The Joy of Chaos

The top ten adventures on the subcontinent

Oct 27, 2006
Outside Magazine
Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Sri Aurobindo Ashram    Photo: courtesy,

Sri Aurobindo/Auroville, Pondicherry

Throw a mango anywhere in India—the birthplace of yoga—and you'll hit an ashram. Officially designated as a place for spiritual striving, these retreat centers range from spare mountain meditation chambers to urban yoga Disneylands. There's no better representation of ashram life, however, than Auroville, a humming township near the former French colony of Pondicherry, in tropical Tamil Nadu. Spread out along the warm Bay of Bengal, the eight-square-mile town is being built by followers of the famous guru Sri Aurobindo and his French partner, a woman known as "the Mother." The Aurovillians have constructed an internationally populated utopia of organic farms, holistic hospitals, arts-and-crafts centers, and hatha yoga instruction.

Ease into your tour of all things Auroville with sunrise "integral" yoga—more meditative than stretching—at the original Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. Catch a hearty ayurvedic meal of rice idlis, coconut chutney, and banana-flower sambar at the Solar Kitchen (run partly by solar energy) and get the best yoga instruction in the state at the Quiet Healing Centre. Finally, try a session on the "sound bed": an oversize, Indian-style guitar that you lie inside while it's played—like an iPod for your soul. DETAILS: Accommodations, $35–$50;

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