Already in the seventies, Gnanavel came from Kottakarai to work as very young boy in the Matrimandir Nursery, readily learning about plants and following schooling at Ilaignarkal. After running an own nursery in Kottakarai for some time, his life became more intimately interwoven with the Matrimandir Nursery when he eventually came to live there in the early nineties, at the time of his joining Auroville for good in ‘92.

Colleagues know him as a quiet, introvert family man, who loved his work, and was dedicated to build the Matrimandir gardens. In these latest years, it was Gnanavel who quietly took up the management of the Nursery, having started there as a kid so long ago.

On 3rd February, 2017 evening due to a stroke caused by high blood pressure Gnanavel left his body. On Thursday Feb 2nd he was taken in serious condition to PIMS from where he was transported to the Ramachandra Medical College in Chennai. His family, wife Geetha and children Madivanan and Kalaiyarasan accompanied him. Just a week ago he had become 53 years old.

Words of August Timmermans his early days mentor ” I have known Gnanavel from 1981 until 1985 when I had joined the Matrimandir Nursery when Daniel Wilms was the Manager there. Narad had left Auroville, and the Nursery went through a tough time. Gnanavel stood out among the workers, meaning he was genuinely interested and involved in the work he did there, and it was significant work: taking care of the high diversity of delicate orchids that Alan Klaas had collected over the years, meant for the Matrimandir Gardens.

Gnanavel was liked for his sensitivity and for the inner joy that expressed itself in a beautiful smile. One day he asked me if he could become an Aurovilian, and for that he needed a one-year supervisor. I accepted the responsibility; unfortunately I left Auroville before that year was completed. Now I learn that only in ’92 he became officially an Aurovilian, seven years later.
Gnanavel was a wonderful presence in the Matrimandir Nursery, it is good to know that he kept working there until the end of his life. I wish his wife and two children all the strength in their lives without him. ”
May you rest in peace, Gnanavel , and thank you for your quiet presence, hesitant smile and calm dedication. Our warmest sympathy and strength go out to Geetha, Madi and Kalay.


Damien passed away in Canberra, Australia surrounded by his sons Misha, Ry and Peter.
Damien joined AV in 2009 and was a resident of Creativity. He taught at Future School, Last School and most recently TLC where he taught a sex education series along with his partner, Paula. They were on track to teach the class again in July but the cancer was so aggressive it overcame his courageous determination to live.
You may remember Damien on the roads of AV on his Royal Enfield and stylish cap. He loved to get fresh AV produce from the AV shops and was a good cook and juice maker.
Some people found Damien hard to get along with. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. He studied the I Ching, the Enneagram and first read Sri Aurobindo in 1971. He gave this advice, “Tell the Truth to yourself. Be true to yourself. Then you might have a chance to be truthful with others.”


Chandra (Jessica Paulding-James) peacefully left her body Wednesday 1st February evening in Ojai, California, only a few months after being diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. She thought to return again to Auroville for a last visit with friends and family living here, though finally there wasn’t time. She would have been 80 in June.

First coming to Auroville in 1974 she and her then partner David Paulding stayed in Utility with Mali, helping to plant trees as part of Auroville’s reforestation work. She continued as a resident of India for 11 years then returned to live in California, while visiting Auroville a number of times over the years since – most recently in 2011 – along with her husband Ian James (Sucinno).

Many who knew her from early days and also those who met her later on will remember her as a strong and independent spirit, full of light and a keen sense of adventure. She helped many people along the path, and helped make a way for others to come after. She is held in memory by her daughter Isha and partner Christopher, her grandson Chris and his wife Laura, their sons Kai and Ari, her 2nd daughter Maya and her daughters Leia and Lily, as well as many friends here and around the world.

Anie Nunally

Anne Nunnally (Anie) passed away at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Nursing home at 11:30 pm of yesterday, Wednesday April 26th at the age of 80.

She came to Pondicherry with Narad and had Mother’s Darshan and led a life of service to the Ashram and Auroville. She even received Mother’s intervention for her recovery after a car accident in the U.S.

She and Narad had one of the first health food stores in New York. Both were professional singers. She had numerous good friends in show business including the Smothers Brothers. Richard Rogers called her the Fiat (sports car) with the Big Horn, because even with her diminutive size, she could project her strong soprano voice. She was an understudy and nun in the first Broadway production of the ‘Sound of Music’ and was also in the national touring company.

Anie was close to Jyotipriya (Dr. Judith Tyberg) as well as Sam Spanier and Eric Hughes, who founded Matagiri. She helped at the Sri Aurobindo International Center in Manhattan and lived with Scott (Lalit) Fullman in the apartment across the hall. Anie also served as the first Board Member of the Foundation for World Education after the passing of founder Eleanor Montgomery.

She taught music in New York, Woodstock and Los Angeles, where she became the director of the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles. She became close to Michael Spector, whose healing work was helpful to her in her later years and in February last year they moved to Pondicherry, living on Candapa Muldiar Street.

She had published a collection of interviews with Ashramites called “The Golden Path” (please read Mangesh Nadkarni’s review online) and was working on a follow-up volume when her kidney failure produced a series of strokes. She recovered from the first two and visited Auroville in mid-February for Gordon Korstange’s flute and poetry recital at Savitri Bhavan.
A few days later she had a more severe stroke limiting her speech and movement on her left side. She still rallied enough to speak with visitors. Vikas Bamba, from the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles, found her whole demeanor inspiring and felt a profound Grace was protecting her from what should have been a very painful process. Friends from the US and France contributed to a fund for her hospital stay and dialysis supplies and sent supporting messages faithfully conveyed by Michael. Dr. Dutta kindly brought her into the Ashram Nursing Home for her final weeks.

Amal Kiran

K.D. Sethna, known in the Ashram and Auroville by the name Sri Aurobindo gave him – Amal Kiran (A Clear Ray) – was born in a Parsi family in Bombay on November 25th 1904. A brilliant student of Philosophy and English Literature, he joined the Ashram in 1927 at the age of 23. His passing, on June 29th 2011 at 12.15pm, after a short illness, marks the loss of a last physical link with the earliest days of the Ashram. For 13 years he was the only person with whom Sri Aurobindo shared passages from his epic Savitri in the course of its composition, and the correspondence between them about the poem gives us invaluable insights into Sri Aurobindo’s intentions and methods in writing the poem. Amal himself was a born poet, whose talent blossomed into genius under the influence and inspiration of Sri Aurobindo. He also authored over 50 books in prose, as well as being a prolific writer of articles and letters, many of which were published in the journal Mother India monthly review of culture which he founded in 1949 with Sri Aurobindo’s blessings, and continued to edit for more than 50 years. Amal was partly crippled by poliomyelitis as a child, but never allowed his handicap to hinder his adventurous spirit much, until two successive hip-fractures, in his 90s, took him to the Ashram Nursing Home, where he spent the last 10 years of his life. Today I imagine his ever-youthful spirit, freed at last from the load of the body, joyfully winging to meet his beloved Mother and Master, He would have been 107 on November 25th. He will be remembered with affection and gratitude by many many people whose lives were warmed and enriched by his clear and smiling Ray.

Steven Johnston

Steven came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at age five and studied at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education for five years. While living in the Ashram, Nolini-da gave

him the name “Stota”, meaning one who chants the mantra. Later he came to live in Auroville, which he had discovered as his heartfelt true home. Steven enjoyed studying languages and was fluent in several. He also studied pottery and was a fine creator of artistic ceramics. His greatest love was for trees and the afforestation work in Auroville. One day, looking over an Auroville grove, he said admiringly, “The trees all look different to you when you know their names.”


Hailing from Spain, Sharanam (officially Maria Desamparados Aznar Arce) came for the first time to Auroville in the early eighties and joined Auroville in 1992. Her general health condition being rather weak, she lived a quiet, unobtrusive life in Dana, translating into Spanish texts of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother, Satprem  and about  Auroville, delivering a stream of important information into the Spanish world. She left her body on September 1, 2016 after a brief illness at the age of 69.

Sharanam came to Auroville for the first time in 1975 and stayed at Utilite. She went back to Spain and collaborated with the Institute of Evolutionary Investigations in Spain, to translate the books of Satprem. She returned to Auroville in 1981 to stay. She was happy to be without any material possessions, living from a maintenance. She worked in education, and also experimented and investigated healthy eating. Always willing to help, she would offer food and a good massage to whoever would come to her place. (She was a psychologist.)

Sharanam gave classes for the children of Auroville in her house and continued translating to Spanish various works from the Mother´s Agenda to Savitri, and also collaborated with the Spanish Pavillion. Ultimately she was more and more reclusive in her house. She shared with me her intention to constantly stay in the flux of the present moment. She had great faith in Auroville and was an unconditional disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.  She consciously in her sadhana, took the decision of how to continue the process of her illness within the flow of yoga.

Alfonso from Spain recalls few of his stories with Sharanam, ” One time we were going to Chennai(Madras at that time) to meet the King of Spain in a visit there. We gave him the book 8 or 9 of the Mother’s Agenda and The Genesis of the Superman, by Satprem.

Sharanam was born in Valencia and the 19th March is the local holiday, where they make the ‘Fallas’. For a week, some artists put in the streets and plazas a very big statues for fun, in wood, padding and paper, where they criticize the politicians, or the people known in the yellow and pink dress. Finally the 19th they burn them all. In this spirit, I made for her a big man statue in wood and padding, and in one hand, I put a paper wrench and in the other an imitation of the book “The New Espece”. At that time I was working at the Matrimandir and I was taking the image of Andy, the German guy of the Matrimandir. Just before I put on fire, some Aurovilians come to me saying that this could be a very bad Woodoo for Auroville, so I stop this and I gave it to them as a scarecrow.

Also in her house, when she was living in Sincerity a scorpion bit me in my leg and she help me. Also, she make me the contact to know the address of Satprem in the Nilgiris to visit him.

She was the first Spanish person residing in Auroville and she was peaceful, quiet and a yogi in one sense. And just the opposite to the peacock as I was.”


Yolande Lemoine

Yolande came to Pondicherry in 1969. She became a close friend and precious aide of Satprem et Sujata, and liaised the important contact between JRD Tata, Satprem and Auroville.

It was thanks to the effort of JRD Tata and Yolande that Satprem’s manuscripts and audio cassettes made it to France to be published there.

Here is a letter written by Satprem to Yolande:


Here is a postscript to my latest letter. Perhaps you don’t know the present situation in India — turn on any radio set, listen to the loudspeakers screaming at every street corner and emitting a mixture of European jazz intermingled with sitar and Hawaiian mewings, look at the cinema posters which bring to every Indian village the wrigglings of the Moulin Rouge via Konarak. We are faced with a general degradation of consciousnesses, an organized, mind-destroying action, an exploitation of the lowest — but how lucrative — instincts. I have been following this degradation step by step for almost twenty years in India and have found it all the way up to the villages of the Himalayas.

There would truly be a memorable and salutary work to do there for a whole people.


SUJATA NAHAR, born in Calcutta in 1925, spent her early childhood in Santiniketan’s cultural atmosphere under poet Rabindranath Tagore. At the age of seven she lost her mother. Her father, his world shattered, searched for another dimension to his life. He found Sri Aurobindo and Mother at Pondicherry. His children followed him there one by one. Thus Sujata, who first came to Sri Aurobindo in 1935, at the age of nine, decided to remain near him in May 1938. She lived in Pondicherry for forty-three years. At first, she received private tutoring, became secretary to Pavitra, an eminent French mathematician, chemist and engineer, who was Mother’s right-hand man. Sujata also worked with him in his laboratory, where she made a variety of preparations for Mother. She was very actively involved in the new physical education devised by Mother. Satprem arrived at the beginning of 1954. A young man just turned thirty, he taught the top students and assisted Pavitra with the correspondence. Thus Satprem and Sujata came together. Eventually Mother started to make him the confidant of her experiences and asked him to help her with the French translation of Sri Aurobindo’s books. Mother then entrusted Sujata with the typing of her private conversations with Satprem, the Agenda. From 1965 onwards Sujata regularly accompanied Satprem to his meetings with Mother.
After 1973, when Mother left her body, the Ashram changed from a living experiment to a stereotyped institution. In 1978 — Mother’s centenary year — the Ashram trustees expelled Satprem, because of the trilogy he had written on Mother’s life and experiment.
From 1978 onwards, Satprem and Sujata lived far away from Pondicherry, devoting themselves exclusively to Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s work and experiment in the cellular consciousness of the body.
Sujata Nahar is the author of Mother’s Chronicles, a biography of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.