What is Religion?

When actually implemented in experimental contexts, utopian ideas and projects draw on alternative visions of human interaction with (existing or imaginary) landscapes. Auroville, for example, is a project based on the foundations of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of religion. The community was established in 1968 next to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu, India) by Mira Alfassa, one of the closest disciples of Sri Aurobindo. In that same year, Auroville was declared a project in congruence with the targets and ideals of UNESCO, who aims “to bring together in close juxtaposition the values and ideals of different civilizations and cultures …”. Both UNESCO and the Indian State officially support Auroville. Moreover, architects across the globe participated in the construction of, and were inspired by the social and ecological visions that characterize Auroville. When exploring this community's approach to landscape and ecology, we will tackle the underlying historical legacies and connectivities between India and Europe and listen to cultural voices engaging with the experiment. In a similar vein, religious practice is intimately connected with the particular features of regional topographies, landscapes and ecologies. For example, Zoroastric rituals in Mumbai were linked to the local population of vultures. The practical consequences of the extinction of the latter will be analysed in a next step, thematizing death and the spiritual/ritual processes that accompany the “natural“ transformation of living bodies into matter. While studying the Zoroastrian community in Mumbai, we will take a close look at the question of how their rituals are adapted to changing environmental conditions.

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