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February '03

The grandest day of my life

- Tapas Bhatt reminisces

The 'Kolam Pond' specially made for the inauguration

My memories of Auroville go back to the years 1965 or 1966. I was a pupil of the Sri Aurobindo International School in the Ashram. In those years Roger Anger used to visit the Mother to talk about Auroville. Afterwards he would sometimes come to our class and give us big sheets and colour pencils, and ask us to make a drawing of how we imagined the ideal city. That play of my imagination was my first contact with Auroville. I must have been 14 at the time. The stories of Mother's ideal city filled us children with incredible enthusiasm.

Late 1967, beginning of 1968, many ashramites joined forces to build the first roads in Auroville. We went by bus, and sweated it out to make the road from Kuilapalayam to the amphitheatre. One night in Pondicherry I dreamt of that landscape of red earth, yellow sun and blue sky, where I was all alone in silence. Somehow, it was an initiation into Auroville.

From Feb 21st to late in the night of 27th the grounds around the urn and the Banyan tree were prepared. Buses took us every day early morning and we would return late evening. My job was to decorate with kolams the bottom of a big pond, a job that was done together with some village women and Roger Anger. Once the paint had dried, water was put into the pond.

When I came home on the 27th, very tired and covered with red earth, my father told me that Tanmaya, a teacher from the school, had left a message that the next day I was going to participate in the ceremony, representing Syria.

February 28th. We left at 5 a.m. There was a fleet of more than 50 buses waiting for all the delegates and us children near the Ganesh temple in Pondicherry. We boarded, and then started what is probably the grandest day of my life. The buses went to Jipmer hospital, from there passing Auro-Orchard and Hope to Edayanchavadi and then to the amphitheatre. Right from Jipmer, through the Edayanvadi village all up to the urn, crowds were cheering on both sides of the road. When we arrived, we were seated under the canopies set up all around the amphitheatre.

Pathways were planned out, and then a boy and a girl representing each country would walk up the pathway to the urn, carrying a plackard with the name of that country, and deposit the earth of the country into the urn, while the Charter was read out in that country's language. If there was no earth available, we put salt. Mother had selected Ashram children to represent those countries from which there were no official representatives. There was a very powerful atmosphere, especially when we heard the direct broadcast of Mother reading her message from her room in the Ashram. The entire amphitheatre, full of people, fell silent. There was the red earth, the hot sun, the blue sky, and the buses and people were like little ants in a new cosmos. It was a surrealistic image with a very special atmosphere: a joining of a strong human aspiration that Auroville is going to be a grand dream to work for. And there was an incredible feeling of togetherness - people from all different parts of the world joining in that aspiration.

When we had done our bit, there was a big exhibition around the Banyan tree. There were big blocks of circular concrete for sitting, and everybody was having a good time. Photos were taken and then somebody discovered an image of The Mother in the Banyan tree. While she was reading her Message from her room in the Ashram, she was also present at Auroville.

Then we went back by bus to Pondicherry. There was a big function in the garden of the office of the Sri Aurobindo Society. There was a question and answer session with all the delegates, a lively interaction, which kept us together for a day or two longer.

That ceremony had changed something in me. In the months and years that followed, I kept coming to Auroville, by bus or cycle, for doing some digging or some other work. I wouldn't lose a single opportunity to come. My classmates were equally enthusiastic. For us it was a sense of picnic. Between 1968 and 1977, when I finally moved here, we would often come on Saturdays, doing night duty at the Matrimandir.


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