Auroville`s first years: “Pioneers of dawn”
The beginning years must have been an exciting and also very demanding time. The Mother invited: all men of good will and aspiration and a true and higher call, to come and participate in the building of the township that the world needs. Most of the 5000 people that came for the inauguration had left for their home countries, but a group of a couple of hundred enthusiastic pioneers from about 20 nations responded to the call and started the heroic effort of transformation. My respect and gratitude to these brave first movers.
The first Aurovillians lived in rudimentary huts and survived mostly on millet in the scorchingly hot summers of south India. So the first goal was to create shade and and rejuvenate the arid land. The first trees were planted – an experiment with trial and error to find pioneer trees like acacia and seedlings from the few outlived native trees around.
Banks and dams were built to stop the soil from being washed away with the monsoon rains. Very hard bodily work in an extreme climate.
“It is how the first pioneers became “experts” in enviroment, giving Auroville the reputed expertise it has today” (Claude Arpi)
The first settlements of primitive houses were set up in the greenbelt, water had to be braught by oxcarts and goods essential for survival were bought in Pondycherry on long bicyle rides
The Banyan tree before the Matrimandir was built
There are two touching and beautiful stories related to the very beginning:
When men from the Pondycherry Ashram came to measure the place with the famous banyan tree as a center, there was an old Tamil woman who had taken care off and guarded the tree. She is told to have said: Are you finally coming to built your temple next to the tree?
The second myth is related to the temple of Irrumbai , a neighbouring village:
Years ago a holy man was mistreated there, so he cursed the whole area to become a dry deserted land. When the people apologized to him he was not able to take the curse back but attenuated it, by saying there would be a time when strangers would come and heal and regreen the land. So the Aurovillians were welcomed by the Irrumbai population and there is a ceremony and celebration at that temple every year to keep the tale alive.
*All images in this blogpost belong to and are under copyright of Auroville and its archives
Please find more about the history here: https://www.auroville.org/contents/95
The following trailer to a film by Cosima Lange gives a very nice overview: