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Matrimandir Newsletter

October 2002

Adjusting the ray

Sunday …I was walking along one of the shady paths in the Center area, enjoying the early morning sun. From behind me suddenly there came a questioning voice: "Shall we go and adjust the ray now?"

It was an Auroville youth who has recently been taking an active interest in the heliostat of Matrimandir. He was referring to the fact that since some days the ray of sunlight in the Inner Chamber was not "spot on", it was striking the crystal globe, as it must always do, but it had wandered a bit to one side. We had been planning to get together to do this job of fine-tuning the direction of the ray..

In describing her vision of the Chamber in 1970, the Mother gave supreme importance to this ray and its play on the center of the Chamber: "The important thing is the play of the sun on the centre. Because it becomes a symbol - the symbol of future realisation."


Climb to the top

To get to the heliostat on top of the Matrimandir, you first have to enter the sphere by the usual way: down the slope between the red sandstone-clad petals, and up the concrete steps within one of the four great pillars (in this case the western one, Mahasaraswati). Then you take the temporary wooden staircase up to the second level and ascend the spiral ramp that takes you to the door of the Inner Chamber. After that, you follow a tiny spiral staircase that leads up above the chamber vestibule and then a few flights of concrete steps, more wooden steps and a sloped wooden ramp leading up to a small round opening in the concrete rib. Finally you have to hop through this hole between the two halves of the massive concrete ribs, go up one more flight of wooden stairs and then you are on the roof!

View from the top

Arriving on top of the Matrimandir, one is always captivated by the view…the forest of green all around, the morning sun hanging over the Bay of Bengal 5 kms to the east. Only the tops of the closest buildings are visible at all: you cannot see a trace of the large Solar Kitchen which is just 500 mt to the south, nor can you see the "Bharat Nivas" complex, some 800 mt to the west. There is hardly a clue that, to the south and west barely a kilometer from Matrimandir, some 7,000 Tamil villagers are going about their daily lives in the villages of Edyanchavady, Kottakarai and Allankuppam on the border of the Auroville Township area. Only the light haze of smoke from morning cooking fires is visible amongst the thick growth of the forest. In the east, towards the residential zone, there are the most signs of habitation, for there you can see the apartments of "Invocation," the new building for young people called "Kailash" and, further away the red-tiled roofs of the community of "Samasti". Beyond that one can only spot the wheels of the many windmills scattered throughout the township and its greenbelt, which await the breezes of the afternoon to set them spinning and pumping water from the ground.

But we are here to adjust the ray!

Functioning of heliostat

The heliostat set up is a series of four mirrors. One of them rotates, driven by a computer program, to follow the sun. The other three are stationary and direct the reflected sunray down through a plexiglass- covered opening exactly in the center of the top of Matrimandir. Just below the plexiglass is a large lens that concentrates the ray onto the globe, 15 mt below, in the chamber. At the level of the lens, the ray is 45 cm wide. As it descends to the globe it converges due to the effect of the lens and when it touches the 70 cm dia crystal globe, the ray is just 20 cm wide. Thus, even though it may fall on the globe and nowhere else, it is still narrow enough to be off centre.

Looking down from the roof, we can see that the ray is falling on the globe but more on the western side of it (in the chamber this results in a beautiful "rainbow" being cast on the western wall of the chamber!) The adjustment needed in the direction of the ray is tiny but important.
One of the three stationary mirrors is free-standing and a heavy gust of wind can throw it off its alignment; or, it could conceivably be moved by one of the peacocks that sometimes comes up at dusk to sleep on top of the Matrimandir!

With my young helper looking down through the window into the chamber, I slowly move the mirror support in one direction. "No, wrong way!", he shouts, as the beam moves off the globe in the chamber. The second try, by moving the mirror in a different way, leads to a cry of victory: "That's it! Stop there! It's right in the center!" The job is done; the ray is "spot on" again.

New heliostat waiting to be put in action

We take a look at the heliostat: set up on top of Matrimandir, it has been faithfully doing its job for a decade now. Its electric motors are getting old; many improvements to its design have been prepared. In fact, standing under a canvas cover a few meters away, is an entirely new model of the heliostat, waiting to be put into action. Plans for the installation of this new mirror, sturdier than the first prototype, are well underway.

At the same moment when the new mirror will be installed, other changes are also planned that will bring a much cleaner and simpler look to the ceiling of the Chamber. Today, if one looks up at the ceiling while sitting inside the Chamber, one sees not only the central opening where the ray enters but also eight other opening close to it. Four are for the artificial lights that shine on the globe when there is no sunlight, and four are openings that let in the cool air from the air-conditioning system.

The new system will do away with all 8 openings. In future, it is planned to project the spotlight (on cloudy days and at night) through the central opening itself to simulate the ray more accurately. Likewise, the design for the air-conditioning ducts is to be modified so that the cool air can also come into the chamber through the round central opening. Many details still have to be worked out, but the goal is to have only one central opening visible in the chamber ceiling. These changes will be made during the coming months.

But for today our job is done. We descend the series of staircases, and pause at the Chamber door to see the freshly adjusted ray. It strikes the globe right in the centre. The insistence of its play on the globe is inescapable… one feels that it is calling us to be ready, to be pure and transparent like the crystal globe, so that we can be fully receptive, all of us, to all that is waiting to be realised.


Contact: matrimandirauroville.org.in


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