One of the most striking things about Auroville for first time visitors are the constant references and shrines to a french woman called ‘The Mother’. The Mother devised and instigated Auroville, as well as having a nearby Ashram. The Mother decreed that there should be no religion in Auroville, which is really odd as everyone talks about The Mother as a divine being in human incarnation and there are shrines to her absolutely everywhere. When anyone talks about ‘The Mother’, it is always in a respectful and religious tone. This can make Auroville really seem like a cult at first, but there are many people who have a more down to earth view of it all.
In a previous post, I touched on the fact that the Matrimandir is guarded to ensure peace and serenity. This is why I loved taking the photo above, which summed it up for me!
I got permission from the media outreach team here to photograph the Banyan tree by the Matrimandir which is usually out of bounds for photographers. So I turned up with an escort to photograph the people who meditate there and rapidly regretted this plan. Never in my time as a photographer have I encountered such hate, anger and aggression while on a job. First from the security people, then from Aurovilians. Bearing in mind that I usually photograph pop and rock stars with a lot of security, this took some doing. This was not because I was bothering anybody, but because ‘The sign says no photography’! Unbelievable, as this is where everybody is supposed to meditate and become enlightened and loving. Even when the official media representative explained, people would not calm down. Auroville is supposed to be a place with no rules, so it would seem that they really go over the top in protecting the few rules they do have to the point of mindlessness.