Auroville, India, was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, a French woman of Turkish-Egyptian descent known as "The Mother." Her aim in creating Auroville, just outside Puducherry, was to create a city of the future where people from India and around the world could live and work in a spiritual environment.
Only a couple of thousand people live in Auroville, but many more visit the town during the year to work or to meditate in the striking Matrimandir meditation hall. The building is shaped like a golden orb, with 1,450 golden panels, and the meditation hall contained within is a serene escape from the outside world.
The community has created thousands of jobs for the surrounding villages, and also took the lead in critical tsunami rehabilitation efforts. Yet critics have accused the community of fostering cultlike attitudes that border on colonialism, and taking more from the surrounding communities than it gives. Regardless, Auroville is an interesting half-day trip from Puducherry, particularly to see the inside of the truly breathtaking Matrimandir.