I did my schooling at The Mother’s International School in New Delhi. Naturally, I’ve had an innate curiosity about the place where it all began – Pondicherry – and more specifically – Auroville. So yep, I’ve been wanting to come here for a while now.
The more I read about Auroville, the more my curiosity deepened. A place where people come to live, a life that is not dominated by the sights and sounds of the city, and the pressure and stress that accompanies it. One without the shackles of religion, caste or race binding it. One where freedom could truly be experienced; a way of life designed entirely by the own self. A conscious one. I knew I’d head over someday, to actually experience what it was all about!
That ‘someday’ happened to be early January 2018. I was glad I was finally getting the chance to come here, and spend some time experiencing the true ‘life’. Auroville is something a lot of folks do as a day trip from Pondicherry, but that only offers you a very, very brief glimpse of what the place is. To understand what it’s all about, I wanted to actually stay here for a while and spend some time absorbing the way of life. So I did the reverse 😛 I stayed in Auroville, and took a day trip to Pondicherry!
Best time to visit
The cooler months are November to March. These are also the peak months, so be sure to get your bookings done well in advance, else you won’t find a place to stay in Auroville. Pondicherry is quite a distance from Auroville, and transport options are relatively expensive, so if you really want to spend some time in Auroville, STAY here.
Where to Stay
There are guesthouses in the Auroville communities, which you can send an enquiry for here.
These get booked way in advance, and I had to look for accommodation elsewhere. I stayed at Denoh’s Guest House – booked via AirBnB. The managers are the nicest people you will ever meet, they go out of their way to make you comfortable. Its located just 5 mins (by Scooty) from the Auroville Visitor’s Centre, so if you’re looking at hanging around the area quite often, this is a good choice. This is located in Kottakarai, though, and staying closer to Kuilappalayam is a better option, as it’s close to the popular food joints, and equidistant from the Matrimandir and the beach.
Where to Eat
- Tanto – Delightfully sumptuous Italian nosh. The wood fired pizzas taste like Italy, and the pasta is amaze.
- Bread and Chocolate – Organic food and chocolate. Head there for breakfast.
- Theevu Plage – This one isn’t exactly in Auroville, it’s near Serenity beach. The prawn curry rice I had here is one of the best prawn curry rice dishes I have ever eaten. And I really like prawn curry rice. Also, beach views. Need I say anything more? (Also, I want to say it again – PRAWN CURRY RICE!)
- Auroville Bakery – The choice of desserts here will make you drool. They have some lovely gluten-free and vegan options as well.
- Dreamer’s Cafe – I LOVED the Thai cold coffee and the filter coffee here, as well as the vegan chocolate cake. If you’ve studied at The Mother’s International School, and eaten the chocolate cake from Matri Stores (5 bucks for divine goodness, you feel me?), you’ll find it here.
How to Get Around
The easiest and fastest way is to hire a bike or a scooty for 200-300 rupees a day. If you’re not confident with driving one, take a bicycle.
Cabs and autos are around, but they’re ridiculously overpriced. I did find Mother’s Travels to be a reliable cab service, though, especially for a pick-up and drop from and to Pondicherry. Contact them on 9443956635.
Also, Auroville is a really nice place to walk around and lose yourself in the greenery. What was once a desert land with barren red soil, has been nurtured to become the lush landscape that it is today. Take it in 🙂
What to Do
Truth is, Auroville is not a tourist attraction. It’s a city made by humanity, for humanity, and belongs to humanity. It’s a way of life. So take it easy! Stay with the locals. Volunteer. Try the organic life. Meditate a little and reflect.
Live in a Community
The guesthouses and homestays you find on the Auroville website are all located in communities inside Auroville. Living at one of these will introduce you to the Auroville belief and way of life. They have activities and volunteering opportunities that you might want to be a part of during your stay there.
This is an altogether different experience. The giant structure, covered with golden reflective plates, radiates a different energy. You need a token to get in, which can often get sold out two to three days in advance. Be prepared to queue up at the Booking Office in the Visitor’s Centre between 10 and 11 AM, or 2 and 3 PM for a token.
Once you have your token, you’ll have to show up at a designated time at the Visitor’s Centre, where you’ll be shown a video on the thought behind Auroville, after which you’ll be whisked off to the Matrimandir in a bus. You’ll be guided into the concentration chamber, and the 15 minutes or so that you spend there will stay with you forever.
Skip Pondicherry’s popular rock beach and head to the quieter ones instead. Feel the soft, black sand curl up onto your toes at Auroville Beach. Take a surfing lesson at Serenity Beach. Relax by the rocks at Bodhi beach. None of these are too far from Auroville, and come with the promise of fewer people, cleaner sands, and lesser noise.
Walk around the French Quarter in Pondicherry
Even the streets start with ‘Rue’. Pondicherry is peppered with pretty, European cafes and some really good pizza places (Xtasi is really, really good), all located in the White Town. This part of town looks really pretty, with colourful houses and stunning architecture, all flanked by lots of greenery and fairy lights. Magical, indeed.
Try the organic way of life
Go vegan for a few days, if you aren’t one already. I’m not. But I didn’t mind trying it out, and turns out the food is DELICIOUS! Auroville is peppered with organic food cafes, or places with organic food options. Here are a few – Well Cafe, Bread and Chocolate, Farm Fresh, Dreamer’s Cafe.
You’ll meet people from all walks of life here. You’ll meet people from around the world. But as they say here, do you know how many foreigners live in Auroville?