Once a month, on Monday afternoon, there’s a lively meeting at the AVAG office, when the Executives and Coordinators of Auroville Village Action Trust’s seven units come to share with each other reports on their activities.
We started at 9 AM at Water Harvest in Kottakarai, where we learned an amazing lot about the water situation of this region, but also about the situation for whole South India. They explained about the history of the 1400 rainwater catchment ponds (called “tanks”) which were built by the Pallava kings around 1400 years ago. These tanks, connected to each other by channels, collected all the rainwater, and provided the whole region with the possiblity of irrigating three harvests per year. They did not draw on the underground water -- that came only with the borewell technology. These deep wells, with their big pumps and unlimited electrical supply, are pulling up too much of the groundwater, resulting in saline intrusion along the coast. We learned that not only that aspect of the Green Revolution, but also the pollution due to pesticides, is contaminating the groundwater.
The second stop in Discipline Farm provided us not only with tea and cake, but also lots of information about how organic farming is responding to the problems we’d just learned about and others. Everybody was touched to see the little open temple under the huge banyan tree, which belongs to the Alankuppam village temple, but is maintained in the middle of the Auroville farm.
The Earth Institute located at the Centre for Scientific Research (CSR) showed us a very interesting video about the compressed earth building bricks they have developed and its architectural possibilities, and then at AuroRE we got information about solar energy. Our staff of teachers felt that the whole programme would be very interesting for their students at the Auroville Industrial School.
At 12.30 we arrived at the Visitors Centre where we had a tasty lunch and sat under a big tree in the shade and shared our impressions so far.
Everyone was deeply impressed by the Auroville video “Dream of the Divine” which they had just seen, in Tamil language, as well as the Matrimandir video.
This rest gave us strength to move on to the Botanical Gardens where our men took great interest in the keet huts that were being built for volunteers – they wanted to know everything about it.
Then to the Town Hall, where the ice cream at Cafe Morgan was very refreshing so we could proceed to the Matrimandir for our last appointment for the day. They were taken on an “information tour” and they were not only impressed, they felt that this place is something very special and important for Auroville. At the end, everyone gave his/her name for an appointment for the following Tuesday to go into the Inner Chamber. And on that Tuesday, after coming out of the meditation chamber and discussing a bit, the over all experience seemed extraordinary. Two of the teachers have started to go for meditation regularly at Matrimandir.
The WELL paper team arranged a similar trip for the women who have been trained by them in basketry, but with more of an emphasis on visiting the retail outlets at the Visitors Centre.
Tours of Auroville are not a new idea, the Village Action Group arranged extensive tours as part of training for its teams, but it is an activity that obviously does not grow old or outlive its impact. Auroville is a treasure, both in its vision and its manifestation, seemingly hidden by its very accessibility. When our neighbours actually are introduced to it, they are touched and understanding, and the more we take the trouble to share it with the people around the better we’ll all get along.
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