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February '03

February 28, 1968

- by Alan
(with particular thanks to the Auroville Archives)

The inauguration ceremony in full swing

Thirty-five years ago Auroville's inauguration ceremony took place on a barren plateau in Tamil Nadu. What exactly happened? Gleaned from preparatory Ashram documents, participants' memories and newspaper reports, this resumé is perhaps the closest we'll get to the definitive story.

The ceremony, which would take 75 minutes, began at 10.24 with the white-clad announcer briefly explaining the order of events to come to the 5,000 or so people assembled in the amphitheatre. At 10.30 there was the sound of a gong, there were a few bars of Mother's music, then came Mother's voice, relayed from her room in the Ashram:

Salut d'Auroville à tous les hommes de bonne volonté. Sont convies a Auroville tous ceux qui ont soif de progress et aspirant a une vie plus haute et plus vraie.

[Translation: Greetings from Auroville to all men of goodwill. Are invited to Auroville all those who thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life.]

A few more bars of music followed, then Mother read The Charter of Auroville in French.

The announcer then stated, "Now the earth from the Ashram will be put in the urn." Kiran and Vijay Poddar approached the urn. Kiran carried Mother's flag and Vijay carried earth from the Samadhi and a stainless steel container with inside the scroll with The Charter of Auroville in Mother's handwriting. As they reached the urn Sunil's 1968 New Year music began to be played, along with Mother's New Year message: Remain young, Never stop striving towards Perfection. The stainless steel container was lowered deep into the urn by ribbons, along with the earth.

The announcer then introduced the formula which would be followed for the rest of the ceremony. The Charter would be read successively in 16 languages by nationals (usually Ashramites) of those countries or cultures (the languages in order were Tamil, Sanskrit, English, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Tibetan). Before each reading the announcer would introduce the translation - "Now the Charter in Tamil will be read..." - and specify which states of India or countries would approach the urn during that reading (the states first, countries afterwards, all in alphabetical order). In all, two young delegates from each of the 23 States or Union Territories of India and representatives from 124 countries (63 persons were delegated by embassies, the rest were students from the Ashram school) walked up to the urn. In each pair one would carry a placard with the name of their State or country, the other would carry earth (or a substitute) from that State or country in a small bowl. After the earth was tipped into the urn, the representatives walked down the ramp from the urn. Their plackard was taken and placed in a pre-assigned socket, they signed a scroll with their names and the name of their State or country, and then they walked up a ramp out of the central arena.
Finally came the announcement, "Now the earth of Auroville will be put in the urn. Then the urn will be sealed." Michel (Kalya) and Fabienne, Mother's great-grandchildren, approached the urn. Michel carried Auroville earth while Fabienne carried the Auroville flag (the symbol was an open lotus with another lotus in its centre against a background of 'dawn gold'). Then Nolini and his son walked to the urn. He placed the lid over the top and removed the screwed handle. The urn was sealed, the inauguration of Auroville complete.

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