Together, we can

By Sharukh Vazifdar

March 2010

How important is society and conforming to its norms? Can there exist a community based on different values and goals? Alternative communes give you something to think about

Masterpiece: The Temples of Humankind at Damanhur

Right from Biblical times, and even before that, the concept of paradise has intrigued our minds. Utopia, Shangri-La and paradise have engaged scholars, explorers, theologians and literary figures alike. Utopia, coined by Thomas Moore in the 16th century, signifies a perfect society living in complete harmony with itself and its surroundings. Ironically, the word means having no known location, an impossible ideal that can only be dreamt of.


Disillusioned by the shallowness of their everyday lives, or in search for the deeper truths, many have attempted to form communes, which break away from conventional life, and allow an individual to live on their own terms. These communes, also called intentional communities, consist of people living together sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, work and income. A world away from the free love, aimless and haphazard hippie communities that we might associate with the term, these communes are well planned, peaceful and with a strong sense of purpose.

Different communes align themselves in different directions. Some are religious communes, such as monasteries, or ashrams, some are spiritual communes, some are ecological communes or ecovillages, while some are just a breakaway from the fast-paced lifestyle. The members are united by shared ecological, social-economic, and cultural-spiritual values.

Ecovillages are intentional communities, with the goal of becoming more sustainable, socially, economically, and ecologically. Generally, of a small size of up to a hundred members, larger communities may exist as networks of smaller ones. An ecovillage is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralised electrical, water, and sewage systems. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful lifestyles, destruction of natural habitat, large scale farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster. They see small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact as an alternative.


Located just outside Pondicherry, a quiet little town on the south-western coast, Auroville upholds the spiritual tenets of Sri
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