From the airport in Chennai; by far the easiest, but most expensive, way to get to Buddha Garden from the airport is by taxi. If you email the Unity Taxi Service (firstname.lastname@example.org) they will send a taxi to meet your flight. They are very reliable and have the advantage that they know where Buddha Garden is. This will cost approximately Rs2,350 non AC and an extra Rs200 if you want AC. But check as travel prices are rising very quickly.
You can take the bus. There is a direct bus from the airport to Puducherry or you can go to the central bus station in Chennai and get a bus from there to Puducherry along the ECR – East Coast Road. Make sure it is an express bus as the non-express bus takes a very long time to arrive. If you take the bus along the ECR ask to get off at the Auroville turn off. From there you can get an auto rickshaw that will bring you to Buddha Garden.
Whether you come from Puducherry or the Auroville turn off you will need to come to the village of Edeyenchavadi. From there you take the road opposite the temple in the middle of the village to the Visitors Centre. This is signposted. As you come out of the village, after about 250 metres, look to your left and just before the newly dug out water tank (which may or may not have water in it depending on the time of year) there will be a sign to Buddha Garden/Siddhartha Farm. This is opposite the sign for the Visitors Centre car park which is on the right hand side.
Turn left along the path and follow the path in front of the small temple to a gate. On the left hand side of the gate there is another sign to Buddha Garden/Siddhartha Farm.
Go through the gate and follow the path as far as you can. You will eventually come to the gate of Buddha Garden which has a sign on it.
If you miss the first sign and go past the quarry/pond on your left you will see what looks like a possible path to Buddha Garden. DO NOT TAKE THIS PATH! When the water tank was dug out the soil was banked up at the side. Subsequent monsoons have washed part of the path away and made it extremely bumpy. After rain It is impassable.
If you get to the Visitors Centre you have gone too far and will have to turn around and retrace your steps. The sign to Buddha Garden will now be on the right just past the pond/quarry.
The very best time to arrive in Buddha Garden is on a week day between 9.00 – 10.00am. We will be having breakfast so you can meet everyone and you will have the whole day to settle in. If you can not manage thistime then try to arrive in the morning before lunch as there will always be someone around. If you plan to arrive during the afternoon please let us know so that we can make sure there is someone to greet you. All of us have other activities which often take us away from Buddha Garden in the afternoons.
Please do not arrive after dark, especially late at night. There will be no one to show you around and you are quite likely to disturb everyone there. If you are going to arrive late in Chennai or Puducherry it would be best to take a room there for the night and then travel to Buddha Garden the next morning.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Auroville you must register that you are staying here. This is Indian government regulations. You will need to go and see Rajan in the office who will give you the necessary forms and tell you where to go. You will need to take your passport with you for this process. It will be a good idea to get a map of Auroville from the Visitors Centre to help you find your way around.
Registration is done at the Farm Group Office which is at the back of the Solar Kitchen. This has to be done before you can get an Auro card and pay.
Issuing of the Auro card is done at the Financial Services in the Town Hall. Payment for staying in volunteer accommodation is Rs250/person/day. Please make the first payment for at least two weeks. All payments should be made to the Buddha Garden Account 240100. If you are staying for an extended period please pay initially for one month and then arrange to make regular payments from your Pour Tous account on a monthly basis. This can be arranged to be done automatically by Financial Service.
Changing money into rupees can be done with a travellerscheque or credit/charge card at Financial Service in the Town Hall. You will need to take your passport with you the first time you do this.
The payment of Rs250/person/day covers your accommodation in Buddha Garden, breakfast Monday to Friday, your contribution to Auroville and internet/wi-fi.
As part of the registration process you need to register for the ‘Experience Auroville’ program at the Entry Service. The Entry Service office is open for this purpose every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10.00 – 12.00pm. You need to do this so that according to Indian Government regulations you are legally volunteering in Auroville.
ORIENTATION AND GETTING AROUND
Buddha Garden is on the west side of Auroville close to the Visitors Centre. Since everything is quite far apart in Auroville you will also need some way of getting around – either a cycle or moped/motor bike – as the distances are too far to walk comfortably.
Rajan runs the cycle hire in Buddha Garden which costs Rs30/day. This is a special rate only for people staying in Buddha Garden. We do not hire bicycles for people outside Buddha Garden. If there are no cycles left in Buddha Garden you can hire one from the Visitors Centre. If you would like to hire a moped please ask Rajan to find one for you.
Please check that your moped works properly (especially the brakes!) before you agree to take it and be very careful how you use it. It is good policy not to lend it to anyone as if they have an accident or it is stolen you, as the person hiring the bike, will be responsible. You should also ask the moped owner whether they have taken out insurance on the moped. The roads in Auroville are bumpy and full of potholes especially during the monsoon. So drive carefully and do not try to carry too much. Be especially careful at night. If you intend to use a moped in India you should bring your driving license with you.
If you need a taxi you can phone the following numbers:
UNITY TRANSPORT SERVICE 04136 262 3586/3587
During the guest season taxis are sometimes in short supply so it is good to book in advance, especially for longer journeys.
IN THE KITCHEN
The communal kitchen is used by all the people living in Buddha Garden. They may all have different ideas about how much cooking they want or are able to do as well as different standards of cleanliness.
You will have to work out the details with whoever is using the kitchen with you, but please take account of the following:
- Given the heat, food will not keep as long as it does in the west. We have no fridge so you will have to shop more often.
- Be extra careful about keeping cooked food which goes off very quickly in this climate. I usually try to cook only what I want to eat and any left over goes to the dogs, cats or chickens who are usually very grateful for it.
- There are a lot of ants in the kitchen (especially during the hot season) which will get into anything sweet (and other things) extremely quickly and easily. You therefore have to be very careful with things like sugar and honey. Mop up spills quickly and keep anything sweet in a closed container in the cupboards when not in use.
- Please clear up all your own messes and in particular do all your washing up. It is NOT the job of Vasanta to do your washing up, although she does clean the kitchen and the communal bathrooms every day. The kitchen needs to be clean and tidy ready for the breakfast cooking by Sivakala in the morning.
- Try to keep the cats and dogs out of the kitchen by keeping the door to the kitchen closed. If you are the last one in the kitchen at night, make sure that you close the door firmly and that you have not inadvertently locked a cat in the kitchen otherwise there will be chaos the next morning.
- Please do not leave crockery from the kitchen in your capsule or elsewhere in Buddha Garden otherwise we run out of things like cups and plates in the kitchen.
Please note that the kitchen is to be used only by the residents of Buddha Garden.
The kitchen has a large gas cylinder with a spare full cylinder next to it. The key to the lock that locks them to the chain is in the key cupboard in the office. When you change the cylinder PLEASE LET US KNOW by telling Rajan so that a refilled gas bottle can be obtained as soon as possible. Sometimes there are unavoidable delays in obtaining gas so the process of getting more gas needs to be initiated as soon as possible.
Even when things are treated carefully breakages will happen from time to time or not work properly. This is particularly so with the solar system. If you have any problems PLEASE LET US KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as often it takes some time to get things mended. You have to look at it as an opportunity to practice patience and forbearance!
Traditionally toilet paper is not used in India and the sewage system is not set up to deal with it. Throw too much toilet paper down the toilet and it will get blocked. If you use toilet paper please put it in the plastic bucket next to the toilet. When it gets full put it in a black plastic bag (more are available in the office), tie up the top and put it in the sanitary barrel in the rubbish area.
The toilet is of the pour flush type which means that after using the toilet you flush it with a bucket of water. Make sure that you use enough water (half to one bucket full) otherwise it is likely to get blocked. If the toilet does not appear to flush properly this is probably because it is either fully or partially blocked. Please let Priya or know AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as we have various ways of unblocking it. Best not to let it get blocked in the first place by using enough water for flushing.
Generally people in India like to take their shoes off when they use the bathroom. If you want to wear your shoes please make sure that you clean the floor afterwards so that it is suitable for someone coming in with bare feet.
Please keep the bathroom generally clean and tidy. Leave it as you would like to find it.
Your bedding can be washed as needed. Please put dirty sheets and pillow cases in the orange washing basket in the bathroom next to the communal kitchen. If you need more beddingplease ask Rajan in the office.
If you do your own laundry please use the washing place behind the large bathroom behind the dormitory to do it. The used water from washing goes to a bamboo plant. Please do NOT therefore use any kind of detergent unless it is the special eco-friendly one that is in a jar in the kitchen. You can also, if you prefer, use either neem or a natural soap called Muthu some of which is also in kitchen.
Vasanta comes every morning, Monday to Saturday, at 8.00am to clean the communal areas. She is willing to do your laundry but you will have to pay her extra for this – prices are very reasonable and this provides her with a little extra money. Please do not give her anything to wash which has blood or faeces on it as in this culture it is considered very polluting.
Priya cell phone is 94432 22653. The latter is kept switched on most of the time so is a good way to contact her if she is not in Buddha Garden. Best time to contact her is 6.00- 10.00am as at other times she may be in meetings or doing other things so may not be able to answer your call. If she doesn’t answer send an SMS.
EMAIL AND INTERNET
We have an internet line in Buddha Garden that you are welcome to use. There is Wi-fi around the office and in the meeting room above where Priya lives. Please do not use the internet line for downloading large amounts of data as it slows everything up for everyone else.
Like most internet lines in India our connection is not very stable. Another opportunity to practice patience!
Ever since Buddha Garden started fifteen years ago there have been problems with security. Priya has had a lot of things stolen although this has happened mostly during the day rather than at night. Although things are better than they used to be, and now we have an evening watchman, it still happens from time to time and we need to be alert at all times. If you go out in the evening, and there is no one else here you should close the door of the communal kitchen.
DO NOT KEEP ANYTHING OF VALUE IN YOUR CABIN. You can keep your money, passport and other valuables in the Buddha Garden safe. If you need access to it please ask Rajan immediately after breakfast.
Keep a look out for suspicious characters and challenge anyone who is just wandering around here. (Politely ask them what they want) Refuse requests from unknown local people who want to come in for water or for some other reason; tell them to get it from the village. Refuse requests for money from local people, especially children, whether these come from people who come onto the farm or people begging in various parts of Auroville. Giving money in this way is not the best way of helping them.
Sometimes we get drunk people from the local village coming in that are a nuisance. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE SUCH PEOPLE ANYTHING otherwise they will pester us even more. Tell them to go away and if they do not, phone the Guard (day 94433 62691 night 94430 90107) to come and deal with them.
Be aware also of people who may try to befriend you. They may try, in various ways, to get money from you and/or they can be a nuisance hanging around for long hours in Buddha Garden. Please be very clear about times for meeting and tell them not to just drop in. We do not want Buddha Garden to be known as a hang out place.
Please do not get drawn in to providing any kind of medical care for local people. There is a medical cabinet in the kitchen with plasters etc for minor emergencies, but please do not start doing any regular cleaning of wounds or bandaging. We do not have the instruments or facilities to provide this properly. It is best that they are sent to the sub Health Centre in nearby Edeyenchavadi or they can see a doctor in the Health Centre in Kuilapalayam, both of which provide free treatment to anyone who cannot afford to pay.
When you travel around Auroville it is best not to carry too much money or to have things like cameras or jewellery in full view. Keep everything in a bag on your person where you can see it and with a thick and secure strap that cannot be easily cut. Women should be especially careful after dark and ask to be escorted back by someone; if you telephone the night Guard on 94430 90107 they will find someone to escort you. Everyone in Auroville is aware of the security problems and your request will be treated sympathetically.
If you have things stolen or anything happens for which you need to contact the police, then please talk to Priya. If you are a woman who has been harassed/assaulted please talk to Priya as we have a support service who will help you deal with it as such incidents need to be reported.
PARTIES AND ALCOHOL
We have guidelines about this in the hopes that it will enable everyone to enjoy themselves. So please read the following in that spirit.
- We drink alcohol only on special occasions such as birthdays, leaving parties etc. We do not anticipate having more than one party a month although this depends on the time of year – Divali or Christmas could be different. If you would like to have a party please let Priya and everyone else know and make sure that everyone feels comfortable about it.
- Buddha Garden is a smoke free area so please let everyone who comes know this. In particular please do not allow people to smoke anywhere in Buddha Garden. Remember that cigarettes and candles are a fire hazard with the thatched roofs. Again please point this out to visitors.
- The person (or group) who is organising the party is responsible for seeing that the behaviour is appropriate. In general this means moderate drinking, no one getting drunk and not too much noise, especially after midnight. This person also needs to make sure that everything is cleaned up properly afterwards; this includes cleaning up the kitchen and sorting out the rubbish.
- Please do not allow people who are unknown to you to join in a party in Buddha Garden. If such people turn up tell them that it is a private party and they have to leave. If you have any problems with this you can contact the night guard 94430-90107 who will come and help you. Please do not issue a general invitation to parties. Invite only individuals that you know.
- There is a place at the back of Buddha Garden, next to the stone circle, where you can light a fire and cook food. Ask Priya about this.
- Enjoy your party!
THE SOLAR SYSTEM
All the electricity in Buddha Garden is generated from solar panels. The current produced is stored in 12volt batteries. An inverter turns the 12volt DC current into 240AC current which is what most of your electrical items work on. Recently we have installed a centralised electricity system which works from the pump panels when we are not pumping water.
There are plug sockets in the kitchen on which you can charge up your cell phone and other electrical items. Please do not use any electrical items such as kettles or travel irons which may overload or break the system. IF YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS ABOUT THIS please discuss this with Priya or Rajan.
The electricity system was very expensive to install and we try to work within the limits of what it can produce so that it does not break down. Remember that once a battery is discharged it cannot be charged up again until the sun shines. For this reason it is good to conserve electricity at night as much as possible by switching off lights if you are not using them. During times of the year when there is little sun – such as during the monsoon – we switch off the electrical system at night to conserve power. Please charge up all your electrical equipment during the day.
DEALING WITH RUBBISH
In Buddha Garden we like to live as well as farm organically. This means disposing of our rubbish in as non polluting way as possible. While you are with us please dispose of your rubbish in the following way:
- LIMIT YOUR RUBBISH PRODUCTION. In particular be aware of how much plastic rubbish you are producing and where possible try to use something else. When you go shopping, especially in Puducherry, take your own bag and refuse as many plastic bags as you can. Where possible ask for things to be wrapped in paper bags/newspaper.
- When disposing of your rubbish please SEPARATE it into the following categories:
- ORGANIC MATERIAL – like peelings and other things that will break down in a compost heap can be given to the chickens.
- PLASTIC PIECES; things like plastic bottles and other rigid plastic structures
- WASTE PLASTIC; this includes plastic bags and general plastic waste. THIS MUST BE CLEANED before being put in the rubbish.
- GLASS; bottles and jars as well as broken glass if there is any.
- Take your ORGANIC MATERIAL to the chickens at the back of Buddha Garden. Please be careful when you open the gate (which opens outward) that the chickens do not escape. Go right into the chicken yard before throwing things to the chickens; do not put it down just inside the gate where we have to walk over it.
- PAPER; we do not compost our paper because as an organic farm we are concerned not to allow polluting chemicals which are found on some treated paper and in some inks to enter the food chain. All the paper therefore goes to eco – service and must be put in the appropriate barrel at the recycling point in Buddha Garden which is just behind the entrance store room.
- Everything else can be taken and put in the bins at the recycling point. There are a number of labelled barrels as well as an area for putting out glass bottles and jars (please keep it tidy) and smaller labelled containers for broken glass, batteries etc. Please make sure you put all the separated rubbish in the correct barrel.
- If you are unsure about any of the above or have any items that you do not know how to dispose of please ask Priya or Rajan about it.
Please try to keep Buddha Garden clean and tidy. Pick up any rubbish, especially plastic, that you see lying around and put it in the correct bin.
We try to eat as much as we can of vegetables and other things grown/produced on the farm or in Auroville. If you would like vegetables from the farm please talk to Priya in the mornings. We keep very careful records of all we produce as part of ongoing research and if you take produce from the farm without informing us this affect our data.
Please note that the amount of pesticides used in India is considerable with little or no constraints on what or how much is used. Vegetables are much cheaper in Pondicherry market and many Aurovilians shop there, but remember that they are grown using practices which exploit both the earth and the people doing agricultural work.
All the drinking water in Buddha Garden is filtered through a special filter that removes all impurities in the water including bacteria. This can be found in a white barrel in the kitchen.
The water system in Siddhartha Farm and Buddha Garden was recently tested and was found to be contaminated with bacteria that give you stomach problems. Please do not therefore drink water straight from the tap.
Unfortunately many water sources in Auroville are contaminated, although water that you get from the Solar Kitchen and the Visitors Centre is safe as is the water from other eating places in Auroville. It is a good idea to have a water bottle that you fill up in Buddha Garden and carry around with you.
It will take some time for you to get acclimatised to the weather here so until you do please be careful and treat the sun with respect. One reason we start work early in Buddha Garden is to take advantage of the morning coolness. Nevertheless at certain times of the year even we who are used to the climate can find it very hot. If you do heavy work outside in the heat it is very easy to get dehydrated. There are no prizes for making yourself ill, so if you start to feel unwell while working, then stop, go and sit in the shade and drink a lot of water – a glass every ten minutes. It is good to wear a hat when the sun is out and sun glasses during the times of the day when the sun is strong. Be careful of sun burn and either use a sun screen cream or gradually get your skin used to the sun and cover it up when the sun is really strong.
During the rainy season you might get fungus infections on various parts of your body (especially between your toes) and this is a time when cuts very easily get infected. Keep your feet as dry as possible when you can – such as when you are inside. It is very important to keep cuts covered up especially during the day when it will be a magnet for all the flies. Cuts on your feet need special care as they can easily get infected.
It will take some time for your body to adjust to these new surroundings and you might experience some stomach or other physical problems as this happens. There are a number of chronic infections that you might experience which, while not making you acutely ill, will sap your energy and enjoyment of life. For this reason it is best to seek treatment for such conditions. Allopathic treatment is available at the Auroville Health Centre which also has a Pharmacy. There are also a number of alternative practitioners of different types available.
Priya can tell you about various treatment possibilities and what might be the best to do for whatever physical problems you are experiencing.
If you have any medical condition that might affect your work, please let us know.
Please note that we do not have a fridge so if you bring medication that needs to be refrigerated you should let us know so that we can make arrangements to keep it elsewhere.
DOGS AND SNAKES
The dogs in Buddha Garden have been vaccinated against rabies, but with other dogs this may not necessarily be the case. If you are bitten by a dog wash the wound as quickly as possible with a lot of soap and water – this is your best defence against rabies which is spread through the saliva of infected dogs. Try to find out to whom the dog belongs and whether it has been vaccinated or not. Even if it has not been vaccinated this will enable you to keep a watch on the dog, as if it has not died within five days then you know that it cannot have rabies. You should visit the Health Centre to discuss the situation with the doctor there so you can decide whether you need the rabies vaccination or not.
There are few snakes in Buddha Garden and most of them are rat snakes which, although very large, are not poisonous. If you are bitten by a snake try to see its colour and markings so that it can be identified – although this might not be your first consideration right then! Keep the bitten part of your body as still as possible and do not move unnecessarily. You need to get to JIPMER hospital, which has a unit that deals with snake bite. Go there as quickly as possible. You can ring up for the Auroville ambulance; the number is on a poster in the kitchen. At JIPMER they have the facilities to carry out the necessary tests to see whether the snake anti toxins are necessary as well as being able to deal with possible reactions. Be aware but do not worry too much – most of the snakes here are not poisonous. When you go out at night a torch is your best defense against snakes which will only bite if you step on or otherwise disturb them.