People have been dreaming about finding, or creating, Utopia for ages. Ashley Walters travels to India, to the community of Auroville, to see how its utopian ideals have been realized, and sometimes compromised, in this age-old quest.
The longing for an ideal community is as old as civilization. Who hasn't felt that there has to be a better way to live out there, somewhere? It's precisely this longing that inspired Ashley Walters to go to Auroville.
It's a community in the south of India, established in 1968. It was founded on the principles of human unity and spiritual transformation. That all may sound like something straight out of the Age of Aquarius, but it's these ideals which sustain the 2,000 plus residents who call Auroville home.
Not that it doesn't have its problems: people don't show up for housing meetings when there's a housing crisis going on. Some residents live near the poverty level. While other more well-off ones maintain manicured properties homes in a rather upscale neighbourhood. And the mainly Western inhabitants have an economically and socially conflicted relationship with the poor Tamil villagers from the surrounding area, many of whom do the menial work of the community.
But as one resident says:
There are actually people here who are quite willing and happy to have a low standard of living because their fulfillment comes from other areas. Like having the time one needs for one's activities, instead of constantly being in the pursuit of money. Working at jobs that one loves, rather than, again, [just] making money."
Maybe it's the striving after perfection, and not the attainment of it that keeps Auroville going. And for those who live there, it looks like that's more than enough.Auroville Image Gallery (photographs by Ashley Walters)