THE ASHRAM PRESENCE
The ashram culture is all pervading in Pondicherry, within homes and shops and all over. Largely, through the everywhereness of two charismatic portraits. One of Sri Aurobindo sometimes pictured as an earnest young man and more often as a serene sage. The other, of his spiritual companion is the Mother - sometimes a smiling young woman, and sometimes a distinguished octogenarian. Moreover, yoga masters and yoga enthusiasts from across the globe descend onto Pondicherry for the international Yoga Festival, held here every year from 4th through 7th January.
SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM
Sri Aurobindo began the practice of yoga in 1905 and 5 years later moved to Pondy from Bengal. And during his 40 years here, he worked out a new system of mind development, which he called "Integral Yoga".
Madame Mirra Richard, a French painter-sculptor who had followed the same path on her own, joined him later. She is now known as the Mother. Together, in 1926, they founded an ashram where his belief - "All life is Yoga" - could be put into practice.
The Ashram's buildings are painted no-nonsense pearl grey with white trim. Most are of French inspiration. Some are exceptionally handsome.
A Place Of Solace
At nighttime, Pondicherrians who believe in Sri Aurobindo's way of life, wind their way ashramward. Inside, the lights throw a welcome radiance. Tranquility prevails and over it all, the flower-decked 'samadhi' presides. Men and women meditate with their eyes fixed on the marble samadhi. Here silence is peach, and flowers and incense are ways to lead the mind away from workaday shackles.
But during daytime, the ashram bustles with silent queues to see Aurobindo's room for meditation or blessings. In fact, the ashram has now become a mini-township. With a sprawling estate of 120 buildings, actively involved in education and industry. It even provides guest house accommodation within the premises.
Some Ashram facilities are not open to visitors. These include the Sri Aurobindo International Center For Education (with its four buildings from pre-school to secondary level), the Playground, the Tennis Ground and the residential apartments including the architecturally interesting Golconde.
Aurobindo Ashram Facilities:
The Library and the Main Building during collective meditation are accessible to those who have a gate pass obtained from the Bureau Central and those who are staying in the Ashram's guesthouses. Just inside the Library's gate is an old statue of Shiva.
There are also production and related sales departments that are open to the public both in the Ashram and French quarters. Many of them may be visited by bus tour or individually during their working hours.