PERFECT for a short getaway or a life altering move, the seemingly sleepy coastal town is known for its eclectic experiences like Frenchman Sat Yaaji’s tree climbing classes, Romain Timmer’s circus workshops and British musician Krishna Mckenzie’s samba rice farming sessions, to name a few. While retreats promoting sustainable living and self awareness are conducted all year round, here is our latest list of offbeat things to try at the charming French Quarter.
Text: Catherine Gilon
1. Discover your ‘horse’nality
Evergreen Horses in Auroville is the first natural horsemanship school in India. Hailing from Italy, Matthia Pontoni, instructor, explains their work, “Natural Horsemanship is not just about riding horses, it offers guidelines on how to live one’s life by exploring the values of ‘love, language and leadership’.” Their activities range from simple guided rides to the more complex skills of ground training, freestyle riding and working with horses in a more laid-back atmosphere. For beginners, they have started the concept of “study groups”. These are usually a two-day immersion to the Parelli program (based on the famous Californian horseman’s concepts), can be organised in conjunction to participants’ availability and usually have four to six students. Basics of horse behaviour and psychology will be covered along with a hands-on session to understand where the journey of building communication with your horse starts. Details: email@example.com
How about a cup of tea for some self-awareness? “The Japanese tea ceremony is an art. It is one of the secret elements of longevity for Japanese people,” reveals Jyoti Naoki Eri originally from Kyoto , the founder-director of One Asia Project. As a part of the project, he invites artists and musicians from across Asia to collaborate and co-create with local artists. He also regularly conducts the Japanese tea ceremony (called Cha-Dao or the way of tea) which is seen as a form of spiritual practice in Japan. “These ceremonies also contribute self-awareness along with Zen cosmology and it is proven that the profound way of making and appreciating the finest bowl of tea is a lesson in the way of living,” he says. Sign up for his introductory session of 45-60 minutes, for a group of two to six. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS 9489887192 for registration.
Did you know that flavour notes in dark chocolate exceed those in red wine? Stock up on interesting trivia and dive into the intricate world of chocolate-making at the gourmet chocolate tasting events organised by Jane Mason of Mason&Co. You will be equipped with a flavour wheel and tasting sheet, and Mason, originally from Australia, says, “We taste not only our own brand but also chocolates from some of our favourite chocolatiers around the world. We learn what inspires the maker and what makes their chocolate unique.” Adding that chocolate pairs very well with whisky, coffee, tea, cheese and more, she says the idea of such events is to learn about artisan produce and how pairing food can enhance flavours.“You will find new things that you might like to eat!” insists Mason, with a smile. Prices begin from around Rs.800 for a chocolate tasting in Auroville. Those interested in a private event or to register for their next tasting (in November or December), drop an email. Details: email@example.com
Gone are the days of Salsa and Tango. Join the exotic oriental dance initiation workshop at Sita Cultural Centre with international dancer Ottilie, originally from France. Learn the basics of traditional belly dance or something more complex. For a two-hour session, Rs.500 (kids); and for a three-hour session, Rs.800 (adults). Dates and classes will be finalised based on student enquiries. Details: 09944016128
How about a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics and music. Sometimes even referred as a game, the Capoeira classes (regular) held on Wednesdays and Fridays (7 pm) at La Casita have a following. They also have ‘pay per class’ options for those interested. Rs.1,200 per
month. Details: 07639405194
For eight years, Vera Lipen, hailing from Russia, has been conducting open programmes and workshops with the Russian singing bells in Auroville. She now conducts weekly workshops called ‘Tuning to Harmony – Healing Sounds’ which involve up to two hours of meditation in sync with the deep resonating tone of a Peace Bell (82 kg specially tuned plate bell). “Listeners are first invited on a personal journey with the long resonating and soothing sounds, while the second part of the workshop is an exploration of a collective harmony. Each participant gets to play the bell, and all are invited to create spontaneous music together,” she says. The workshops are held on the first and the third Monday of the month (subject to change), at 5pm. Rs.500. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
While the Peace Bell is hosted by Pavilion of Tibetan culture and the access to it is free of charge, the meditation with the Peace Bell can be arranged for visitors on request
by the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture. Details: 0413 2622401
6. Get paper smart
Have you marvelled at Auroville’s eco-friendly paper craft? Check out the introductory workshops conducted by local artisans at Wellpaper which will give you three to four hours hands-on experience in weaving containers using rolled newspapers, paper-coiling, papier-mache and accessory-making techniques. Wellpaper provides all the materials and tools. The ‘drop in workshops’ are regularly conducted on Saturdays.Wellpaper also organises workshops on request for a minimum of five participants. Details: 0413 2622219; email@example.com
Ashesh Joshi originally from Ahmedabad, an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram (Pondicherry) for 20 years, joined Auroville in 2007 where he gives regular classes and workshops introducing the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo to outsiders. This November, he will conduct a workshop on the Supermind that will focus on concepts like truth-consciousness, triple status of the supermind, living in the divine and so on. Those interested, can sign up for the free workshop that will be held on November 3, 9 am to 12 pm. At Savitiri Bhavan, Auroville. Details: integralyoga-auroville.com
8. Walk with purpose
For somethingunique that asllo teaches you life skills, sign up for a weed walk. Nina Sengupta who has just launched a book on edible weeds (Edible Weeds and Naturally Growing Plants in Auroville—A Colouring Book Series) proposes to hold 30-minute walks in the third week of December that will be a follow-up activity to her book. Participants will explore the countryside and find at least 15-20 edible weeds discussed in the book. The book can be bought at the Vistor’s Centre in Auroville or online at auroville.com. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are umpteen ways to discover the history and charm of Pondicherry but the best option is to walk it. The INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage) team has painstakingly restored several heritage buildings across the city, including the port (now Le Café) and Subbiah Memorial. They conduct guided heritage walks in the French and Tamil quarters. Details: 0413 2339497
The Blue Yonder, the travel company, offers themed walks such as ‘Tamil Heritage & Market Visit’, ‘French Quarter & Ashram Walk’, ‘Auroville Impressions’, ‘Bio-region Visit’, and ‘Farms & Forests’ starting from Rs.1,250 per person for a two-hour session. Details: 0413 4502218
The Earth & Bamboo workshop conducted by in-house resource people at the Auroville Earth Institute is intended as an experience workshop in earth construction with both traditional and modern earth techniques. Participants will learn the basic principles of soil identification and how it can be used for earthen construction. The participants will also learn the basics of working with bamboo, from harvesting and treating it to working with it using traditional and modern techniques. They will be split into groups to build structures, which are intended for real use. Be aware that this highly interactive workshop requires active participation. At Auroville Earth Institute & Auroville Bamboo Centre, from November 16 to 20. Fee: Rs.15,000 per person (includes accommodation on room sharing basis, five lunches and dinner, transportation within Auroville, materials and taxes). Registration will be closed once the limited capacity of 80 participants is filled.
Make time for some retail therapy
Organic artisanal coffee
Music that heals