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6 Offbeat Things to Do in Auroville

Auroville and Pondicherry are rapidly rising in the charts of popular travel destinations amongst the Indian youth. This could possibly be a result of the outrageous ‘French connection’ propaganda of the Pondicherry Tourism board, and the never-ending barrage of pictures taken in front of the same bright-yellow walls of famous buildings in the French quarter. Having said that, the travellers coming to Pondicherry are gradually beginning to recognise the cultural value of these parts, not all of which is necessarily limited to the French quarter. During my time in Pondicherry, the one place that really fascinated me was Auroville – its vast expanse, the peculiar guiding lifestyle of the community, and the other-worldly vibe of the place really captures your attention. The sheer variety of things to do inside Auroville makes it an ideal  foil for cultural and experiential travel.

What is Auroville? Want to know more about it? Perhaps you should begin with my introductory post to Auroville [Read: Auroville – A Hippie Paradise, or a Place Ahead of It’s Time?]. If you’ve already done that, you can dive right into my top picks for the most enriching things to do in Auroville.

Offbeat Things to do in Auroville:

Engage in a host of Workshops or Volunteer Positions

Auroville is a hotbed for experiential activities and volunteer tourism. Innovation and sustainability are two big cornerstones of the Auroville community. Naturally, you will always find plenty of volunteer positions to participate in. These might only be open to you if you are on an extended visit (anywhere more than 3-4 weeks). If you’re on a short weekend or week-long trip, you should be able to find yourself plenty of workshops to pick from. For more information, please visit the Auroville Visitor Centre, or the Auroville Learning website. Please note though, most volunteer positions ask for a minimum commitment of at least one month. To me, that’s more of a pro than a con, because that ensures you have enough time to explore Auroville to its fullest.

Swimming Classes with Ruslan – at Veerampattinam or Auro Beach

I was fortunate to have a few swimming lessons with Ruslan, his wife (I forget her name), and their tiny little daughter, Maya. Ruslan and his family have been in Auroville for years. They run swimming classes for locals and tourists in a shallow harbour alongside Veerampattinam Beach. If you’re in Auroville or Pondi for a period of time, you should consider swimming classes with him. Once you are comfortable swimming, you can also consider diving and surfing along the coast – I’ve friends who can help you out with both. Please feel free to drop me a note for contact details. You can find Ruslan at Auroswim.

Arrange a visit to Solitude Farm

Solitude farm is one of many Auroville units. Solitude was started in 1996 by a bunch of young Aurovillians, aiming to create a self-sustaining farming community. Based on the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka – the celebrated Japanese farmer, best known for his book, The One Straw Revolution, Solitude attempts to bring together permaculture and natural farming techniques. Spread across a 6 acre plot, the farm is an example in alternative farming. It offers volunteer opportunities around the year – you can help with farming chores or running the organic Solitude Cafe. If volunteering isn’t really your interest area, you could still arrange a visit to the farm; meet some of the resident members and appreciate some of their revolutionary farming techniques.

Try Your Hand at Kalaripayattu or Just Witness a Choreographed Performance

Kalaripayattu is an extraordinary form of ancient martial art, which originated in Kerala. It is believed to have inspired several other modern forms of martial arts, such as kung-fu and taekwando. Its rigorous, intensive practice is believed to have extraordinary health benefits like improved body-strength and vitality. Kalarigram, the Kalari school on the outskirts of Auroville is run by Lakshamanan Guruji and his students. If you have the time, discipline and endurance to practise Kalari, I’d strongly recommend you give it a shot. I’ve personally seen people transform out of life-threatening situations through sincere practise of Kalari; but if you think that’s not quite your thing, feel free to join a group and watch one of the choreographed, preset performances they periodically announce, for the benefit of visitors and travellers. Here’s a small sneak-peak into what I saw:

Watch Performances at the Adishakti Theatre

Adjoining the Kalari school, is the fine estate kept and run by a theatre group formerly of Mumbai – Adishakti Laboratory of Theatre Arts & Research. I think I was quite fortunate that the company I worked with in Pondicherry, were close associates of Adishakti. We helped the theatre group promote an annual festival they host in honour of their late founder, and celebrated theatre veteran – Veenapani Chawla. Over the course of those 3-4 days, I really felt taken by the vibe and atmosphere of the place. I used to be involved in theatre groups at an earlier stage of my life, and I have fond memories of the stage in general. With Adishakti, I could sense right away that there was something interesting. In many ways, they are an experimental, research based group, and this shows in many of their productions. It was a joy to listen their leader, as he gave us a short introduction in how many of their practices are rooted deep within the principles of Kalaripayattu.

Feast on the wide Variety of Cuisines

No ‘things to do in Auroville’ post can be considered complete without addressing its food culture. The cosmopolitan nature of the Auroville community means a mouth-watering variety of cuisines to pick from. Have you heard of the extraordinary Solar Kitchen? The Auroville Dining Hall, where you’ll find several residents and volunteers convening for lunch on a daily basis, serves food cooked using steam from a massive Solar Bowl. They serve close to 1000 daily lunches, and a meal, which is quite an extraordinary number if you think about it. Go here for the experience and the story, just as much as for a meal.

Then there’s the excellent Well Cafe, which serves delightful Israeli food. I met this amazing Chilean couple that was working and performing music on evenings at the cafe, that just added to the entire experience. Well Cafe’s generally a very good place to meet new people. If you’re not in the mood for experimenting too much, there’s always the excellent Tanto’s Pizzeria, which serves great pizzas. As a parting note, don’t forget to try out the excellent Auroville Bakery for breakfast – they make some of the best muffins and croissants I’ve ever had the privilege to taste in these parts.

Things to Do in Auroville

Stop by at Boulangerie/Auroville Bakery in the morning for muffins crafted by the hand of God!. Courtesy – The Hindu

Yoga and Meditation

Integral Yoga and Meditation are a huge part of what Auroville stands for. Several of its residents, and particularly those that have come here in a quest to satisfy their spiritual yearnings will regularly talk about Integral Yoga in regular conversation. The peace and serenity of Auroville offers a great backdrop to explore Yoga. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the patience to really commit to it, but I mean to come back one day to give it a real shot. I’ve heard so many people describe the transformation it brought about in them. It has simply become one of those things I have to try once in my life. If you want to give Yoga a shot, very few places in the world will offer a better environment than Auroville. If you want to learn more or take some classes on how to practice Integral Yoga, Savitri Bhavan is the place to go. It offers regular classes and workshops to assist your spiritual discovery.

Savitri Bhavan, Auroville

Many will tell you that Auroville is a peculiar place, and by all means, I’d agree; it’s different, it’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s a genuine break from the only way of life most of us have been exposed to. There is a lot happening here, just below the surface, and you can bet on making new discoveries every day. There’s also a lot of cultural/social events happening around different parts of Auroville all year round. Many of these encourage and promote alternative talent. These are events where you’ll get to see things and art-forms that you’ll see in few other parts of the world, so make sure to attend as many as you can. As always, remember to mingle with locals, see with open eyes, hear with open ears, and most importantly, feel with an open mind, and I can promise, this will be a journey of some discovery.

Things to do in Auroville

I forget the name of this event, but was one of my best evenings in Auroville for sure 🙂

Things to Do in Auroville

I tried my hand at this – how well do you think I fared/failed? HA!

If you’ve been to Auroville, I’m curious to know your experience. If you want to add on to this list of things to do in Auroville, I’d love to know. If you want to go to Auroville, do not hesitate to contact me with questions. I know some amazing people who live there, and can help you connect with the right people to enrich your experience.

Also Read:

Pondicherry: First Impressions

5 Best Road Trip Routes in India

Blogger of the Month – Julie Berron

30 comments

  1. Auroville definitely does not sound Indian! But it does sounds like a very interesting place to visit. I think I would enjoy the theatre performances very much.

  2. Very cool!

    Pondicherry I’ve heard plenty of, but Auroville, this is a first for me! 🙂

  3. The solitude farm looks interesting. These seem like pretty normal activities, are they really considered so offbeat in India?

    • mm

      I’d say this is new stuff for Indian travelers. It’s slowly changing, but it’s still quite new. Most of us do not relate things like these with tourism or traveling (at least in a traditional sense); but like I said, there’s a new wave of young (and some old) travelers in the country that is beginning to see the appeal of experiential/cultural travel! Exciting times!

  4. I have been to Auroville.. awesome place it is.. loved it

  5. Woah thats a lot of things to do at Auroville. We have not been to Pondicherry yet but if we do will definitely visit Auroville and try our hand at farming and would love to watch the sword performances. And we are intrigued by the community you mentioned in your previous post. Would love to visit them too.

    • mm

      Whenever you do, please feel free to drop me a note. I know a few people that I’d love for you to meet. They will enrich your experience in those areas exponentially 🙂

  6. I love the picture from the bakery it looks so welcoming! I am sure you had great fun with the slack line – did you find it difficult at first? I tried it a couple of times but still need some help from my partner to balance on the line!

    • mm

      haha! I was ridiculously good at it! It’s probably because I’m quite lean, and have a very low center of gravity, but when I first got on the line, I was pretty sure I’m gonna suck! LOL

  7. It seems there are so many things to do in Auroville! So many cultural things and that you enjoyed your time there. If I had to choose, I’d go for the Yoga and Meditation. I started to medidate the past month, and even tho Yoga had helped a lot, this works magic! So I’d go for it!

    http://tomboychronicle.com/

  8. Wow! Love the variety of things that you can do Auroville. Love the concept behind the Solar Kitchen. Smart way to use available resources.

  9. That is indeed a lot of excitement at Auroville, so much happening. We have been to Pondicherry and Auroville, but unfortunately have not been able to spend much time in Auroville, will make amends next time!

  10. wow, what an interesting place, you are right, it sounds different than the typical. I think i would enjoy it, I do like swimming, sustainability and yoga…

  11. It looks like a trip to Auroville would certainly be one of complete cultural immersion. Great post! Thx for sharing.

  12. I am heading to Auroville in October-November to work as a volunteer in their reforestation program at Sadhana Forest. You know I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this place from people all over the world, whom I have met on my previous travels. I didn’t know they had a beach too 🙂

    Nice informative post and very resourceful.

  13. How coincidental! Going to India this July! We will definitely have Auroville in mind! Checked India’s map already! Hahaha! Thank you!

  14. This seems like a fascinating place to visit! I have never been to India but I am dying to go. I think I would be interested in the theater group because I did a lot of acting when I was younger. And of course I would love to try the food at the Solar Cafe!

  15. OMG! this sounds like an awesome place! I would love to try yoga and meditation! do they have the silent retreat? something similar to the eat pray love?

  16. wow- so many great things to do here! I’d be really interested in the volunteering side of things, so long as it is sustainable! 🙂

  17. Interesting post, have been to Puducherry while I was young. Auroville is somewhat new to me. Solar Kitchen would be my first stop in town.

  18. I love all the activities available in this town. The workshops and cultural activities looks spectacular and all are things my I could really see my kids getting involved in!

  19. Love this! I’m glad I found this post because I’m planning on heading to Auroville in November to volunteer somewhere 🙂

  20. I so wish to reach to Auroville one day! It looks like another, very different part of India!!

  21. Nice write up. I remember going here when I was a child, but not as an adult. I wanted to live here for a month or more, and volunteer here. But I chose to volunteer with Raleigh International instead. But there is always a chance.

    • mm

      Certainly! I’d also say that Budapest is one of the most affordable and fulfilling cities in Europe to live in. If you can find a job or volunteer opportunity, go for it (and let me know if they want one more too! HA)

  22. All this information is really useful. Surely, there were certain places I missed during my trip that I can figure out from this blog but I have added them to my list for my next visit to Pondy.

    I have also shared my experience in my blog – https://bornomadic.com/2017/01/07/solo-trip-to-pondicherry/. Hope you it interests you.

  23. Hi Sanket

    I am planning to visit pondicherry and auroville for a week in september, most probably the first week.
    Would be of great help if you can put me through someone who can help me in arranging my accomodation and an induction sort of trip to auroville.
    It would also be great to catch up with you 🙂

    Thanks
    Saurabh Kalsi
    Musician, Singer, Composer

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