Auroville is, for many, a place of new beginnings. In the old days, the hot and barren plateau where Auroville started was a canvas on which our pioneers could project the Mother’s Dream for a new world. Nowadays, Newcomers shed their old skin and start a new life – leaving behind friends, family, jobs, and possessions to become residents of Auroville. And for those old stalwarts, there is the comfortable knowledge that every day is a new beginning. After all, Mother asks us Aurovilians to be ‘the youth that never ages’, to always keep striving for progress.
In this time of year, we tend to be a bit more aware of our daily ability to open a door to the new. Mother spoke of this time as a period in which there is a return to the Light – Christmas is celebrated in the ashram not due to its Christian background, but because “It is this very ancient symbol of the rebirth of the Light that we wish to celebrate here.” (CWM 17, 360)
So in light of this marker of a new beginning, we show you how different people in our community celebrate the change of cycles around this time of year. Who knows, perhaps it can inspire you to try something new in 2021?
The Tibetan Pavilion hosts a yearly prayer ceremony since 1997. Based on the Tibetan Festival of Light, which traditionally takes place in October, Aurovilians come together in a prayer for human unity. Kalsang, who runs the Tibetan Pavilion, adapted this ceremony for Auroville to unite people in the last and first moments of the year. Supported by Tibetan chants, we sit together in candlelight and enjoy a silent moment of togetherness. Some years we have been lucky, and monks would come for live chanting. A beautiful and powerful experience.
The Prayer for Unity at Tibetan Pavilion is open to Guests of Auroville and can be enjoyed from dusk on the 31st of December.
Planting a Tree
In the early days, many Aurovilians were involved in the important work of tree planting, providing shade and improving the soil. Work on the Auroville forests continues and thousands of trees are added to the existing canopy every year.
Today, we often come together to plant a tree to mark a new beginning or help us connect to something from the past. A tree for a newborn baby can mark the growth of the child, while the tree planted for the Mother’s birthday helps us bring her presence into the now. And every tree planted is a gift for the future – as the tree will likely survive us, planting a tree connects us to the vastness of time that is beyond our little life.
Burning the Old and Inviting the New
From ancient Indian traditions, many in Auroville mark a new beginning by letting go of what is past. In Tamil Nadu, we celebrate the harvest festival of Pongal in mid-January. The first day of the festival is called Bhogi Pongal. At sunrise, people burn their old material – clothes, mats, brooms – to make space for the new.
This ancient practice of using fire to invite transformation has rubbed off on Auroville. Around this time of year, celebration of significant dates such as the Winter Solstice and New Year’s often include an element of burning the old. We give to the fire what needs purification.
Do you want to try this at home? The easiest way to do this is to gather with a group of friends and share what it is about the past year that you would like to let go of. Are you in a job that does not leave you feeling inspired? Or do you see yourself repeating habits that do not serve you anymore? Write these things on a piece of paper and burn them in a small fire or even over a candle. Please make sure to keep a bucket of water handy, just in case!
Meditation and Contemplation
The Banyan tree is sacred in India. It is of especial significance to Auroville, as the centre of our town has the Matrimandir next to a huge old Banyan, one of the few trees on site when Aurovilians came to settle here in the 1960s. Mother designated this tree as the centre of Auroville and for many years, people would eat, gather, sleep, and meditate under this powerful tree.
In the evening of the old year, candles and flowers are offered at the Banyan tree from 6-9pm and a meditative space is created for people to gather, enjoy the Banyan tree in the moonlight, and reflect on the year that has passed. It’s a magical moment of silence and community.
For Aurovilians, the Inner Chamber of the Matrimandir is open through the night of the 31st December to January 1st. Many people go to start in the New Year in the energetic centre of our township.
While the Matrimandir is not open to the public, you can create a space for yourself at home to sit in silent concentration when entering the New Year. It sets a powerful intention for the balance, joy, and peace to emerge in your life in 2021.
Dance, Play, Sing!
Last but not least: Get your energy moving and open yourself for a celebration of the new! This year COVID-19 has taken us all down a notch – but there is always some space to celebrate.
Aurovilians like to dance and play a little bit off the beaten track. Increasingly, people from outside come to ‘crash’ events in Auroville and though we welcome people throughout the year, we also need our community space! Because of that, Auroville gatherings will be a bit hush-hush and hidden. Fortunately, there are also great events specifically open to people from outside.
For welcoming 2021, the African Pavilion is hosting a dinner and drum circle with live music and dance. We do our best to party clean – no intoxicants allowed, so it’s a community-friendly environment. If you are around Auroville, come have a look and welcome the new year with us!