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Bharat Nivas, House of India

 


The campus of Bharat Nivas in Auroville's International Zone has been a dynamic and generous centre in the community's life since it was given to the Aurovilians in 1982 - to utilise and bring to completion. While presently one of Auroville's post offices is located there, as well as the main Auroville Library, office of the township's Working Committee, Entry Group and Residents Service, administration of SAIIER, the SAWCHU office and main platform for communal meetings, as well as quite a number of other Auroville services, this is a temporary arrangement only. In the not too far future, when the new 'Town Hall annexe' will be ready for use, a number of services and units that are now working from the Bharat Nivas campus will move to their more permanent and appropriate places future.

Bharat Nivas, the House of India, Pavilion of the Indian Culture, can then fully grow into its own..

 

History 

Bharat Nivas, the Pavilion of India in Auroville's International Zone was, naturally, the first one to be started. The Mother initiated the work and highlighted the purpose it was meant to serve in the experiment of Auroville:

  • the wider role it had to play in the re-discovery of the 'soul' of India in contemporary times

  • and to create new focus for its manifestation

With the first pavilion it was intended to create a process which other pavilions-to-be could follow in the future. With this in mind, the Mother announced, in 1970, a national competition to design 'Bharat Nivas', House of India. The 'Indian Institute of Architects' sponsored the competition, and a jury consisting of Auroville architects and other personalities was constituted with the Mother as its president.

 

 

Competition brief

The brief given to the architects was to design the buildings of Bharat Nivas as a symbolic representation of the soul of India, seeking inspiration from India's spiritual past, her thought, her character and perception. The common zones as well as the sectors presenting the various states were to be designed in such a way that they would bring out the essential unity of India, in the midst of her rich diversity. The buildings and open spaces should reflect the interaction that is natural to Indian life. And, above all, the architecture of Bharat Nivas should not be imitative of the past, but seek to renew itself in dynamic forms.

Press release on competition, 1970

Interior of the future restaurant, presently used at times for exhibitions or gatheringsA widely distributed press release in August, 1970, carried three main guidelines for the contestant architects:

1. The first step is to contact such persons who have an understanding of their culture, live it themselves, see its future growth and potential and can advise and give the true perspective. In this manner a group may form spontaneously to arrive at a complete and total understanding of a culture in its different aspect.

2. The second aspect of the work will then be a choosing or selecting the most typical or distinctive aspect of the culture. These should not of course overlap with those of other cultures or merely repeat them, but the underlying unity should be well and truly brought out.

3. The final step would be to represent this culture in Auroville in a living and concrete manner. This presentation should also bring out the ultimate aim towards which that culture is striving. The pavilion, or better still the structure for this, should be a reflection of the true spirit and an integral part of this cultural manifestation.

The winner and first years

At the close of the competition on 27.04.1971, the Mother chose a design prepared by Sri R. Chakrapani of Chennai. The construction began in August 1971 with funds received from the Government of India and from some of the states. Two years later, with the Auditorium and the adjacent round building of the restaurant partially completed, the work came to a halt, in 1973. With differences regarding the nature of management, the stalemate continued till 1982 when, under a special provision, the Government of India handed over the unfinished complex of Bharat Nivas buildings to Auroville to utilise it as it stood, and to work for its completion.

First round of work after 1982

Study session in the Centre for Indian Culture (CIC)1. A Centre for Research in Indian Culture (CIC) was set up in one of the partially complete buildings. Its purpose was two-fold:

a) to re-discover the essential attitudes, perceptions of Indian life and personality, which have been affected by many extraneous influences 

b) to have recovered them - to have seized the 'soul' of India in its vibrancy of spiritual feeling and effectivity, and to then, from that poise of being, try and deal with contemporary issues

2. At the same time in 1982, about thirty units and services of Auroville instrumental in various fields needed to be housed as there was a shortage of buildings elsewhere in the township. These came to find their space and moorings in the buildings that had still to be completed and it is thus that for instance Auroville's main Library, the Laboratory of Evolution, SAIIER administrative offices, Auroville's Future planning offices, the Entry Group office, Auroville International office, Residents Service, SEWA employee office, the Auroville Post Office, the Multipurpose Health Centre, Free Store and other such services are, still, generously housed by Bharat Nivas. Also the offices of the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation have Bharat Nivas as their steady address. 
However, with the increasing use and beautification of the site, as well as other developments in the township where the above mentioned general services would be more appropriately located, a gradual siphoning off will take place, leaving the premises for their original intent and function during the coming years.

3. The process of fundraising to complete the buildings was started and maintained and, by now, in 2002; some buildings have been completed, new ones have been put up, but quite some work still remains to be done

4. Considering the growth of centres and activities specific to Bharat Nivas' functioning, the Pavilion of India has grown in a full measure in spite of material limitations and has become an important centre in the daily life of the township

Present development

Presently, in the year 2002, the Bharat Nivas complex per se consists of:

Gnana Vijnana Kendra:

  • Centre for the Knowledge of Spirit and Matter

  • School of Sanskrit and other languages

  • Centre of Scientific Knowledge in India

Kala Kendra:

  • Centre for Research in Indian Culture

  • Studios for music, dance and painting

  • Centre of Perspective Studies (the present SAWCHU building)

Tamil Heritage Centre

Sri Aurobindo Auditorium
Atithi Griha guesthouse

Bharat Nivias' Atithi Griha guesthouse

 

For more detailed information, please visit: www.bharatnivas.org

Contact: cicbn@auroville.org.in  tamil@auroville.org.in 

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