If there was such a thing as a soul place, like a soul mate, a place that was made for you, a place that took you closer to who you were meant to be. A place that you felt you have to return to, on the first visit, then Pondicherry would be mine.
To say that I was consumed in all entirety by this place would be an understatement.
Here are ten of my favourite things from this trip to Pondicherry.
One of the famous tourist places in Pondicherry is Auroville. To try to summarize what Auroville is in one sentence is a task I find unpalatable. Many things on my list are from my experiences at Auroville.
1. Giving back to the Earth at Sadhana Forest
Of all the places I saw, the place that moved me the most was Sadhana forest. Watching the people go about their daily activities made me realize, rather shamefully how little we really need to survive and how much we are harming Mother Earth in ignorance of our activities.
As i entered the forest, we were taken to the main hut which was built entirely by natural materials. The fifteen minutes that we spent there filled me with awe and seeing the Rozin family with their two daughters playing and looking absolutely at home though almost 50 strangers were sitting in their version of a living room was touching.
Like the Aurovilleans, there is no sense of “this is mine” in Sadhana forest as well. Volunteers from all over the world come and work here for different durations and live together. You will often find volunteers cycling around and going about their lives as if nothing they are part of is extraordinary. Truth is, the whole place is just that. Extraordinary.
The toilet ways of the forest are one of the many water and energy conservation methods followed by them and fascinated me!
The mud pools where the volunteers often swam in amidst water snakes and scorpions were beautiful. The hot sun shining over our heads made me want to jump in right away!
The one thing I am taking away from this place is a renewed value for water. The next time I wash my hands or take a shower, I will remember opening the tap to only a trickle so as to use the water more efficiently.
Read in detail about Sadhana Forest here.
2. Making Agarbattis at Mereville Trust
I love fragrances in any shape and form and our traditional agarbattis or incense sticks are just one of the many ways to incorporate exotic aromas into our lives.
Siting down on my haunches with the local women and learning to roll agarbattis with them was an experience that stimulated all my senses. The soft and doughy feel of the clay tickled my skin and the wrist work required to roll thin and even sticks took a while to grasp.
I managed to roll half a dozen decent sticks and was filled with such a sense of accomplishment. For two days after, my palms were still fragrant from the clay.
3. Making Musical Instruments at Svaram
I never thought possible to hear such music from all natural instruments.
It was a pleasure making these musical instruments using seeds. On the left is a key-chain bell made from elephant foot seed and on the right is a rattle made from oleander seeds.
After all the hard work of making the instruments, we were treated to a drumming performance by the Svaram team which had our feet tapping.
4. Seeing the Sunrise and Sunset at The Promenade
I love the sea. The sound of the waves and the salty, wet breeze lifts my spirits like no other. Close to the place we were putting up was the Promenade which reminded me of Marine Drive in Mumbai but was so much more serene and beautiful. On most days there, we managed to catch the sunrise and it just started the day on the right note.
Each time as I left from there, there were tiny droplets of the sea on my glasses and speckles of joy in my heart.
5. Learning the Oyilattam Dance at Dakshinachitra
(Oyilattam meaning dance of grace is a Tamil folk dance. It was traditionally a dance where a few men would stand in a row and perform rhythmic steps to the musical accompaniment and the performers have coloured handkerchiefs tied to their fingers and wear ankle bells. Mainly Oyilattam is performed at village festivals. )
A rather spirited old gentleman taught us the oyilattam dance and the hour we spent swaying to his drumming was the most enjoyable cardio I’ve done in years!
6. Finding Peace at Sri Aurobindo Ashram
To be in Pondicherry and to not visit the Ashram is rather unheard of. This place was the most peaceful and serene place I have been to in my entire life! I had the privilege of visiting here, not once but twice and felt drawn to in in a mysterious way.
Sitting there with a roomful of people yet no sound except the faraway gushing of the waves and the occasional chirp of the birds was a surreal experience and learning about Sri Aurobindo piqued my interest and I ended up buying afew books about his life from the attached library Shabd.
7. Buying Handmade paper products at Auroville
8. Receiving Tsunamika dolls
Read more about these Tsunamikas here.
9. Getting Creative Inspiration at Shraddhanjali
This place has their own garden from where they pluck the flowers and subject them to a drying and pressing processes and use them to make beautiful articles.
10. Witnessing the Glory of Matrimandir
The most glorious view was that of the Matrimandir.
Breath-taking in a way that humbles me.
This was an amazing trip but like they say, There is really no place like home.