The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community (ashram) located in Pondicherry, in the Indian territory of Puducherry. The ashram grew out of a small community of disciples who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo after he retired from politics and settled in Pondicherry in 1910. On 24 November 1926, after a major spiritual realization, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from public view in order to continue his spiritual work. At this time he handed over the full responsibility for the inner and outer lives of the sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) and the ashram to his spiritual collaborator, “the Mother”, earlier known as Mirra Alfassa. This date is therefore generally known as the founding-day of the ashram, though, as Sri Aurobindo himself wrote, it had “less been created than grown around him as its centre.”
Sri Aurobindo Ashram has only one location. It does not have any branches. (Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch is a separate organization, with its own administration.) Many other organisations in Pondicherry and elsewhere include “Sri Aurobindo” in their name, but they are not part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The most important organisation also inspired by the vision of Sri Aurobindo is Auroville, an international township founded by the Mother and dedicated to human unity.
Life in the community that preceded the ashram was informal. Sri Aurobindo spent most of his time in writing and meditation. The three or four young men who had followed him to Pondicherry in 1910 lived with him and looked after the household. Otherwise they were free to do as they wished. The Mother and French writer Paul Richard met Sri Aurobindo in 1914 and proposed that they bring out a monthly review; but after the outbreak of World War I, they were obliged to leave India, and Sri Aurobindo had to do almost all of the work on the review himself, helped a little by the young men who were living with him. In April 1920 the Mother returned to Pondicherry, and soon the community began to take the form of an ashram, more because the sadhaks “desired to entrust their whole inner and outer life to the Mother than from any intention or plan of hers or of Sri Aurobindo.” After the ashram was given formal shape in 1926, it experienced a period of rapid growth, increasing from around 24 in the beginning of 1927 to more than 150 in 1934. The membership leveled off in 1934 owing to a lack of suitable housing.
During these years there was a regular routine. At 6:00 every morning the Mother appeared on the ashram balcony to initiate the day with her blessings. Sadhaks would have woken very early and completed a good portion of the day’s work including meditation and then assembled under the balcony to receive her blessings.
As the ashram grew, many departments came up and were looked after by the sadhaks as part of their sadhana: the offices, library, dining room, book/photograph printing, workshops, sports/playground, art gallery, dispensary/nursing home, farms, dairies, flower gardens, guest houses, laundry, bakery, etc. The heads of the departments met the Mother in the morning and took her blessings and orders. She would meet the sadhaks individually again at 10 am and, in the evening at 5:30 pm, she would conduct meditation and meet the sadhaks.
In addition, four times a year Sri Aurobindo and the Mother used to give public Darshans (spiritual gatherings where the guru bestows blessings) to thousands of devotees gathered to receive grace.
Once confined to a few buildings in one corner of Pondicherry, the Ashram’s growth has caused it to expand physically in all directions. Today Ashramites live and work in more than 400 buildings spread throughout the town. The central focus of the community is one group of houses including those in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother dwelt for most of their lives in Pondicherry. This interconnected block of houses — called “the Ashram main-building”, or more usually just “the Ashram” — surrounds a tree-shaded courtyard, at the centre of which lies the flower-covered “Samadhi”. This white marble shrine holds, in two separate chambers, the physical remains of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Today, Pondicherry has become an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourists. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the ashram.
The visiting hours for the visitors are from 8 am to 12 noon and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm.