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Auroville Experience

November 2008


Utopia in action

- Carel

The reaffirmation of the relationship between Auroville and UNESCO was a moving experience.

“Auroville doesn't belong to us Aurovilians.” This was one of the strong insights that came to me while listening to delegates from UNESCO, the Indian Government and Auroville in the immensely large conference room of UNESCO House. The Auroville Charter says it, of course, in that famous first line: Auroville belongs to nobody in particular but to humanity as a whole. The UNESCO event showed that ‘the eyes of humanity as a whole' are looking at Auroville and that our work is of a larger relevance than we usually assume.

The event was held in the best hall of UNESCO. The people at UNESCO did not know how many would attend. More than 400 would have meant a ‘mega-success'. In fact, 700 attended the event, and over a 1,000 came to the evening's musical performance by Nadaka and his friends.

The speeches of Mr. Matsuura, Mr. Yaï and Mrs. Rivière did more than just explain the relationship between UNESCO and Auroville. They underlined the need in the world for experiments like Auroville – a need for ‘utopias in action', as Mrs. Rivière called Auroville. Mr. Yaï cited examples of African attempts at utopias that failed, but which, he said, are of importance as they are powerful symbols. Doubtless, Auroville is another such symbol, and if it has succeeded so far, it is because its aims are higher and deeper than those of other utopias and because there is that powerful support from behind.

A spontaneous gesture after Uma’s talkThat was the second experience – of the Presence. This became almost palpable when Uma spoke directly from the heart, in a pin-drop silence, about her work inside and outside Auroville. The speeches of the other Aurovilians were no less inspired. “We are sitting in UNESCO discussing concepts. These people are doing it,” said Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan afterwards. Yet, no Aurovilian expressed pride in Auroville's achievements. “We are exploring virgin lands. We cannot wish to pretend to be something we are not,” replied Jean-Yves in an honest answer during the question and answer session. It drew strong applause.

The concert of The Nadaka Group drew even more people than the Round Table. At the end, the public gave them a standing ovation. But was it only for Nadaka's group? A long-time functionary at UNESCO, Antonella Verdiani, thought otherwise. “The ovation was addressed to Nadaka and all the musicians, but also, I sensed, to Auroville as a unique, living experience for Human Unity in the world.”

Many individuals had worked behind the scenes to bring this event to fruition. We discovered ‘Aurovilians at heart' inside the UNESCO staff and the staff of the Indian Delegation who worked tirelessly and inventively for the success of the event. Some had visited Auroville in the past and retained good memories of the experience. Members of Auroville International France played an essential role, not only in organizing the event, but also in helping out with accommodation and finances for the cash-strapped Auroville representatives.

In a corridor we met the ambassador of Laos who recalled his visit to Auroville many years ago and spontaneously invited the Auroville delegation to a dinner at UNESCO that evening – a dinner where each Asian-Pacific country-member of UNESCO brought two dishes of his or her country.

Auroville was all over Paris that week. There was a strong feeling of brotherhood among all; everything was going smoothly as if the success of the various Auroville events had been decided in advance.
A very good article , Auroville – laboratory of utopias in India appeared in the French edition of this month's National Geographic, and copies were made available to all the senior members in UNESCO. At the Salon Zen, Auroville International France organized a stand highlighting the work of the Auroville unit Aquadyn, which specialises in manufacturing water dynamisation machines. The Upasana team participated in the ‘Ethical Fashion Show'. Auroville International took the opportunity to have a meeting in Paris .

Uma participating in the Ethical Fashion Show in Paris to which Upasana was invited for its work with the Varanasi weavers.


The weather too was unexpectedly beautiful.

So was it really a coincidence when three Auroville delegates, boarding at different stations met each other in exactly the same compartment in the Parisian metro?! There definitely was a ‘Smile' in the air.


Photos by Giorgio

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