Famous Centres: Aurobindo Ashram & Auroville
Main Attraction: International Festival Of Pondicherry
THE ASHRAM PRESENCE
The ashram culture is all pervading in Pondicherry, within homes
and shops and all over. Largely, through the everywhereness of two
charismatic portraits. One of Sri Aurobindo sometimes pictured as
an earnest young man and more often as a serene sage. The other,
of his spiritual companion is the Mother - sometimes a smiling young
woman, and sometimes a distinguished octogenarian. Moreover, yoga
masters and yoga enthusiasts from across the globe descend onto
Pondicherry for the international Yoga Festival, held here every
year from 4th through 7th January.
Sri Aurobindo began the practice of yoga in 1905 and 5 years later
moved to Pondy from Bengal. And during his 40 years here, he worked
out a new system of mind development, which he called "Integral
Madame Mirra Richard, a French painter-sculptor who had followed
the same path on her own, joined him later. She is now known as
the Mother. Together, in 1926, they founded an ashram where his
belief - "All life is Yoga" - could be put into practice.
The Ashram's buildings are painted no-nonsense pearl grey with white
trim. Most are of French inspiration. Some are exceptionally handsome.
A Place Of Solace
At nighttime, Pondicherrians who believe in Sri Aurobindo's way
of life, wind their way ashramward. Inside, the lights throw a welcome
radiance. Tranquility prevails and over it all, the flower-decked
'samadhi' presides. Men and women meditate with their eyes fixed
on the marble samadhi. Here silence is peach, and flowers and incense
are ways to lead the mind away from workaday shackles.
But during daytime, the ashram bustles with silent queues to see
Aurobindo's room for meditation or blessings. In fact, the ashram
has now become a mini-township. With a sprawling estate of 120 buildings,
actively involved in education and industry. It even provides guest
house accommodation within the premises.
Some Ashram facilities are not open to visitors. These include the
Sri Aurobindo International Center For Education (with its four
buildings from pre-school to secondary level), the Playground, the
Tennis Ground and the residential apartments including the architecturally
The Library and the Main Building during collective meditation are
accessible to those who have a gate pass obtained from the Bureau
Central and those who are staying in the Ashram's guesthouses. Just
inside the Library's gate is an old statue of Shiva.
There are also production and related sales departments that are
open to the public both in the Ashram and French quarters. Many
of them may be visited by bus tour or individually during their