The most New Age place anywhere in India must surely be Auroville, the planned “City of Dawn”, 10km north of Pudicherry, straddling the border of the Union Territory and Tamil Nadu. Founded in 1968, Auroville was inspired by “The Mother”, the spiritual successor of Sri Aurobindo. Around 1700 people live in communes (two thirds of them non-Indians), with such names as Fertile, Certitude, Sincerity, Revelation and Transformation, in what it is hoped will eventually be an ideal city for a population of fifty thousand. Architecturally experimental buildings, combining modern Western and traditional Indian elements, are set in a rural landscape of narrow lanes, deep red earth and lush greenery. Income is derived from agriculture, handicrafts, alternative technology, educational and development projects and Aurolec, a computer software company.

Considering how little there is to see here, Auroville attracts a disproportionately large number of day-trippers – much to the chagrin of its inhabitants, who rightly point out that you can only get a sense of what the settlement is all about if you stay a while. Interested visitors are welcomed as paying guests in most of the communes, where you can work alongside permanent residents.

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