FAQs for Media & Press

Frequently Asked Questions

About Auroville
  • What is Auroville?
    Founded in 1968 in Tamil Nadu, India, Auroville is the world’s oldest international “conscious city”, celebrated by global leaders and organisations such as the United Nations for its rich diversity, unique structure, and groundbreaking experiments and achievements in sustainability and research in social living structures. Home to more than 3,000 residents from 60 countries, Auroville is the only township in the world built on the vision of renowned Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo and his spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa (the Mother). For more information about Auroville, click here.
  • What is the purpose of Auroville?
    The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.
  • Who founded Auroville?
    Auroville was founded by Mirra Alfassa, also known as the Mother, who was the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, one of India’s most renowned philosophers, yogis, visionaries and freedom fighters. It was founded to realise the ideals of Sri Aurobindo and his “integral yoga” in 1968. The inauguration of Auroville was attended by about 5000 individuals, some of whom were representing the then 124 countries of the world and all Indian states, all of whom endorsed the city’s Charter.
  • What is Auroville’s Charter?
    The Charter is the foundational document describing the vision and values of Auroville. It is available here.
  • Is Auroville an ecovillage?
    No. Auroville is an international “conscious city” – this means that intentional efforts are made to experiment with new ways of living in an urban setting and raise awareness on topics including: equality (social equity), education (serving as a ‘living laboratory’ with all types of training in/around Auroville), ecology (operating countless initiatives and projects around reforestation, water management, etc.), economy (driving circular and local systems), governance (inclusive, communal, participatory), and Quest for purpose and spirituality.
  • Is Auroville really the world’s oldest international conscious city?
    Founded in 1968 with endorsements from UNESCO and the Government of India, Auroville is a unique, intentional, and international city designed and developed with spirituality as its base and sustainability, both environmental and social, in its heart. Other intentional, ecologically-minded communities, such as Sólheimar in Iceland (founded in 1930) and Findhorn in Scotland (founded in 1962), are well-known and much respected ecovillages. However, they lack Auroville’s international population, cultural diversity, and urban design. Unrivalled in these regards by any other intentional community in the world, Auroville is indeed the world’s oldest international conscious city.
  • I have never heard of Auroville before, why?
    Advertising this project is something that the Mother, the founder of Auroville, overtly discouraged. As Auroville seeks to grow at a sustainable rate and through genuine hands-on participation, the community does not call for new residents through mass communication and media. It has stayed generally low-profile as it focuses on its vision to realise human unity. This situation changed 10 years ago, when the city naturally started to become more visible thanks to growing interest and excitement around the projects and results originating in Auroville. Moreover, the emergence of social media made sharing these experiments, and therefore increasing awareness of Auroville, inevitable. Now, with the world facing a global ecological crisis and the shadows of capitalism being exposed, it is to be expected that a project aiming at finding alternatives to the dominant world-systems for over 50 years will come more into the limelight. As Auroville serves humanity as ‘the city the Earth needs’ by leading the way in experiments for alternative living, the community is eager to share its learnings and results with the world for the benefit of both people and the planet.
  • How many people live in Auroville?
    Auroville is home to approximately 3,000 people from over 60 countries. Around half of the population is Indian by nationality. To this, one can add another 2,000 residents consisting of their partners, “newcomers” (people wanting to become Aurovilians), and long-term volunteers. Additionally, Auroville counts up to 10,000 day visitors (in the high season) and 5,000 employees from neighbouring villages per diem.
  • How does one join Auroville?
    As an international city, Auroville is open to all. India is the only country in the world to offer a unique visa for individuals who wish to join a project such as Auroville. Interested participants can apply for this visa and progress through a community-based process towards joining Auroville.
  • Why do people join Auroville?
    Though the decision to join this progressive city may not always be an easy one, Auroville attracts new participants for a diverse range of reasons, with many participants saying they are following a personal ‘inner call’ to participate in the project. Moving to a township where many aspects of social life are still unfinished, and everything you do can be questioned by anyone, is not an easy choice.
  • How is Auroville funded?
    Auroville’s lands and assets have been funded by individuals and international donations for over 50 years, as well as the community’s collective fund for which residents raise money through commercial activities and monthly contributions. Auroville is also the recipient of grants from the Government of India, which equate to about 5 percent of the city’s budget.
  • What are some of Auroville’s achievements?
    Auroville has been a hotspot of green work and social innovation since its inception. Across the sectors of education, agriculture, reforestation, energy, waste management, architecture and community building, Auroville has played an exemplary role in grounding abstract ideals into a unique living laboratory. For a list of achievements, click here.
  • Is Auroville a religious community?
    To become an Aurovilian (an official resident of Auroville), one declares that one has no religion. Instead, one is expected to be “a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness” – which is a force larger than our human self. How to practise this service is up to each individual and there are no prescribed rituals, ceremonies, or priests in Auroville. When the Mother wrote “The Dream,” (her vision of Auroville), she decided that creating a new kind of society had to be done without the potential dogmatic values of an established ashram. Sri Aurobindo emphasised an integral approach to life, combining physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual realms, and he saw a special role for India as a spiritual leader of the world. The famous Auroville Foundation Act as well as a ruling by the Supreme Court of India confirmed once and for all the independent and non-religious status of Auroville. Auroville can therefore be said to have a spiritual mission, but not a religious one.


  • Is Auroville a neocolonial settlement?
    Auroville has taken care to be co-created by Aurovilians (official residents of Auroville) in genuine collaboration with local residents from surrounding communities in the Auroville bioregion. Today, more than half of Auroville residents are Indian nationals from Tamil Nadu and other states, and Auroville’s many development units contribute to sustainable socioeconomic development in the bioregion. Additionally, given the lack of private property in Auroville – with buildings and units governed through a cooperative stewardship system – the city does not encourage personal profit and serves as a direct antithesis to modern dominant (capitalist) systems of ownership.
About Auroville Governance
  • How is Auroville governed?
    Auroville is governed according to the Auroville Foundation Act 1988 passed by the central Government of India. Respecting this Act, within Auroville, various groups have been experimenting with different approaches to decision-making to try and find governance systems that are as inclusive as possible. One such process is the Residents’ Assembly Decision (see below).


  • What is the Auroville Foundation Act?
    The Auroville Foundation Act was passed by the Government of India in 1988 establishing a legally-protected foundation to oversee the long-term management of Auroville so that it may develop in accordance with its Charter. It established three governing bodies of the Foundation by constituting the Residents’ Assembly, the Auroville International Advisory Council, and the Governing Board (see points below), each with distinct responsibilities allowing them to work in harmony together.


  • What is the Residents’ Assembly?
    The Residents’ Assembly consists of all the residents of Auroville who are of the age of eighteen years and above. These residents are able to participate in the city’s decision-making processes. The Residents’ Assembly is responsible for all decisions related to the day-to-day activities of Auroville. The Residents’ Assembly also advises the Auroville Governing Board and makes proposals for its approval. For more information, see subsection (1) of section 18 of the Auroville Foundation Act.


  • What is a Residents’ Assembly Decision (RAD)?
    A Residents’ Assembly Decision (RAD) is an official resolution passed by the Residents’ Assembly. The residents themselves, or their selected representatives (known as the Working Committee of the Residents’ Assembly), may call for an RAD process. When called by the residents, this is done after having obtained a minimum of 60 signatures for a petition that is then presented to the Residents’ Assembly Service (which organises and facilitates meetings and decisions). In order for a decision to pass, at least 10% of the adult population of Aurovilians need to participate in the RAD process by voting.


  • What is the Working Committee?
    The Working Committee is a council of maximum seven representatives of the Residents’ Assembly selected to represent the interests of the Residents’ Assembly and carry the collective voice of Auroville. With the approval of the Governing Board, the Working Committee may also create organisations, trusts, societies or associations related to Auroville. For more information, see subsection (1) of section 20 of the Auroville Foundation Act.


  • What is the Auroville International Advisory Council?
    The International Advisory Council (IAC) is composed of no more than five individuals devoted to the ideals of human unity, peace, and progress, who work together to support Auroville’s existence on a more global level. These individuals support the vision and development of Auroville by working to ensure that ‘the ideals for which Auroville has been established are encouraged’ and ‘the residents of Auroville are allowed freedom to grow and develop activities and institutions for the fulfilment of the aspirations and programmes envisaged in the said Charter of Auroville’. Their responsibility is advisory only. They are appointed by the UNESCO unit of the Ministry of Education of the Central Government of India. The current (September 2022) members of the IAC are:
    • Ms Dena Merriam, Founder and Coordinator, Global Peace Initiative for Women
    • Ms Gabi Gillessen, President, European Union of Yoga
    • Mr Hasmukh P Rama, Founder Chancellor, AURO University, Surat
    • Mr Michel Danino, Visiting Professor, IIT Gandhinagar
    • Mr David Frawley, American Hindu Scholar

For more information, see subsection (1) of section 21 of the Auroville Foundation Act.


  • What is the Governing Board?
    The role of the Governing Board (GB) is to assist in the implementation of the decisions enacted by the Residents’ Assembly. It consists of not more than seven members, plus two representatives of the Central Government of India, who do not live in Auroville and are recognised for their service to Auroville and alignment with its values and visions. The responsibility of the Governing Board is to oversee the general affairs of the Auroville Foundation. Its main tasks are to promote the ideals of Auroville, review and approve basic policies and programmes, secure the proper management of properties, prepare the master plan, and coordinate fundraising. These tasks are executed in collaboration with the Residents’ Assembly. Its members are nominated by the Ministry of Education of the Central Government of India. The current (September 2022) members of the Governing Board are:
    • Shri R.N. Ravi, Honourable Governor of Tamil Nadu (GB Chairman)
    • Dr Tamilisai Soundarargan, Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry 
    • Dr Nirima Oza, Professor, D/o Oral Pathology, Mahatma Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Dental Services, Puducherry
    • Shri Aravindan Neelakandan, writer and journalist, Tamil Nadu 
    • Prof Goutam Ghosal, Department of English & Other Modern European Languages, Visva-Bharti, Santinikentan, West Bengal
    • Prof RS Sarraju, Former Head of the Department of Hindi and presently Head of Centre for Dalit, Adivasi and Translation Studies, University of Hyberbad
    • Prof Nandana Gurappa Basappa, Department of PG Studies in Political Science, Karnataka University, Dharwad
    • Joint Secretary (ICC), Ministry of Education, Government of India (ex-officio member)
    • Joint Secretary and Finance Advisor, Ministry of Education, Government of India (ex-officio member)

For more information, see subsection (1) of section 11 of the Auroville Foundation Act.


  • What is the role of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation?
    The Secretary of the Auroville Foundation is responsible for day-to-day administration of the Auroville Foundation. The role is appointed by the Central Government of India for a three-year term, and is designed to be largely administrative. The current Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, civil servant Dr Jayanti Ravi, was appointed to the position in July 2021.
About Development in Auroville
  • What is the Master Plan?
    The Master Plan is an adaptation of the ‘Galaxy’ concept, a proposed layout for Auroville developed by Auroville’s chief architect Roger Anger, who collaborated with Auroville’s founder the Mother in the 1960s to develop a plan for Auroville. In December 1999, the Residents’ Assembly approved a Master Plan as a tool to regulate and coordinate the development of Auroville from within, and without (i.e. local bodies). This Master Plan document was then modified by the Auroville planning team of the time, with Urban Advisor Shri. G. Dattari, and the Union Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty. The resulting document called “The Auroville Universal Township Master Plan (perspective 2025)” was presented and approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in April 2001. It provides a policy framework which serves as a guide in the preparation of five-year Development Plans and Annual Plans for implementation.


  • Why has the Master Plan not been fully implemented in the past 20 years?
    A master plan is a policy document to prepare a land use plan and detailed development plans with annual plans, which help guide and enable development. Numerous planning and development papers, documents and studies have been prepared by Auroville experts over the years, on request of the Auroville Planning body and in collaboration with the residents and external consultants. Most of these have not been taken up, presented to the residents, and/or published in the public domain.

    Nevertheless, in Auroville’s 54-year history, the city has developed from a barren plateau incapable of supporting vegetation or agriculture, to a flourishing community characterised by robust infrastructure, biodiversity, and culture. While some may argue that the lack of full implementation of the Master Plan – seen as sacrosanct by some – indicates that Auroville has yet to ‘develop’, the reality of Auroville is a clear illustration of the city’s impressive evolution. Today Auroville is home to numerous public buildings, hundreds of commercial entities, health facilities, nine schools (plus twelve outreach schools), transportation systems, over 20 farms, an ever-growing fauna and flora, between 350 to 750 art and cultural events in 16 locations, etc.

  • Is the development of Auroville “too slow”?
    In India the indicators for development are: human development index (life expectancy at birth, (expected) years of schooling, gross national income per capita); per capita income; and social development index (including education, health, employment/unemployment rates, and gender equality). In this region including the 4 villages that fall within the Master Plan area and the other 7 that are directly linked in terms of geography (political and natural resources), Auroville stands out with high ranking in the district, due to the inclusive model of development followed here so far.

    Development is not roads and buildings; they are an output of it. Development is education, livelihood opportunity, access to health, gender equity, security and land tenure, protection of ecosystem services for sustainable development, and – most of all – capacity building of the people to make informed choices that enables a society to be self-organising, thus building social capital.


  • What is the difference between development and growth?
    Auroville is designed to be ‘the city of the future’ with a purpose of realising human unity: in terms of urban development, this means rethinking what ‘development’ actually means in practice. Growth is quantitative (size, shape, height, weight etc.) while development is qualitative (strength, stamina, efficiency etc.): growth stops with maturity, while development continues throughout life; growth is a step towards the whole process of evolution, while development indicates all types of changes in man.

    Given Auroville’s focus on experimenting with new ways of living in community, it is natural that its growth has also been alternative and experimental in nature. Building a city quickly can be an easy task, but Auroville is no ordinary city, and the community values process over product.

About the Current Crisis
  • What is the current crisis in Auroville?
    Auroville is currently facing a serious and destructive crisis as a result of authoritarian intervention by the new Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, Dr Jayanti Ravi, whose controversial opinion on the speed of Auroville’s development and subsequent takeover of the city’s administrative systems, decision-making processes and finance are threatening the future of this important community. For more information about the crisis, click here.


  • How and when did the current crisis start?
    The current crisis started on 4th December 2021 when – in efforts to finish an element of the city’s Master Plan, a large road, quickly and without due process, including the necessary studies and approval by the Residents’ Assembly – the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation ordered bulldozers to begin uprooting trees which lay in the path of this proposed road. As the community protested this order, their efforts to negotiate with the Secretary were ignored. Over the course of the next two weeks, close to a thousand trees were uprooted and several community buildings destroyed, including an iconic decades-old structure at the Youth Centre and individuals’ homes. Despite Residents’ Assembly Decisions to stop this destruction, and stay orders issued by the India’s National Green Tribunal, the Secretary continued to issue the bulldozing orders, ignoring the community’s legitimate decision-making processes and court rulings (that have been appealed).


  • How many trees and structures have been destroyed since the crisis started?
    Since December 2021, thousands of trees and several built-up structures, including a decades-old communal Youth Centre and a home, have been bulldozed.


  • Is this crisis internal?
    Dr Ravi’s point of view that Auroville’s development has been ‘slow’ has been based on parameters of population growth and infrastructural development estimated in the Perspective Plan 2025. Contrary to Dr Ravi’s allegations, development has taken place, and embodies the values of Auroville. By using her political power as a civil servant to advance her objectives – for example, by bringing a police presence to the bulldozing events – Dr Ravi’s actions pose a threat to the community. They have also spurred violent division within the Auroville community itself as her office created parallel working groups, including an illegitimate Working Committee, to implement her plans. Not only has this move created considerable confusion and undermined the community’s decision-making processes, it has also incited considerable tension among residents, particularly between a small group of Aurovilians supportive of her actions and the wider Auroville community. Overall, given that Dr Ravi’s actions have been ruled to be in violation of the Auroville Foundation Act (as so ordered by the Madras High Court), the crisis has now become a legal conflict with an appeal pending judgement.


  • Why has a small group of Aurovilians joined the Secretary’s hostile takeover campaign?
    Despite Auroville’s vision and values, there are legitimate concerns about life in the city, such as a lack of housing, sluggish internal procedures, and dilution of efforts to find alternatives to money. While experiments for alternative ways of living in Auroville continue, the unfortunate reality is that both creating new systems and deciding things together within a highly multi-various population takes time. A large part of the Auroville experiment is precisely focused on how to navigate both: how to try out new things, find equal caring for all, handle decision-making and practise collective leadership, all with a spirit of human unity at heart. Some residents, frustrated by what they perceive to be ‘slow’ growth in Auroville, have therefore joined Dr Ravi’s campaign, causing serious tension and division between themselves and other residents, who, while in full support of Auroville’s development, are opposed to Dr Ravi’s methods and abuse of power.


  • How has the Secretary intimidated Aurovilians?
    The Secretary’s campaign of intimidation and violence has been both physical, legal, and financial. Physically, her orders to destroy buildings, fell trees, and construct roads have been enforced first by a police presence and then by hired henchmen, which has resulted in injury to protesting Aurovilians and even arrests. She has also ordered the physical takeover of the offices of the Working Committee and other committees constituted by the Residents’ Assembly located in the Auroville Town Hall. Her creation of parallel committees, selected and appointed by her, violates the legally protected governance framework of Auroville (defined in the Auroville Foundation Act). She has also intimidated foreign residents of Auroville, particularly those who do not support her actions, by denying full renewal of their Indian visas (for more information on this click here). Financially, she has sought to withhold the city’s basic income system and seize control of the assets and lands. She is now proceeding to exchanging Auroville land with outside investors, which results in financial losses of dozen Crore rupees (millions of US dollars) to Auroville.


  • How has the Secretary taken over Auroville’s administration?
    Since December 2021, the Secretary has taken control of: the Residents’ Assembly offices in the Auroville town hall, the Auroville website (auroville.org) and official email channels (auroville.org.in), and the internal communication intranet (Auronet). You can read detailed reports at this link


  • How has the Secretary interrupted Auroville’s legitimate governance process?
    Since December 2021, the Secretary has created parallel committees selected and appointed by her to rival the properly selected committees of the Residents’ Assembly, including its Working Committee, and ignored the results of official Residents’ Assembly Decisions. 


  • How has the Secretary silenced the voice of Aurovilians?
    Since December 2021, the Secretary has taken over the Auroville OutreachMedia service to control public communications from and about Auroville, while putting a gag order on the residents’ media representatives. Additionally, her office has taken over the internal email system and Auroville’s intranet and appointed new admins and moderators. Some residents could suddenly not access the intranet and their professional or private inboxes, without warning or reason. Select publications are also regularly removed from the site in an act of censorship. Finally, public dissent for the Secretary’s actions has been met with consequence, with foreign residents being particularly intimidated as recommendations and approvals for visa renewals are delayed or denied. 


  • Has there been any judicial intervention in this crisis?
    Yes, the National Green Tribunal (a special tribunal in India that handles the expeditious disposal of cases pertaining to environmental issues) issued a stay order on 10th December 2021 and then a judgment in April 2022, ordering a stop to the felling of trees, valid until a detailed study and report is made about the environmental impact of these/any developments. This judgement has recently been stayed by the Supreme Court of India. Additionally, the Madras High Court declared in August 2022 that the legitimate decision-making processes of Auroville and its Residents’ Assembly must be respected by the Secretary and the Auroville Foundation. For more information, click here.


  • Why did the Working Committee go to Court?
    Since May 2022, many decisions have been taken by the Office of the Secretary to either remove or appoint members to committees, working groups and services without consulting the Residents’ Assembly or its rightfully appointed groups. This is a serious threat to Auroville’s ways of working and the legal framework of the Auroville Foundation. To prevent a long-lasting damage to the collective functioning, the Working Committee decided to challenge these actions in the Madras High Court.


  • What is the outcome of the Madras High Court judgement?
    In August 2022, the Madras High Court affirmed the structure of the Auroville Foundation Act which defines the three governing bodies must work together in a spirit of cooperation, mutuality, and brotherhood, and – importantly – that no body is above another. It insisted that the Auroville Foundation Act was crafted for the residents of Auroville, and decisions should therefore be taken in consultation with the Residents’ Assembly. It then invalidated orders issued by the Office of the Secretary which ignore, undermine, and invalidate decisions made by the Residents’ Assembly. It recognised and restored the offices of the legitimate Working Committee and the Town Development Council (TDC) selected by the Residents’ Assembly. Finally, it directed the Office of the Secretary to implement the updation of the Register of Residents (RoR, the list of all official residents of Auroville) as soon as possible. Until the RoR is updated, none of the authorities of the Auroville Foundation are empowered to take any policy decisions. This ruling does not affect operational decisions for the daily functioning of Auroville and its committees.


  • Have these rulings been respected by the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation?
    No. Despite the stay order issued in December 2021, the destruction has continued since December. Though the Madras High Court on 12th August 2022 ordered the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation to respect the lawful decision-making processes of Auroville and the Residents’ Assembly, the takeover campaign carried on. These court orders have been appealed at the end of August, and are currently pending judgement.