Damodaran Harikrishna, who hails from the village of Kuilapalayam, is one of the first Tamil men who helped to build a bridge between Aurovilians and the local population. Today, he is over 60 years old. Some of his children are active members of the Auroville community. February 28th, 1968 is a day that stands out in his memory.
“There was a festive atmosphere that day. A huge crowd came in buses from Pondicherry. The entire village of Kuliapalayam was there and everyone from the other surrounding villages – Edayanchavadi and Kottakarai. People came from all parts of India and from over 120 other countries. They brought earth from their lands; it was mingled together in the urn. This was to be a universal city meant for all human beings. It was Mother’s vision, and what a noble concept it was! To work together in unity, in honesty, and selflessly for all.”
When the day came, it was a huge effort of coordination. Kalya Lemaire, Mother’s great grandson, was also present, and especially remembers the scale of the event. He was given the task of pouring some Auroville earth into the urn.
“I can’t recall the exact number but I have 7000 people in mind (5000 is the official number usually quoted). The Amphitheatre site was totally surrounded by the huge crowd, many of whom had come from the surrounding villages. And of course everyone from the Ashram was there, particularly those involved directly in the Auroville project at the time. The Auroville Charter was read in many languages, starting with the Mother reading it first in French from her room in the Ashram, via a temporary telephone line connecting her room to the speakers on site. That was impressive. The overall feeling of that day was that it was very impressive, very well organized. We felt we were really announcing something big, though immediately after the ceremony it felt like quite a come-down. So much had been planned and happened, but now… what?!”
Fabienne Bernard, who is Mother’s great granddaughter, was also present at the time. She carried the Auroville flag during the inauguration.
“I must say the most important memory for me is that we were all tremendously, intensely and quietly happy, and that happiness came from the deep feeling that somehow we were in the right place at the right time with the right persons, participating in a formidable and wonderful event that certainly would help bring more joy, beauty and friendliness to the word. Now that might seem a little superlative but that is because it was superlative. We were blessed with superlative happiness… it was as if Her dynamic and joyful Presence was everywhere, covering the whole event, in all its details, like an atmosphere enveloping with us the Ashram, the whole town of Pondicherry and the whole area of Auroville. There was a tremendous enthusiasm, dynamism and joy… a joy of being there.”
Would you like to know more about the inauguration of Auroville? There is a beautiful collection of pictures and stories published by Auroville’s publishing house, Prisma. Have a look here.