working here have lived in Auroville for decades or have grown up here. Some are volunteers making their experience by living and working here. 

All  this leads to the next two floors where it is all about the research and experiment that has led to all kinds of truly interesting sustainable innovations in solar energy, windmill technologies, bio-dynamized water, now recognized for its healing properties, waste management, plus waste water management, sustainable building practices, afforestation and soil regeneration, organic farming and much more. Solar panels that line the roof of the Line of Goodwill are produced in the Industrial zone and supply a good chunk of energy to the Gateway as well. All this knowledge, the practices and the products can be transferred to other places and institutions as it is already being done in different places in India and around the world.  My nephew needs to come here! But it doesn’t stop there. There are innovations in education and in organization seeking new, conscious models and there is art and music and literature in this city of Universal Culture. Some works of art are on par with Indian and international artists, yet unique.  Some of the art is inbuilt in spaces in the Gateway, in the Line of Goodwill and elsewhere in Auroville, bringing an inward magic, a higher frequency of beauty in dialogue with all the rest. A sizable earning from all the retail products, industrial products, services and innovations and research in design contribute to the running and growth of the city and its greenbelt.

Higher up the building has different types of hotel options and a number of offices, also a health zone with a gym, quiet zones to relax and rejuvenate, plus other services. But, before getting that far, there is a whole floor with conference rooms and auditoriums and open plazas with many events, workshops and talks and some cafeterias. Because I am staying overnight I could access some of the talks and events, but to participate in workshops I would need to register beforehand and stay longer. I attended a session on the possibilities of Unending Education and one on Garbology, and education module created to deal with the humungous garbage problem in India and elsewhere. I know now that I am coming back with my daughter during her holidays.

On the fifth floor I came across a running ticker listing all the programmes, talks and events in different parts of the building and also programmes and places where one can volunteer should one want to spend more time in Auroville. As a place of Karma Yoga, one is encouraged to join in activities and work in order to participate in some way, be it in a farm, or in a school, a building project, or a Tai Chi workshop and not just hang around if one plans to stay longer, for it is such a vast place of learning and experience. The brochure lists guest spaces in the Line of Goodwill and other parts of Auroville if one wants to stay longer. 

There is also the possibility of joining a guided tour of the International Zone, but I need time to absorb what I have already seen so far. It will have to wait for another day and I still have some shopping to do, for my family and friends, and for myself and a few books and brochures to pick up. An hour later, shopping done, I take the elevator up to my room, leave all the bags there and go to the 15th floor for the Sunset Meditation.  On the high terrace I join a dozen people watching the sun go down. As we sit in meditation the sun spreads like a sunset masterpiece through the clouds and such a vast silence embraces us.  

I return to my Zen room and order a light salad. All day I was in a sound space of so many languages, many Indian varieties plus Italian, French, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, African, Brazilian and so may English accents, all in harmony, together. I set the alarm clock and fall into a deep and peaceful sleep, the best sleep I have had for years. Tomorrow is a big day, and I must be ready for an encounter with the soul of this city…

At 7 am I get a delicious idli breakfast downstairs and exit the plaza from the back entrance. To reach the Matrimandir Access entrance one must walk through a forested green corridor that traverses a canyon. It is a short but amazing walk through the trees and permaculture gardens and the recycled waste water waterfall that services the gardens. The Matrimandir access group welcomes us, check our passes and directs us to a video room where one gets an introduction about what Matrimandir really is, not some golden temple or golf ball but place of concentration at the very centre of the city.  A place of silence to find one’s soul…We board a monorail along a flank of the Line of Goodwill that takes us gently through the landscape to our point of exit at the Crown. From here, for the time being we are carted in electric vehicles to the Matrimandir gate. A lake is being built and will be ready in a year. From there we walk through the gardens, past the legendary banyan tree and up inside that golden sphere, where suddenly, the world seems to change from inside. We move up a spiraling ramp to a silent white chamber where a single ray of sun falls on a crystal.  I can’t translate the experience in words yet, for it is at another frequency of silence. Suffice to say that it is something that will stay with me forever.

But it is time to get back home – family and work are waiting. I have only been away one day and one night, but it feels like much, much longer. I even don’t feel like the same person I was when I arrived. Life feels so much wider and richer. I have often felt a deep need for change in the way we live, but the daily routines do not leave much space. Now I feel I have been given tools and inputs to change.