The Ashram is located right next to the bay of bengal in the eastern part of Pondicherry, a small city and a union territory of modern India. Pondicherry was a french colony before india regained its political freedom in 1947. It is located 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu state and a major city in the southern India. To get a better idea of the geographic location of the Ashram, take a look at the following maps.
If you have a notion of an isolated compound far from people and society, set in the midst of trees or a forest and such natural beauty, you are mistaken. It is located in a bustling city of a quarter million people and is very much connected with the busy part of the city. Although there is a concentrated cluster of buildings of the Ashram in a small area surrounding the Ashram main building, many of the Ashram's buildings, departments and guest houses are spread over in the eastern part of the city and some of its properties, farms and gardens are located in the outskirts. The Ashram main building mostly referred to as simply "the Ashram" is the focus of the community life. The Ashram main building consists of an interconnected block of houses, including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother dwelt for most of their lives. At its centre under a tree-shaded courtyard lies the Samadhi, a white-marble shrine where their bodies are laid to rest.
|1 January||New Year's day|
|21 February||The Mother's birthday (Darshan day)|
|24 April||The Mother's final arrival in Pondicherry (Darshan day)|
|15 August||Sri Aurobindo's birthday (Darshan day)|
|17 November||The Mother's Mahasamadhi|
|20 November||The Mother's body laid to rest|
|24 November||Siddhi Day (Darshan day)|
|1 & 2 December||Anniversary of the Ashram School|
|5 December||Sri Aurobindo's Mahasamadhi|
|9 December||Sri Aurobindo's body laid to rest|
India is a tropical country and can be very hot for a westerner even in the winter time. Although there are places in india ranging from moderate to cool climates, most of india, particularly the southern india and our destination "Pondicherry" can be considered to be very hot for a typical westerner. Given that, the best time to make a trip to Pondicherry for a westerner would be the winter, any time between November and February.
Also the period between November and March is the most eventful and the busiest time in the Ashram as 90% of the important days for the Ashram fall in this period.
The other busy period is in August, because of Sri Aurobindo's birthday on the 15th of August.
If you are not concerned about the climate and prefer to avoid the crowds, then a good time for you to visit the Ashram can be March - July or September - October.
If you want to see Mother's room, you have no choice but to go on Nov 17 or Feb 21. If you want to see Sri Aurobindo's room, you can go on any of the darshan days or on your birthday. The April 24th, day of Mother's final return to Pondicherry is considered to be the least crowded darshan day.
Well, if it was 1900's, you would have gone by a boat across the indian ocean and/or bay of bengal just like Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Today, you can fly to Madras (Chennai is the new name for Madras) on one of the several airlines. Consult your travel agent, he or she will be able to help you. If your first destination in India is elsewhere, then you can fly to Madras by one of the several local airlines in india. Most travel agents can also do the reservations for travel within india. Alternatively you can also take a train to Madras. Train journey to Madras usually ranges from 12 - 36 hours depending on where you are in India. But, airline travel is best in terms of time and comfort. If you have to take a train, the first class or second class air-conditioned coaches are recommended for comfort. If you are geographically close to Madras, you can also take a bus. Buses are usually the least comfortable mode of transport in india.
If you reach Madras in the night, it is best to stay there in a hotel overnight and resume in the morning.
Once you are in Madras, you can take a TAXI from the airport or the railway station to go to Pondicherry. You can also make a reservation with the Ashram Autocare Services department well ahead of time and have them pick you up either at the airport, hotel or railway station. Using the autocare TAXI is not only safest but also cheaper than hiring a TAXI from Madras. You can make a reservation with autocare by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (01191-413-2238026) or phone (01191-413-2238773 or 01191-413-2238437 or 01191-413-2238638). [Phone number are for dialing from the US]. Alternatively, you can take a bus also, from one of the several bus services in Madras. One among them that is well known is the TTC (Tiruvalluvar Transport Corporation). Taking a bus is less comfortable and inconvenient if you have lot of luggage, but is the cheapest mode of transport between Madras and Pondicherry. It costs less than a dollar by bus.
One of the things you should be aware of is the pollution in the cities of india. Dust and the exhaust fumes coming from the vehicles can cause asthma or bronchitis. If you have a pollution mask, that is the best to carry with you or at least a hand kerchief to block your nostrils when the fumes come at you.
The road from Madras to Pondy is bumpy within the city of Madras and in Pondicherry, but is somewhat okay once you are on the highway.
Also, there are a few vegetarian restaurants on the way. It is a common practice for the TAXI drivers to stop by for lunch or breakfast. You perhaps should avoid eating there though, especially if you have never lived in India before, since your immune system is very likely not yet ready for the indian hygienic conditions. You should also avoid drinking any water other than the distilled water or mineral water that is commonly available in the airport and most places outside including the restaurants. Even the local people in India some times use mineral water.
Auroville has a transport service which will do online booking of a Chennai/Madras airport pickup/drop, a Pondicherry trip, a local transport or make arrangements for a south India tour.
There are a number of Ashram-run guest houses and Ashram-related guest houses where visitors can stay. If you are a visitor from abroad (which is the case most likely, if you are currently browsing this site), there is less choice as you will need to be registered in the foreign registration office and only few guest houses do that. The following guest houses are currently equipped to do that.
During the busy days of the Ashram, you may not be able to get a place in a guest house. But dont despair. There are a few decent hotels nearby where you can stay. But make sure to reserve early enough, because even the hotels tend to be occupied during the busy seasons. The following hotels are recommended.
TTC Express Bus Service
TPTC General Bus Service
As early as possible. There are several components for your trip. The first one is your airline reservations. This you should plan on doing at least a couple of months before. The second is your TAXI reservation with autocare services, if you choose to do so. You are advised to make a reservation with them at least a couple weeks ahead of your arrival date. The third is your accommodation. Depending on the season, the availability of space in the Ashram guest houses varies. If you are planning on going there during Nov-Mar or in August, you are recommended to make a reservation a couple of months before. If you cannot make a reservation in an Ashram guest house, you can stay in one of the nearby hotels.
If you go to any of the health departments, the immunization section will recommend you what shots and pills to take for India as a preventive measure. Not all people do this. But there is no harm in taking this measure.
For the first few weeks, it is better not to drink water or take food anywhere else than in the Ashram dining hall. If you are on the road, keep a mineral water bottle with you. After the body develops immunity, you can venture eating outside.
If ever you fall sick, first thing to do is to contact the Ashram dispensary located not very far from the Ashram main building. They help in whatever way they can and may some times refer you to a local hospital. There are a few nice hospitals in the city of Pondicherry.
There are not many guidelines as far as the behaviour is concerned, except the four rules posted on the Ashram notice boards. No smoking, no alcohol, no sex and no politics. You can wear any kind of dress. Most people find shorts and short-sleeved shirts comfortable for the pondy weather. Most ashramites are very approachable, especially when you have genuine things to discuss. But during the busy seasons, it is advisable not to bother them.
If you stay close to the Ashram, you can manage by walking. But if you are far off, then you need a bicycle or a moped. Some guest houses rent bicycles, mopeds and scooters. Otherwise, you can also rent them in the local market.
When you are admitted into a guest house they normally give you the Ashram pass needed for attending Ashram activities like collective meditation at the play ground, etc. The other thing you need is the dining room pass. Guest house managers issue daily or weekly passes. If you could not get space in a guest house and had to stay in a hotel, the bureau central office can help you with both the Ashram pass and the dining room passes.
Visit to the Samadhi
You can go to the samadhi for pranam and quiet meditation any time during the day. The Ashram gate opens at 4.30 am in the morning and closes at 11.00 pm in the night. Any time during the day, you will see a number of devotees offering pranams or meditating around the samadhi. There is also a meditation hall next to the samadhi area where you can meditate.
There is a collective meditation around the samadhi from 7.25 pm to 7.50 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. This is open to every one. No pass is required.
On Thursdays and Sundays, the collective meditation is in the Ashram play ground from 7.45 pm to 8.15 pm. This is open only to the ashramites and the visitors who stay in the Ashram guest houses. A pass given by the guest house is required to be shown at the gate.
Exhibition and Video programmes at Bureau Central
The exhibition is an introduction to the life and yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother through their own writings. It also offers a glimpse into the Ashram and its activities.
Everyday, except on sundays, there is a video presentation on one of the several topics. There exist several video cassettes produced by the Ashram on the life and work of Sri Aurobindo, Mother, Ashram, flowers and their significance, etc. One of these is played everyday for the visitors.
The Ashram autocare services runs two tours every week day. At 8.15 am, on weekdays, to see Ashram and Ashram-related departments and at 2.30 pm, daily, to visit Auroville (Matrimandir). The Auroville trip does not wait for the meditation (5 to 6pm ). Those interested in going for the meditation should arrange for their own transport to go there. Please note that they generally do not allow a person to meditate unless he has visited earlier.
The Country Code for India is 91.
The Area Code for Pondicherry is 0413.
When dialing from outside India, the zero in the area code needs to be omitted.
For example, from the US, dial 01191-413 followed by the local number.
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Last modified on 11 Nov 2002