The main structures are expected to be ready on February 21st, 2007, 36 years after Matrimandir's foundation ceremony.
The Matrimandir, described by The Mother as the cohesive Force of Auroville, has featured as one of Auroville Today's main topics ever since the journal started in October 1988. At least twice a year someone from Auroville Today would walk the site with one of Matrimandir's executives and hear stories about new developments, unexpected delays and particular difficulties. And at every visit, a long list of ‘works still to be done' would be recited.
This time, however, our visit is different. For the first time we learn that nearly everything has been done. The Matrimandir merely waits to be unveiled. The date, for many, is obvious and beyond dispute. “We want to be ready on February 21st, the birthday of The Mother,” says Gilles Guigan, one of Matrimandir's executives. “Firstly because Matrimandir is ‘The Mother's Shrine'. Secondly, because it was on this same day, 36 years ago, that the foundation ceremony for the Matrimandir took place. It's symbolic. The number 12, which is omnipresent at Matrimandir, stands, according to the Mother, for Perfect Stabilised Manifestation and for Double Perfection, spiritual and material, and 36 is three times that number.”
But 'completely ready' the building won't be. Says Gilles: "Sometime during the second half of January, the inside of Matrimandir, including the Inner Chamber, will be closed so that we can complete the work. On February 21st, we intend to reopen the Matrimandir together with all twelve meditation rooms in the petals and the space underneath the Matrimandir. We are aiming at making the whole place look as beautiful and complete as possible, but some things probably won't be finished." He mentions specifically the large decorative feature above two of the four entrance doors, and to the possibility that the placement of the curved glass parapets on the ramps – described as 'works of art' by the glass experts – might run into problems.
While awareness dawns that the Matrimandir will finally be ready, there is as yet little understanding what impact it will have on Auroville. “There is a substantial pressure that, as Auroville belongs to nobody in particular according to its Charter, the Matrimandir should also be freely accessible to every visitor, just like the Baha'i Lotus Temple in New Delhi ,” says Gilles. “But The Mother has told Roger Anger that the Matrimandir is a place for Aurovilians, and that it was ‘not for visitors in principle'.” Opinions on what She exactly meant by ‘visitors' in this respect differ, but all agree that the present policy for casual tourists should continue: they will only be allowed to see the Matrimandir from a distance. Explains Gilles, “It is simply not possible to allow all the tourists because their number is far too great. Each person would need to pull on white socks to walk through Matrimandir, so you can imagine the confusion.” He recalls that an earlier experiment to allow tourists to walk in file up to the Chamber, have a look at the Crystal and then turn back, was unsatisfactory to all.
The opening times for the non-Aurovilian pass holders are still to be decided. The main question is the availability of a sufficient number of volunteers: at least fourteen Aurovilians are required for the Chamber and the twelve meditation rooms in the petals.
On an ‘occult' level, the finishing of Matrimandir might presage the coming of better times. The Mother repeatedly stressed that the earlier the Matrimandir would be ready, the better it would be for everybody, especially for the Aurovilians. “Build Matrimandir, I take it upon myself to make it into a very strong centre,” She said.
Even now, while the finishing work is in progress, something seems to be changing in Auroville's atmosphere; many attempts are being made to harmonize opposing viewpoints. As Nirodbaran, who recalled, in an interview with Auroville Today in August 1991, that Mother had mentioned that “the completion of Matrimandir will coincide with the establishment of peace and harmony in the world.”
Outer skin: Although most discs have been installed, the work of fixing the golden discs will be fully finished only by February.
Entrance doors: Only the golden shields above the North and West entrance doors are expected to be completed by February 21st, 2007.
Crane: The 12 ton stainless steel crane that will be positioned invisibly on top of the Matrimandir is being sent from Germany
The heliostat is in place.
Area beneath the Matrimandir
A crystal globe of diameter 17 centimeters will be installed in the centre of the pond beneath the Matrimandir. It will receive a concentrated ray of sunlight which is directed all the way from the heliostat on top of the Matri-mandir. This ray of sun, after passing through the crystal globe in the Inner Chamber, enters an opening in the floor below, travels down through the centre of the Mother's symbol in the staircase, and finally reaches the crystal globe in the pond.
Inner skin: The placement of the white powder-coated aluminium triangles holding fibre-glass fabric is in progress.
Inner skin lighting: Cable and LED lamp fixing is in progress. The computer programme to regulate the LED lamps which will give the golden-pink light prescribed by The Mother is completed.
Ramps: The white glass for the parapets of the ramps that lead from the second floor to the Chamber will be made by a company in Bangalore . This is the most difficult job yet to be done. Each of the 150 pieces of glass needs to be bent in a different ways, which calls for fine craftsmanship.
Entrance foyers to the Chamber: A marble bench and a false ceiling will be added.
All 12 meditation rooms in the twelve petals that surround the Matrimandir will be ready. To begin with, three of them will have a/c, the others natural ventilation.
Major pathways are done.
Unity Garden : Work is in progress to complete the six plots of the Unity Garden under the Banyan area.
Petal lawns: The lawns on the small and big petals are being reseeded with drought-resistant grasses.
Irrigation: A computerized irrigation system is completed.
Individual garden lay-outs: These are to be decided.
Ancillary facilities: The toilet blocks etc., are still to be decided upon.
The dimensions of the lake surrounding the Matrimandir are as yet undecided.
The Matrimandir will be a high-maintenance building. To minimize calcium deposits on the marble and discs, de-mineralized water will be used for cleaning. This will be stored in tanks beneath the amphitheatre.
The inauguration 36 years ago
The Foundation stone of the Matrimandir was laid at the centre of Auroville on 21st February 1971, exactly at sunrise at 6.30 am. A fire, symbol of the human aspiration, had been lit in front of a simple yet magnificent altar and the large gathering sat in a semi-circle, facing the East, while the air resounded with the Mother's message and music. The Mother gave the following message for the occasion:
“Let the Matrimandir be the living symbol of Auroville's aspiration for the Divine”.
An extract from Sri Aurobindo's book The Mother was read out by Nolini Kanta Gupta: “The Mother's power and not any human endeavour and tapasya can alone rend the lid and tear the covering and shape the vessel and bring down into this world of obscurity and falsehood and death and suffering Truth and Light and Life Divine and the immortal's Ananda.”
See also: The Matrimandir, Soul of the city