This royal throne of Kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm,
The British Pavilion Group
There are approximately 50 British nationals who are members of Auroville; we are not a large group compared to the more numerous French, Indian, German, etc. However, the British presence in Auroville is felt – as indeed the British usually managed to make their presence felt, albeit the British Isles being a small land mass on the world map. Shraddhavan directs Savitri Bhavan, Alan co-edits the community newspaper, ‘AV Today', Tim is with ‘Outreach', Judith works in economy, Valerie and Bobby run two of the larger Auroville units. The other British Aurovilians are equally doing invaluable work for Auroville.
The British Pavilion group was formed three years ago and a strong sense of group identity has emerged. We do not have frequent meetings, but in the times we have met the meetings have been constructive and fun. Besides which information can be disseminated within the group by email. A recurrent topic for discussion at our meetings has been ‘what is Britishness?' and in these discussions we have moved beyond the more superficial and romantic image of cricket and the village green to discover the deeper aspect of what constitutes Britishness. This we feel has brought us closer to the nation soul.
Sri Aurobindo has written much on the social development of Britain and the qualities of its people. The three quotes below come from The Human Cycle :
‘…liberty-loving, insular and individualistic England …'
‘but it is only in England—the one country always where liberty has been valued as of an equal importance with order and not considered a lesser necessity or no necessity at all—that there was a successful attempt from an early period to limit the judicial power of the State and the monarchy…'
‘That is the reason why the supreme political instinct of the English people fixed, in the struggle with the monarchy, upon this question of taxation as the first vital point in a conflict for the power of the purse. Once that was settled in the Parliament by the defeat of the Stuarts, the transformation of the monarchical sovereignty into the sovereignty of the people or, more accurately, the shifting of the organic control from…'
Simon Schama in his BBC World documentary “A History of Britain” said:
‘Freedom and the rule of law – Britain 's most precious gift to the world'.
Sadly in November we lost our only Irish member when she left Auroville for the time being and now the group is all English. At the commencement of the group we questioned whether it was presumptuous of us to speak about the Soul of Britain when we are English, but we decided against breaking up the British Isles , and to aspire for our Welsh, Scots and Irish fellow Brits to come to Auroville and join our group. Sri Aurobindo in what he wrote on Wales , Scotland and Ireland did so mainly in the context of Britain . The quote below is also from The Human Cycle:
‘Still it may be said that, if the old principle of the association was wrong, yet the association itself leads eventually to a good result. If Ireland has lost for the most part its old national speech and Wales has ceased to have a living literature, yet as a large compensation the Celtic spirit is now reviving and putting its stamp on the English tongue spoken by millions throughout the world, and the inclusion of the Celtic countries in the British Empire may lead to the development of an Anglo-Celtic life and culture better for the world than the separate development of the two elements.'
Earlier on we drew up a concept for our Pavilion. However, we are all in agreement that we don't want to build yet – and any how we don't yet have the money to do so. But even if the money was there – there would be some hesitancy. David, a member of our group, is an architect, and Britain has a reputation in the field of architecture, but we have still to identify the ‘Britishness' we would like our Pavilion to express. And we feel strongly that the form the pavilion takes should convey to all who see it a sense of the Soul of Britain.
So we will now give more focus to the kind of activities we can do as a group. At a recent meeting Shraddhavan's paper on ‘Education and the International Zone' was discussed and we agreed that our activities should go in this direction. BBC documentary films on British landscape, gardens, history, were put forward as possibilities at this meeting. We decided the aim would be to communicate an understanding of Britain to the audience, and that the orientation for the activities would be educational. We plan to take these activities to Auroville schools and educational institutes.
We are deeply aware that the face of Britain is now in process of rapid change - as indeed everywhere is. But now that we are visitors when we go to Britain we notice these changes more. We know that change is necessary to life - but the changes the world is experiencing now are on a scale which has not previously been experienced. We know also there has always been immigration to Britain and that immigration rejuvenates the life of the country, but again the scale of immigration is on a scale larger and different to past experience and many find it hard to cope with. But we believe that the Soul of Britain will become stronger as it evolves in response to these great changes . In this we feel greatly encouraged by the many very talented new British, especially by the news readers and commentators we see on BBC World.
Finally we are very grateful for all the support we receive from our friends in Auroville International UK. We hope our association grows in the years ahead and we look forward to building the Pavilion of Britain with them too
Below is some feed-back to the above sent to us from Sonia Dyne, Chairperson for Auroville International UK:
Dear Anne, I have been slow to respond to your request for comments on the web page, mainly because I saw that Alan had already put into words the comment that I would have made. What else I have to say is too complex to express by email. It concerns the sentence about 'moving beyond cricket and the village green.' I speak as someone who can claim to be truly 'British' being of mixed Welsh, Irish and English descent. This image of cricket and the village green has entered into the consciousness of the world to epitomize Britishness. There has to be a reason for that - and there is. The village green is common land and a symbol of the ancient right under the law of the British born of whatever rank or status to ownership of the land of their birth. Cricket is one of Britain's gifts to the whole world, as this incomprehensible* game cannot properly be played without a certain sense of fair play, humour, patience, persistence, raw courage, and a refusal to take life too seriously...I rest my case. Love, Sonia